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


(permanent link) added: 2012-07-07 19:45:29 sponsor: surgoshan (last reply: 2012-08-10 16:36:20)

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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 Hero's 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 1/0: 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 28 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 M*A*S*H 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


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