Created By: surgoshanJuly 7, 2012 Last Edited By: surgoshanAugust 10, 2012
Troped

Apocalypse Anarchy

At the end of the world, the rules just don't matter.

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Trope
Phil: What if there were no tomorrow?
Gus: No tomorrow? That would mean there would be no consequences, there would be no hangovers. We could do whatever we wanted!
Phil: [thinking] That's true. We could do...whatever we wanted.

An asteroid is falling to Earth. A tentacular monstrosity has risen from the depths and is unstoppably destroying everything and spawning horrors. Satan has successfully copulated and his spawn will doom us all.

Regardless, it's the End Of The World As We Know It, which means it's time to party. Or freak out. Or run. Whatever. There's no tomorrow, which means all bets are off. This usually crops up in Just Before The End settings. Either the hero takes part in the orgiastic excesses before the start of The Heros Journey or he holds himself Above It All to show nobility, or maybe he has no clue what's going on and just gets caught up in the action.

This comes in two forms:
  • The world is currently ending. Everyone is freaking out and going crazy, drinking, looting, and having an evil time.
  • The world has ended, and civilization is gone. All that's left are survivalist compounds, roving bands of brutal raiders, chaos and despair, and a lone anti-hero with a cool car.

What it boils down to is the author's optimism or pessimism. It's an extended exploration of Hobbes Was Right (with a small chance of Rousseau Was Right).

For when the heroes are breaking the rules because they need to avert the apocalypse, that's Screw The Rules, It's The Apocalypse. Occurs Just Before The End and often segues into After The End.

Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • Fist Of The North Star is one of the prime examples of this trope. After the world gets devastated by nuclear war, practically all forms of government have been abandoned. The highest sort of organization the villages have are little communities headed by an elder. Meanwhile, there are either random gangs of mohawked thugs or armies organized under one very powerful individual, and either are more than willing to take what they want from the villages without remorse.

Comic Books
  • Inverted and invoked by V in V For Vendetta (both film and comic). He's trying to bring about the end of a fascist system by increasing the amount of disorder. He inspires the population to more acts of violence and vandalism, which causes the government to crack down, which leads to more uprising...
  • Done oddly in One Over Zero: It's the creator who decides to break all the rules when the apocalypse comes, removing the consistent physics and resurrecting all the characters who were Killed Off For Real so he can send them into our world before the comic ends.

Film
  • We see the aftermath of the apocalypse in Twenty Eight Days Later. Apparently, suicide was more common than not, as was an increase in church attendance.
  • Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World: An asteroid is headed for earth and people are doing everything from heroin to hiring assassins to kill themselves.
  • While it doesn't happen for the world, Phil Connors in Groundhog Day discusses with a couple of guys what they would do if there was no tomorrow. Their enthusiastic answer is that they could do whatever they wanted, now with no consequences. Inspired by this, Phil decides he's going to live his Groundhog Day Loop in the most outlandish way possible.
  • In Children Of Men, society descends further and further into chaos as people realize that the human race will be extinguished in a matter of decades since reproduction is no longer possible.
  • Invoked by Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. He wants to show Batman how depraved his city can be, given the chance. Quite a few citizens step up to the plate.

Literature
  • After The Day in Alas Babylon, a not insignificant fraction of the town get dead drunk. A smaller fraction just gets dead. In the months that follow, the citizens of Fort Repose have to learn that "highwayman" wasn't always a romantic figure...
  • On The Beach- at the end, people were just taking stuff from stores. Also, hosting a lethal car race.
  • "the dead and the gone" - stealing from corpses on the street to get food on the black market.
  • In Isaac Asimov's Nightfall a planet with six suns periodically goes through an eclipse producing one night of total darkness every couple of thousand years, which freaks everyone on the planet out. They basically burn down their entire civilization in the freakout; then the survivors start over from scratch. By the time of the next eclipse, the only record of the previous one is in mythology.
  • Newsflesh The novella Countdown has some of the major figures killing themselves as the rising begin. And San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats has people going to San Diego determined to go to San Diego Comic Con despite rumors of the zombie apocalypse...rumors which turn out to be true.

Live Action TV
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer, for all that it treated apocalypse as routine, didn't often show the effect on the general public because the public almost never knew. Only thrice did they show how the public would respond to a world-ending threat.
    • The season three finale: the students of Sunnydale High band together to take on an attack of vampires and snake. Averted.
    • Season four, "Hush": The Gentlemen steal everyone's voices. Everyone freaks out, gets drunk, goes to church, resorts to violence in the streets.
    • Season seven finale: Everyone knows the end is entirely nigh, and they all leave town. With a minimum of violence, even.
  • In an episode of MASH when they think that they are all about to be killed, several of the NCO's get together for a high-stakes poker game. One of the neophytes asks, "So, what are the stakes again?" After explaining that they're basically a year's wages for the cheap chips, he asks, "And if we don't die tomorrow?" "Whites are a cent, blues are a quarter, and reds are a dollar"
  • The entire reimagined Battlestar Galactica series could be considered a post-apocalyptic meditation on this trope.
  • In Smallville, riots break out all over the world when Brainiac unleashes a computer virus which starts shutting down all technology on Earth (happens during the episodes Vessel and Zod)
  • Similar to Battlestar Galactica Reimagined, The Walking Dead is an extended exploration of this trope, with the first two seasons basically breaking Rick down and forcing him to abandon civilized behavior.
  • This is the story of several episodes of Sliders particularly "Last Days" and "Exodus, part 1," in which the end is near and society has degenerated in this way.

Newspaper Comics
  • The Far Side: From 1986. Two fishermen look at mushroom clous, one says "I'll tell you what this means, Norm--no size restrictions and screw the limit.".

Radio

Video Games
  • This is the Fallout universe. Civilization collapsed, and it's up to you to save/destroy it.

Western Animation
  • In Futurama Bender gave up his seat on the only evacuation ship just so he could participate in looting when earth was about to get destroyed (not that he doesn't steal under mundane conditions too).
  • The Simpsons: After Springfield is nuked by France Homer takes the opportunity to dance naked in the First Church of Springfield.

Web Original


Community Feedback Replies: 29
  • July 7, 2012
    polarbear2217
    On The Beach- at the end, people were just taking stuff from stores. Also, hosting a lethal car race.

    the dead and the gone- stealing from corpses on the street to get food on the black market.

  • July 7, 2012
    zarpaulus
  • July 7, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In Isaac Asimov's Nightfall a planet with six suns periodically goes through an eclipse producing one night of total darkness every couple of thousand years, which freaks everyone on the planet out. They basically burn down their entire civilization in the freakout; then the survivors start over from scratch. By the time of the next eclipse, the only record of the previous one is in mythology.
  • July 7, 2012
    Diask
  • July 7, 2012
    Tuckerscreator
    You could use this quotes for the article:

    Phil: What if there were no tomorrow? Gus: No tomorrow? That would mean there would be no consequences, there would be no hangovers. We could do whatever we wanted! Phil: [thinking] That's true. We could do...whatever we wanted.

    • While it doesn't happen for the world, Phil Connors in Groundhog Day discusses with a couple of guys what they would do if there was no tomorrow. Their enthusiastic answer is that they could do whatever they wanted, now with no consequences. Inspired by this, Phil decides he's going to live his Groundhog Day Loop in the most outlandish way possible.
  • July 8, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Often a feature of Just Before The End settings.
  • July 8, 2012
    planswalker
    • In an episode of MASH when they think that they are all about to be killed, several of the NCO's get together for a high-stakes poker game. One of the neophytes asks, "So, what are the stakes again?" After explaining that they're basically a year's wages for the cheap chips, he asks, "And if we don't die tomorrow?" "Whites are a cent, blues are a quarter, and reds are a dollar"
  • July 8, 2012
    abk0100
    On The Ricky Gervais Show, Stephen Merchant says that, if the world were ending soon, he might kill a man, just to know what it's like. Karl Pilkington would "kick a duck up the arse."
  • July 17, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    Is this about when people know that no one will survive, or is it that civilization is collapsing and the point has been reached when following the rules doesn't make sense anymore?

  • July 17, 2012
    surgoshan
    I was trying to split it from the Apocalypse Screw The Rules snowclone, so that one would be about the heroes breaking the rules to avert the apocalypse, and this being about social order breaking down in the face of the (perhaps only perceived) apocalypse.
  • July 18, 2012
    Blubble
    Film
    • In Children Of Men, society descends further and further into chaos as people realize that the human race will be extinguished in a matter of decades since reproduction is no longer possible.
  • July 18, 2012
    Alvin
    Newspaper Comics/Literature: The Far Side , some day in 1986, two fishermen look at mushroom clous, one says "I'll tell you what this means, Norm--no size restrictions and screw the limit.".
  • July 21, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    • Newsflesh The novella Countdown has some of the major figures killing themselves as the rising begin. And San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats has people going to San Diego determined to go to San Diego Comic Con despite rumors of the zombie apocalypse...rumors which turn out to be true.
  • July 22, 2012
    isk2837
    In Smallville, riots break out all over the world when Brainiac unleashes a computer virus which starts shutting down all technology on Earth (happens during the episodes Vessel and Zod)
  • July 22, 2012
    fulltimeD
    The entire reimagined Battlestar Galactica series could be considered a post-apocalyptic meditation on this trope.
  • July 23, 2012
    randomsurfer
    The Simpsons: After Springfield is nuked by France Homer takes the opportunity to dance naked in the First Church of Springfield.
  • July 30, 2012
    Wackd
    • Done oddly in One Over Zero: It's the creator who decides to break all the rules when the apocalypse comes, removing the consistent physics and resurrecting all the characters who were Killed Off For Real so he can send them into our world before the comic ends.
  • August 4, 2012
    fulltimeD
    several eps of Sliders particularly "Last Days" and "Exodus, part 1," in which the end is near and society has degenerated in this way.
  • August 6, 2012
    MrRuano
    Fist Of The North Star is one of the prime examples of this trope. After the world gets devastated by nuclear war, practically all forms of government have been abandoned. The highest sort of organization the villages have are little communities headed by an elder. Meanwhile, there are either random gangs of mohawked thugs or armies organized under one very powerful individual, and either are more than willing to take what they want from the villages without remorse.
  • August 7, 2012
    DracMonster
    Maybe Apocalyptic Anarchy for alliteration and slightly clearer name? (Breakdown sounds like one of the dead cars you see all the time in this sort of setting.)

    EDIT: Wait a minute! The car thing smells like a trope! Lemme try this out.
  • August 7, 2012
    surgoshan
    ^ Interesting on the car thing, though it's getting close to People Sitting On Chairs. I like the alliteration.
  • August 8, 2012
    Earnest
    ^^I approve of the above name (or a variation thereof).
  • August 8, 2012
    fulltimeD
  • August 8, 2012
    Poprocks311
    Fallout 3 is this in spades. There is no government, except in a few towns like Megaton, but besides from that its basically anarchy.
  • August 8, 2012
    tjwhi1
    Some great ideas and responses. I think you're onto something actually bigger than just a single trope here. The possibilities that emerge after the 'collapse of civilisation' tend to reflect the writer's view of human nature. These can either be utopian or dystopian. Mostly, they seem to imagine that without the institutions of law we would all go to violent seed and create something fascistic as in so many example above. The other possibility is that human nature is much better without the coercion of governments and laws. There seem to be few which seriously consider the idea that human beings may be better in a less egocentric capitalistic society.
  • August 9, 2012
    jatay3
    Perhaps not totally unrelated to the fact that most writers and most any kind of intellectual in such a "less egocentric capitalistic society", would be considered a useless mouth, tjwhj. Hyperspecialization is a luxury of civilization.
  • August 9, 2012
    surgoshan
    All right; enough examples for launching. Any clean up needed? Index suggestions?
  • August 9, 2012
    abk0100
    the Buffy example has some first-person in it.
  • August 10, 2012
    surgoshan
    Okay; sounds like this is ready for launch.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable