The other day, John Seel at the Daily Cardus got thinking about the current wave of apocalyptic movies. He sees it as a sign of decay.
These cinematic apocalyptic sagas are secular versions of the anticipation of Christ’s return. Whereas Christ’s return brings hope, these twisted stories only bring a nagging unease that flirts with despair.
He goes on to suggest that this is an “anti-culture, referencing Philip Rieff who stated
“Every culture that tries to establish its social order without reference to a sacred order must be called an anti-culture.”
I think we miss the elephant in the room: the present society, the one outside my window, is the one with this apocalyptic fantasies. This is the narrative of loss that we are playing for our own lives, and so a better question might be that of determining the source of this loss. What is it about this age, that prompts this response? Are there concrete conditions?
Pulling up the spiritual gang-plank (“oh, this is what unbelief looks like” or thinking of it only in terms of “anti-culture”) is only another symptom of the problem.
After all it’s not the first time that apocalyptic themes have taken over pop culture.
Look at the literature and film of the 60s and 70s, and one will note continuing themes of over-the-top of revolutionary violence, eg. Bonnie an Clyde (67), John Updike’s Rabbit Redux (71), Trevanian’s switch-up with Shibumi (77). What, we might ask, was in the water then? Why did we want to see violence like that? Was it the generational pulse? Vietnam?
Perhaps, then, what we see in this age is some other generational narrative. By reducing the cultural moment to cultural war terms (ooh, the anti-Christ) Seel avoids the other task of identifying what drives this vision; it is passing the neighbor on the other side of the road.