The End of the World (as we know it).
Whatever you want to call it, we’re pretty obsessed with it.
From The Walking Dead to The Hunger Games, plus hits like Divergent and just about every zombie movie ever made, we are fascinated with depictions of the end times. We ruminate over barren wastelands, isolation, and the musings of what a desolate future might hold after a world gone mad.
The End comes in any number of ways. Drought. Nuclear war. Disease. Undead. Asteroid. The result is always the same: small pockets of survivors strive to endure, confronting challenges that range from murderous hoards to depleted resources. Plus, there are always those who want to take advantage of the misfortune of others for personal gain.
Whatever the focus, these types of stories are dark. The future of mankind is bleak, the setting is usually harsh and unforgiving, and despair and hopelessness are omnipresent.
So, why on Earth do we love reading about this stuff? What’s the appeal of post-apocalyptic movies and TV shows? Are we all just crazy gluttons for punishment? Here, we’ll take a look at a handful of reasons why we love dystopian stories.
1) The Select Few Endure
As depressing as these stories are, we love to follow the heroes and heroines, envisioning ourselves in their shoes. How would we react if we were one of the chosen few? What steps would we take to become Certified Badasses capable of surviving in a post-apocalyptic world? How would we help rebuild society?
Dystopian fiction provides some of the escapism we all need to step back and get perspective on our lives, and stepping into the shoes of a strong hero for a little while can help us feel empowered and refreshed.
2) We Can Rebuild
When the real world is already full of hopelessness, why pile on? Because dystopian and post-apocalyptic stories are about more than devastation: they are about survival after the worst has happened. Underneath the despair is the glimmer of potential: we can overcome these challenges, and make a better world.
3) We Kind of Want the World to Burn
No, you read that right. Many of us are psychologically inclined to want the end of the world to happen.
Contemplating the end of the world triggers certain fear responses, which some people are wired to crave. Whether it’s a case of needing validation, a fatalistic outlook on life, or a desire to escape individual responsibility, dystopian stories give us the psychological rush we need.
It’s not entirely unhealthy, either. In fact, “preppers,” people who actively prepare for a doomsday scenario, are engaging in goal-oriented behavior that therapists often recommend to people in crisis.
What about you? Are you into the dystopian genre? What’s the appeal for you? And what are your favorite dystopian movies, books, and authors?