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6 Dystopian Fantasies That Will Never Be The Same Again After 2020

Movies | April 19, 2020

(AMC)

When The Walking Dead premiered in 2010 on AMC, it made regular people wonder how they would handle such an apocalypse. It's a question that genre fans have been asking for decades, and everyone has a different answer. After the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it's clear that most of the media about the end of the world has it all wrong. There are no samurai swords, the government hasn't declared martial law, and humans haven't devolved into roving gangs of leather-clad psychos. So far, we've just stayed home.

Leaving Cities For The Country

Zombies will never die, both metaphorically and literally. Of course, zombies never existed in the first place, but people are drawn to fiction about zombies because it feels real. The zombie myth is eerily comparable to more mundane horrors, like pandemics and authoritarianism, so it gives audiences a safe place to play out those scenarios in their heads.

And in movies like Dawn of the Dead and TV shows like The Walking Dead, people tend to react to their terrifying new reality a specific way: They run. People leave their homes and band together in abandoned prisons, farms, and malls to stave off hordes of the undead as well as the living who have shed the last vestiges of polite society. In both stories, it takes less than a month for the living to flee the cities.

Recent events, however, prove this is a bad move. Rural areas are actually more likely to be at risk during a pandemic. The best way to stay safe is to stay put, not go running off into the wilderness to play cowboy.

(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

People Tend To Work Together

28 Days Later, Danny Boyle's gripping dystopian tale about the total decline of society less than a month after a deadly rage virus spreads across England, didn't just reignite the slow vs. fast zombies debate. It fueled the idea that when crisis hits, everyone is on their own.

As strangely beautiful as Boyle's shots of the empty metropolitan streets and uncluttered highways of a post-apocalyptic world may be, humanity has proven time and time again that they're not going to turn on each other the instant the infected blood hits the fan. Not because we're inherently generous; it just makes sense. Outcomes are better for everyone when we work together, whether it's by organizing Zoom dance parties, multi-home movie nights, or testing the ill on the front lines. We don't tend to do well in isolation on a personal level, either.

This isn’t to say that no one is being a jerk, but on the whole, we're not killing each other for supplies. Maybe if the English soldiers in 28 Days Later were able to log onto Zoom, they could have danced out all that aggression.

(Warner Bros.)

We Won't Have Mad Max Shortages

Even the dumbest depiction of a post-apocalyptic wasteland has a kernel of truth hidden somewhere. George Miller's Mad Mad series, about society fracturing into tribes driven by their need for oil, seems the most realistic on its face, but sadly for the fashion world, nobody has taken to the road in their finest spikes. In fact, people are actually driving less thanks to the coronavirus.

Of course, shortages did happen during the first few days of the crisis, and it wasn’t humanity's best look. No one is going to point to March 2020 and say that Costco members purchasing bulk toilet paper handled themselves with dignity, and that's just something we have to live with, but since then, we've more or less leveled out. Most people are only buying what they need, and they're generally being polite about it.

(Warner Bros.)

Shaking Hands Won't Be Outlawed

Have you watched Demolition Man recently? Or ever? Aside from featuring Sandra Bullock at her most charming and Wesley Snipes at his most unhinged, it attempts to tackle a post-disaster dystopia with a comedic flare that's missing from most of these films. Demolition Man imagines futuristic city of San Angeles being rebuilt following multiple disasters as a vigilantly clean, P.C. world that ignores the lower class and people who are forced to live underground. The residents of this universe live in a highly controlled police state where touching and even foul language are prohibited by law.

Don't worry: It's unlikely our society will become such a police state. Not because our leaders are saintly vessels of integrity and constitutional fervor—mostly, we just don't have the infrastructure. However, the no-touching thing is likely here to stay, not by force of law but plain, ol' common sense. Screenwriter Daniel Waters told Vulture:

The mini-monologue she gives, about the different pandemics that led to this point—that speech, it seems so reasonable now. Slowly but surely, we're getting them all. I loved seeing the quote-unquote handshake Rob Schneider and Benjamin Bratt give each other in this. I can totally see it. Once you get into, 'We don't want anything icky in the future,' then it's funny how it just happens.

(Cambist Films)

Where Are All The Guys In Plastic Suits?

The Crazies, Outbreak, and other quarantine favorites offer a horrific vision of a pandemic or a small-scale dystopia in which government agents clad in plastic suits quarantine an entire town to keep a disease from spreading. The horror of these films isn't just that a disease can spread, wiping out significant chunks of the population, but that a group of anonymous people can keep us locked down with no information other than the fact that we're at their mercy. Plastic-wearing government workers and martial law will always make viewers feel uneasy, but our own politicians have been slow to make any overarching decisions, leaving us to quarantine ourselves.

(Rogue Pictures)

A More Civilized Dystopia

This isn't to say that our world isn't dystopian in its own way or that filmmakers, writers, and artists haven't predicted a realistic global crisis response. Aside from all the blood and guts, the one film that eerily parallels our current world is Shaun of the Dead, a film in which most people are content to ride out the zombie apocalypse by bolting the doors and sitting down with a Cornetto or a cup of tea for a round of TimeSplitters 2.

It's probably for the best that the post-apocalyptic fantasies that we're drawn to have remained fantasies. If anything, we can enjoy them more than ever now that it's clear what is and isn't reality. At least for now.

Tags: disaster | movies

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Jacob Shelton

Writer

Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.