No people have ever spent as much time wallowing in their own demise as we do. For quite some time now, we have been constantly bombarded with the threat of “the end”, and it seems like now that’s all we can focus on. In the past there was more of a balance between pessimistic and optimistic folks, but now, it seems all anyone can do is focus on the bad. This obsession is evident in media and pop culture, particularly movies.
Since the 50s, doomsday scenarios have constantly bombarded us as a nation and a culture, and film portrays that beautifully. In the 50s, the fear of nuclear warfare set in. Movies such as The Day After and Blast from The Past are examples of this. Sci-fi classics from the 70s such as Logan’s Run and Soylent Green are exemplary examples of the national fears started in the 60s such as over population and global starvation.
In the 70s, people got really excited about how everything’s going to end and how we’re all going to die due to: the oncoming ice age (yeah, that’s right) shown in Quintet, running out of resources (specifically only having enough gas to last 10 years) as shown in Mad Max, robots and/or computers taking over the world in Colossus and Terminator, giant corporations taking over like in Rollerball, lets not forget the killer bees that would surely get us all like in The Swarm, and how could we forget the fear of pollution killing us all from Silent Running.
But wait, there’s more! The 80s brought us the fear of crime waves (Escape from New York), global communism (Red Dawn), and my personal favorite, global pandemics, examples for which can be found to be any zombie movie.
In the 90s there was comets hitting the earth in Deep Compact, and Armageddon. In the 2000s and the current decade we seem to be getting closer! There was Y2K, now global warming, the constant fear that giant tsunamis and super volcanic eruptions will wipe us out. Don’t forget the Rapture from last May! Personally, I can’t wait to see what 2012 will bring.
But you know what the one thing is about all these fears? We can’t do one single thing about them!
This is the first generation where we are constantly inundated by regenerating concepts of doom. When we solve or get over one, another two or three pop up. If you asked someone in 1914 about the end of the world, they probably would have said something like “that’s up to god”, or something of the like. Now, you ask anyone how the world’s going to end and they can give you a long list of the probable ways we focus on in our culture.
We’ve trained ourselves to expect the end; it seems like nearly everyone can only focus on the negative.
This pessimism we are afflicted with is so sneaking, sometimes we don’t even know it ourselves! But pessimism is a contagion. We aren’t just thinking about the end of the world, this negativity has snuck into nearly every facet of our lives: the strength of our morning coffee, the time of day, the public transit, the way others look, the way we look, who watched what TV shows, our job, our relationships, love; in fact, it’s nearly impossible to find anything that folks won’t be negative about.
But why is that? Wouldn’t most people prefer to be happy? So why focus on the bad things that aren’t going to help you do that? Why do we crave and potentiate the negative things and ideas in life and then complain about not being happy?
I think this topic is really interesting, and you can see in nearly every facet of pop culture, how we revolve around negativity, and it would be really interesting and enlightening to explore this as a class.