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Sunday, 2 June 2013

Gender Theory and the Zombie Apocalypse

It seems like lately all everyone is talking about is the end of the world.

Now, I'm aware that's not the most groundbreaking statement, but it's kind of struck me lately. When everybody was talking about the Mayan apocalypse last December, I kind of tuned it out, because that's what you do when people are talking poppycock all over the place. But even though nothing happened with that Mayan business, it's still on people's minds, judging by what's happening in popular culture just at the moment. Exhibit A being two separate comedies (This Is The End, by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, and The World's End, from Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg) that are getting ready to hit theaters.

Hitting theaters like this! Just like this!

Now, the immediate trigger for me was Joe Rogan's podcast. I downloaded a couple of episodes to listen to while doing data entry at work, because they featured Tim Ferriss talking about his books, the 4-Hour Body and the 4-Hour Chef. The latter book, in particular, also falls into the scope of this week's blog, because Ferriss has a section on living off the land, complete with dire predictions of what would happen if the lights or the water went out for extended periods of time. That discussion, on the podcast, prompted reflections by Joe Rogan about how he'd like to band together with his friends and their families to buy a farm and, I presume, be ready for anything.

I don't know what Rogan's podcast is usually like, since those are the only episodes I've listened to, but it sounds like it's on his mind, much like it's clearly on Tim Ferriss's. Although I'd like to take this opportunity to say that, if society really does collapse, his advice on catching and killing pigeons for food is probably not the most helpful - zombies or no zombies, I wouldn't like to sit around on park benches waiting for pigeons to come near enough to fall into my grasp.

However, mention of zombies brings me to Exhibit B, namely the Walking Dead, and all the other zombie or rage-virus-related media out there (just pointing out, 28 Days Later isn't a zombie movie, because the infected aren't undead). These shows or whatever clearly posit that a zombie outbreak would be an extinction-level event; the Walking Dead goes one step further and asks what happens to our weak and coddled society when - similar to the above - we can't just press a button and have a pizza appear magically 30 minutes or so later at our front door.

"You said 30 minutes or less. That was an hour ago."

I'd say that this is the aspect that sets the current strain of apocalyptic thinking from previous ones. After all, apparently everyone in the 1950's was convinced they'd be incinerated by nuclear war, and by the 90's that had turned into fears about pandemics, whether natural or man-made; well, that or giant asteroids - planetary impacts were big in the late 90's, clearly. In all of those stories, the idea was that the event - nuclear war, pandemic, asteroid strike - would wipe us all out.

Now the stories all seem to start after the event, and focus on how the survivors cope (or don't). The main idea driving a lot of these things is clearly that, since we've swapped chasing antelope on the plains of the Serengeti for sitting in offices and writing about telecoms (to pick an example out of the air at complete random), we're clearly making ourselves prey for anything bigger, faster or meaner that's on its way toward us.

I guess that means that we've all become really insecure, all of a sudden. And by we, it occurs to me that I'm referring to men; these stories are all about bad-ass dudes figurin' out how to hunt an' skin a deer before the zombies get us. Apart from the Resident Evil movies, of course, since their main character is an ever-more-badass Milla Jovovich.

I'm being flippant, but I don't really want to mock dudes' insecurities; though I do think it's important to point out that this rise in survivalist horror is probably linked to the rise of men's rights advocacy groups (although these strains are very different from one another).

We do see a lot of news stories talking about how badly men appear to be doing: grades are down, college graduation rates are down, jobs aren't as plentiful as before (depending on who you talk to, at any rate). Some of the more excitable and maladjusted have started blaming women for these problems, as if allowing half the population to enter the workforce and (maybe one day) paying them an equal wage means that men automatically get screwed.

Other guys, in questioning what exactly a man is good for now that he's not the de facto breadwinner and paterfamilias, have started wondering why they can't do things with their hands the way their dads could. I'm one example, I'll freely admit, and was rather pathetically pleased with myself last summer for figuring out on my own how to replace a light switch and a light fixture; but it's in pop culture, too, with Tim Ferriss, for example, saying at the start of 4-Hour Chef that he took up cooking because he wanted to learn to do something with his hands. And there are other books out there talking about how to do things the way your dad used to - you know, like stripping wires and putting up barns and all of that.

Nabbed off Amazon; clearly a man who knows what he's doing.

So, in some way, this worrying of ours turns into daydreams about grabbing your gun and your wife, hopping in the Winnebago, and carving out a life of safety with your own two hands. The American Dream, except that guys in the UK (and the rest of Europe, for all I know) are also thinking about it.

I won't link these threads any tighter than I've done so far, or imply any further causality; my understanding of men's rights groups is (thankfully) not so deep, and I wouldn't like to ruin my enjoyment of Tim Ferriss's books or the Walking Dead by finding out that creepy survivalist woman-haters are using them as holy texts. But it makes you wonder, doesn't it?