"Cosy Catastrophe" is a term coined by Brian Aldissnote To dismiss the work of fellow British Sci Fi icon John Wyndham, particularly The Day of the Triffids. The book doesn't fit the trope, but the term has stuck none the less. The End of the World as We Know It has arrived and ... our heroes feel fine. Sure, it's a pity for all those billions who just perished at the hands of super-plague/aliens/nuclear war. But for our safe, middle-class, (usually) white heroes, it means a chance to quit their day job, steal expensive cars without feeling guilty, sleep in a five-star hotel for free, and relax while the world falls apart around them. Maybe things weren't as good as they were in The Beforetimes, but all in all, life is still enjoyable. Especially if you brought your dog.
Maybe later they'll band together to recreate a humble yet sustainable pretechnological society. Maybe, if they're of mixed genders, they'll see it as their duty to repopulate the species (wink wink). Maybe they'll just learn to accept the extinction of the human race with quiet dignity. Either way, the end of the world shouldn't be the ... end of the world, so to speak.
Expect Arcadia since there's not as much pollution and construction.
Compare with Scavenger World, After the End. See also Disaster Democracy and Angst? What Angst?.
open/close all folders
In a beer commercial, an average looking guy is stranded on a desert island with a supermodel, complete with several cases of ice-cold (don't ask how) beer. The two of them think they hear a rescue plane so the guy assures the girl he'll try and signal one if he sees it. By using shells, rocks, palm fronds and his own body (for the Y), he does get a message out to some would-be rescuers: "GO AWAY".
Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Yokohama Shopping Trip) is one of the most laid-back depictions of the twilight of humanity ever; as seen through the eyes of an android coffee shop owner.
In Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea, sea levels rise by some 20 meters around the island where the story takes place, which would likely wipe out everything on it. Still, most anyone in the movie is shown to have fun and the focus stays on the relationship between Sosuke and Ponyo. It's strongly implied that there are no casualties at all (no human ones, anyway).
Beginning in episode 4 (out of 7) of Freedom, Takeru and Biz escape from the dystopian government on the Moon and crash-land their spacecraft in the ruins of Las Vegas. Even though the survivors on Earth After the End live in poverty, have lost most forms of technology and can grow crops only with great difficulty, for some reason seafood-flavored Cup Noodles are readily available, and everyone the protagonists meet is cheerful, friendly and optimistic. They safely drive 2400 miles to Cape Canaveral without getting waylaid by bandits or anything. This is perhaps the most sympathetic portrayal of Americans ever to be seen in an anime: possibly a subversion of Eagleland, the message seeming to be that Americans would be great folks to be around if they didn't have any money or government.
"Freedom" was commissioned by Nissin Cup Noodles as a promotional film, so of course they've got to work ramen in there somewhere...
Despite having barely survived an apocalyptic war at some point, the world in Sora No Woto is surprisingly doing well for itself. Sure there's the possibility that the Earth's dying but life had moved on.
Also done at the beginning of the movie, when good chunks of the world are being turned into aliens. The meeting held to figure out what course of action to take ends with them arguing over which of them makes the best kind of movies.
Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita. Humans as we know them aren't going to last much longer, most technology is gone, starvation is a real threat... but society has survived, and the standard of living isn't all that low.
Zig-Zagging Trope in The Second Try. After TI, Shinji and Asuka take up residence in a subsistence farm that came out of the event mostly intact. The place was a nice find; fully self supportive with solar panels and batteries, a generator, rainwater collection system, usable garden, room for livestock, cozy living conditions, a fully stocked repair shed, and a working truck with the added bonus of being close to several city ruins ripe for scavenging. However, they had to work REALLYHARD to make it work.
In Zombieland, the apocalypse actually improves the main character's life and learning to enjoy life is as much a survival trait as being able to fire a shotgun.
The world of Delicatessen had a relatively cozy catastrophe, as the mail is still delivered, everyone's basically middle class, and while people are eaten (according to set rules), life goes on pretty a-ok.
Played as satire in Night of the Comet, where Earth's passage through a comet's tail turns most animal life into red powder. The only survivors in Los Angeles, aside from some Zombie Apocalypse cannibals, are a pair of Valley Girl sisters ... who immediately hit the mall and play dress-up.
And the electricity just keeps on chugging through and beyond the end of the movie.
Even before the comet's effects are felt by the characters, a news reporter doesn't seem at all alarmed by reports that all communication has gone dead in the first region of the world to see the comet.
The Last Man On Earth and The Omega Man, both film adaptations of the original I Am Legend novel, have Neville living a relatively civilised post-apocalyptic life.
Although not the end of the world, the end of Fight Club fits this description in a sense.
In fact, the entire point is to create this, to break everything down and start over new.
Tyler Durden: In the world I see – you're stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.
Godzilla Final Wars features a pair of Antarctic workers charged with watching over Godzilla's prison, one of whom apparently views the alien apocalypse as a chance to enjoy his croissants and comic books in peace.
In The Quiet Earth, almost all of humanity disappears, leaving the handful of survivors with everyone else's stuff.
The Day of the Triffids is one of the archetypical examples, with the eponymous killer plants running (well, lurching) amok after most of the human population is blinded.
However, despite being the original target of the trope, it doesn't actually fit it at all. The protagonist faces constant danger and hardship, and the closest he comes to comfort before the end of the book is a rudimentary life of subsistence farming with the constant threat of death if anyone makes a single mistake.
Another Wyndham book with this theme is The Kraken Wakes, in which the Earth's seas are colonized by unseen aliens; the aliens eventually melt the polar icecaps, causing world-wide flooding.
In an interview about his sequel The Night of the Triffids, Simon Clark said he deliberately exaggerated the trope; civilisation has collapsed, but there's still afternoon tea.
Another author mentioned by Aldiss in the essay is R C Sheriff, whose novel The Hopkins Manuscript deals with an English farmer trying to get by in the tough times that follow a worldwide disaster. The tone of the book is set by the first scene, in which teatime is interrupted by the collision of the Moon with the Earth, but resumes.
The Changes by Peter Dickinson (and BBC Children's Television spin-off). Funny noise/feeling causes everyone in England to reject all technology beyond the horse and cart.
The Martian Chronicles features a man who, after a Martian colony was abandoned, is one of the last humans on Mars. He enjoys it for a while.
Sci-fi short story "The Waverlies" is about alien microbes that "eat" electricity (just bear with me), causing virtually all technology to stop working. People are surprisingly ok with this.
The short story "The Highway" by Ray Bradbury takes place in a Mexican village after a nuclear war has destroyed the outside world. Despite the holocaust and the ensuing flood of refugees, the residents of the village continue to live their lives as if nothing happened.
On The Beach, a 1957 novel (written by Nevil Shute), The Film of the Book (made in 1959, directed by Stanley Kramer and starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire), and a made-for-television movie based on the book (made in 2000) each handle the story slightly differently, although the plot remains that of a Cozy Catastrophe. Nuclear war has devastated the whole world, except for Australia. The winds will bring the radioactivity soon enough, but until then, life goes on largely as normal.
"On the Beach" is a special case. Depending on the reader, it may either be this trope played dead straight, or it may be a psychologically-horrifying subversion: it takes place in a world decimated from nuclear warfare. The northern hemisphere barely exists anymore, but in Southern Australia the book's protagonists are drinking tea and waiting calmly for the fallout to reach them, knowing that when it does, virtually all life on earth will be destroyed.
The 1959 movie focuses on the captain of an American sub that was at sea in the Pacific during the war. The sub makes its way to Melbourne, and a romance ensues. With the sub commander played by Gregory Peck, a nuclear scientist played by Fred Astaire, and Peck's Australian love interest played by Ava Gardner, how can their behavior be anything but civilized, gracious and dignified?
The 2000 made for TV movie has a lot more conflict and angst than either the earlier movie or the book, but much of that is due to the trend toward Darker and Edgier that was in full swing when it was made. So the end is nearer, the American sub commander (Armand Assante) is more abrasive, the Australians in general are less welcoming, and the Australian Love Interest (Rachel Ward) and the scientist (Bryan Brown) are ex-lovers.
SM Stirling's Emberverse series, in which the mysterious Change has killed off high-energy-density technology (electricity, gunpowder, steam engines...), is at least a partial example of this trope; while many of the successful survivors are unusual in some way—bush pilot, ex-SAS, member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, etc—the only "gangs" that do really well are the ones specifically recruited by a would-be warlord to serve as muscle. In general, having a sense of community and a willingness to work hard is more valuable than mere combat readiness. Sitting around waiting for the Army to show up and fix things is also explicitly noted as being generally fatal.
All of this is true, but as the series progresses, the protagonists explicitly note they have either fallen into the luckiest string of fortunate coincidences ever or, far more likely, some powerful behind-the-scenes force is assisting and/or guiding them; by the end of the third book, they're receiving overt psychic visions. The chance that this is all somehow tied directly into the Change is very high.
Sheer mathematics mean they have to be lucky. If 99% of the population dies, anyone who survives will be lucky; anyone who survives and does well will have to be -very- lucky. Someone has to be on the end of the bell curve.
The survivors also note that their catastrophe isn't particularly cosy except compared to the slow or quick deaths of almost everybody else. One person is grateful to be carrying buckets of milk on a yoke across her shoulders—80 pounds total per trip—because she was carrying them at the ends of her arms—through more than one pregnancy—for years after the catastrophe hit because making a carry yoke was #1,032 on a looooong list of urgent priorities.
One of the ultimate examples may be George R. Stewart's timeless Earth Abides, which depicts most of humankind dying off due to a superplague, and the ones left to repopulate the earth are fairly ordinary people who aren't at all badasses or Well-Intentioned Extremists. The protagonist, Isherwood Williams, is a Wide-Eyed Idealist who starts off with the intention of rebuilding civilization, but in his old age settles into comfort with the idea that, although technology has been set back to the Stone Age, the spirit of humanity lives on.
The book also plays with this as the protagonist initially roams the US looking for survivors. On one hand, he finds a group fulfilling this trope living a reasonably comfortable life from looted goods in New York, but realises they'll be doomed when the food runs out, or when winter comes. On the other, he meets a family of black semi-literate sharecroppers deep in the rural South, still growing their own vegetables and raising animals just as they did before the plague. Their descendants are probably doing just as well as (or even better than) Ish's tribe.
In 'The City, Not Long After' a plague has wiped out a pretty large percent of the world population, but never mind. The remainder is too poor and diffuse to fight and, with the leftovers of civilisation, they have plenty of support till they develop an agrarian society. The artists in the remains of San Francisco have pretty infinite art supplies.
In Little Big, the protagonists are largely untouched on their large private estate by the chaos gripping the American continent.
Arto Paasilinna's Maailman paras kylä (non-translated) is about a quiet village where people till the fields, look after their own, and don't care overmuch about the goings-on in the wide world as don't concern them. Meanwhile the world's economy collapses, World War III starts, and a giant asteroid obliterates or floods two continents. The villagers send out a couple of folks to sell a crashed nuke, and have the children sing hymns to pass the time until the sun reappears. The thing doesn't have a plot as much as a saunter.
John Christopher is another English author who has written several books in this genre, most notably The Death of Grass (disease wipes out all grasses, including food crops like wheat), The World in Winter (an ice age), and A Wrinkle in the Skin (massive earthquakes).
Stephen King's Night Surf (appears in the collection Night Shift) is a kind of early version of The Stand that features a group of teens in a small New England town in a world that has been almost depopulated by "A6" superflu. They are traumatized by the deaths of almost everyone they have ever known, but at least they know they are immune. Then one of them catches A6.
Two nerdy college kids do pretty well during governmental collapse in Noise.
In the short story "Fields" by Desmond Warzel, the world is overcome by mutant wheat that chokes out all other vegetation; after most of the people of Cleveland have fled (futilely, it is implied) for greener pastures, the narrator, a homeless man, relaxes by reading and eating canned food—he considers himself better off. When other stragglers arrive, they form teams and while away their days playing baseball.
Evelyn Smith's short story "The Last of the Spode" is set in a gently post-apocalyptic England, where a handful of survivors play tennis, try to discuss the problem of repopulating the planet without getting too coarse, and drink tea from the last of the Spode.
Completely averted in The Road. Quite possibly the farthest you can avert it without killing off the entire population before the book starts.
The world following the Rapture in the Left Behind books. Crashed airlines, mass disappearances, and political upheaval everywhere, but the trash is still getting collected, airline flights are uninterrupted, and it's safe to walk the streets at night.
It arguably gets more cozy right on the day of Jesus' second coming, at least for the believers. Conveniently, the world's economic system crashes with the destruction of New Babylon on the same day that Jesus comes. Everyone on Carpathia's side who isn't in Carpathia's Unity Army, and who isn't so determined to go forward with destroying the Christians and Jews in Petra and Jerusalem, is in a world-wide panic.
Spider Robinson and Robert A. Heinlein's Variable Star involves a Cosy Catastrophe. The solar system is wiped out and all that's left, so far as we know, is about 20 colonies of ~1000 people each and one Generation Ship of ~500. Of course, no few people commit suicide. And then disaster strikes the ship.
Society is a bit like this in The Diamond Of Darkhold. Of course, the events of that book take place about 200 years after The End of the World, so nobody actually has any idea what happened, and the simple farming life is all that the people of Sparks know.
Live Action TV
Curiosity: One episode of this Science Channel's series, which addressed the question of if scientific advances could make people live forever, had a scenario where a transhuman Adam Savage not only survives an apocalypse triggered by a meteor hitting San Francisco, but thrives despite the fact that at this point, Savage is a cyborg who cannot survive without the advanced technology which the aforementioned apocalypse rendered quite scarce.
Revolution: Despite the collapse of modern civilization, things don't look that bad. Indeed, episode 14 shows that the Georgia Federation is a pretty nice place to live, with business, wealth, and international trade.
Survivors: The BBC series has a virus (according to the title sequence, created in China) spreading around the world. The mostly white, mostly middle-class survivors quickly band together and start creating small self-sustainable farming operations, and go travelling about Britain, meeting other survivors and trying to help them and set up communications and even establish some new sort of order. And everyone still drinks A Spot Of Tea every now and then, too.
Three Moons Over Milford: This short-lived series takes place after a meteor hits the moon and shatters it into pieces, with pieces of debris falling from the sky in growing numbers. Despite the fact that everyone is all too aware of the fact that eventually one of the larger pieces will inevitably fall and destroy them all, life on Earth goes on as normal with everyone trying to pretend things are fine.
The Tribe: A genetically-engineered virus wipes out all the adults and quite a lot of the children in the world over some indeterminate timescale, but apart from some low-level fighting (the survivors are, after all, children), life continues. The children first scavenge what remains, and then return to farming to survive in small tribes dotted throughout the city and countryside.
Fairly obviously: "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" by REM It doesn't make oodles of sense, but one can assume it's Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
One interpretation of the song is about how the rich of society are happy to let the end of the world run its course, whether it be due to their own negligence or unwillingness to change, as long as it doesn't affect them. (This requires actually hearing the ultra fast lyrics, however).
Or that everything people crow about being the "end of civilization!" or "this changes everything!" isn't really that big a deal at all. It's basically an argument against knee-jerk reactions and the fear of change.
The Decemberists' "Calamity Song", which is a refreshingly peppy and fun song about, well, the apocalypse.
"Had a dream, of you and me in the war of the end times And I believe, California succumbed to the fault line We heaved relief, as scores of innocents died."
"Natural Immunity" by Supercommuter is about a man who specifically invoked this trope by hiding his natural immunity to a world ending disease so a vaccine wouldn't be made.
Alice Cooper's song "Last Man On Earth" is about a guy who wakes up one morning to find that he's, well, the last man on earth. And instead of being depressed about it, he proceeds to sing about why it's awesome.
"The End of the World" by Lenka is an upbeat song about a girl who is perfectly fine with dying as long as she dies with her loved one.
At the end of the world, we'll be together, be together If I can spend it with you, then the end of the world don't matter At all
The protagonist of "The Story Of Willy" by King Missile has this perspective on the impending apocalypse ("Today is a special day, the last day of planet Earth, and I'm going to enjoy myself"). Even when he finds his friend Bob has committed suicide, he resolves to wait until Bob's wife gets home and take her out dancing. Of course, because this is King Missile we're talking about here, Willy then gets run over by a runaway steamroller.
Early Shadowrun products' Alternate History timeline depicted downtown New York City being virtually leveled by an earthquake in 2004, and tallied the damages around 200 billion dollars. Even at 1989 prices, that figure seems preposterously like this trope, as does the premise that even that game-setting's Mega Corp. powerhouses could finance its reconstruction in a matter of a couple of decades.
GURPS Autoduel/Car Wars portrays Australia as having become a quasi superpower because it is the only continent not affected by grain blight, and their cars even run on gasoline. Pretty cushy place, if you can deal with the outrageous quarantine regulations and you're not trying to leap the Cobalt Curtain.
Exmortis 2 features a small and peaceful community of farmers isolated from the apocalyptic carnage that the Exmortis demons are unleashing on the rest of the world. Of course, by the time the PC actually finds this place, the inhabitants have been slaughtered, but one of the farmers was considerate enough to leave a lengthily journal recording the disasters in the outside world, the measures put in place to defend themselves from approaching Exmortis, and the foraging expeditions to abandoned settlements. Of course, with supernatural entities roaming the Earth in search of humans to torture and murder, the cosy catastrophe lasts only until the first air-horn sounds.
In Fallout 3, Allistair Tenpenny (along with those who can afford it) live in a giant fancy hotel in the middle of this Crapsack World.
Fallout: New Vegas explores this further. On the west coast, instead of the the land being rendered near-unlivable by the Great War, everything just reverted back to the 1880s save for locations and things like The Strip and the occasional Killer Robot or two. Most people seem to live fairly relaxed lives due to the NCR and the significant lack of raiders after a period of relative anarchy (Fallout). Then things started improving (Fallout 2), before getting downright civilized. However, a few of the descriptions for the Boneyard (former LA) suggest that part is still pretty dodgy. The game tries to highlight every ending's positive and negative effects— the only negative effect the developer could think of for supporting the NCR is slightly higher tax rates!
And in contrast to the aforementioned Crapsack World of Fallout 3, the American Southwest has running electricity, non-radioactive water, actual non-lethal wildlife and fully-functional communities: things that the Capital Wasteland denizens wished they had.
Best shown in Novac; the town has all of the above, two Bad Ass Snipers for protection, and one of the snipers wife thinks it's a hellhole and some of other townfolk agree.
Although the world isn't in a great shape, Francis from Left 4 Dead thinks the zombie apocalypse is the best thing that every happened to him. No cops, no law, no worries.
This seemingly applies to most of Bright Falls' residents in Alan Wake; despite a dark presence engulfing the town at night, numerous residents going Ax-Crazy and a whole series of mysterious events being dictated by Dr. Hartman and the very real boogeyman Barbara Jagger, most of the residents seem to be either totally ignorant to the happenings or too drugged/mentally ill to notice. Even more notable in that people just seem to shrug off odd occurrences note Ranging from several people disappearing being treated like a normal occurrence, to a boat landing in a trailer park only to be briefly brought up in conversation. due to their frequency around Deer Festival.
Dead Rising and its sequel are pretty much "Cosy Catastrophe: The Game.'' The zombies are only dangerous in packs (though there are a LOT of them) and aside from rescuing survivors or running from the occasional psychopath, you're free to roam around, eating, drinking, stealing or wearing whatever you can find.
Gears of War has Azura, a island-based five-star hotel/hideout/research facility protected by a maelstrom defense where the elite of the COG goverment spent their days in luxury while the rest of the surviving population deals with starvation and constant attacks by the Locust and the Lambent.
The setting of Hatoful Boyfriend could be considered one of these. Humanity is nearly extinct, birds are the dominant civilization, multiple political factions are in an uneasy truce, and our (human) heroine nonchalantly jogs past the ruined remains of a human city on her way to school to flirt with her bird classmates.
"The Quiet Apocalypse" mentioned in Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne's "Unreal Estate" is one of these. All of those End-Of-The-World-As-We-Know-It scenarios came about (and at more or less the same time), but were far less catastrophic than expected and failed to finish off the human race. The story can be found here.
Nineteen Eighty Three Doomsday deconstructs and plays with this trope. South America, Australia-New Zealand and the Alpine countries managed to escape the nuclear holocaust (almost) unscathed. And while they do fare remarkably well, there were still some rather harsh moments, involving food shortages, refugees and mass unrest.
The Mall could be on the verge of being obliterated, but the heroes of Mall Fight generally take it in stride. At one point, Mango starts having job interviews while the Mall is being destroyed by Eric and Diablo.
Daniel likes The Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough at Last", as he is an introvert and enjoys the thought of being alone to read. Even the whole "broken glasses" Twist Ending doesn't bug him, as there are books on tape now. He changes his answer to one were there would be at least some other survivors when he realizes that he will never learn how Game of Thrones ends if George RR Martin dies.
Soren prefers I Am Legend, since there's a level of safety guaranteed, due to the monsters only coming out at night. He also likes the idea of building elaborate monster traps during the day, as it "turns your entire world into Home Alone".
Michael decides on Waterworld, because the survivors in other scenarios spend their time trying to recreate the society they left behind and failing, whereas most of the characters of Waterworld have already accepted and adapted to the world. He also claims that the higher altitude would actually be a health benefit.
According to Word Of God, Adventure Time takes place about a thousand years After the End, and many kingdoms have sprung up in the aftermath of an (implied) nuclear war. It's a pretty awesome place to be if you're a hero.
There's a huge chunk missing from Earth, only one human left and skeletons turn up in random places. There's also a fairytale candy village and you can get nacho cheese and hazelnut-flavored coffee.
Beavis and Butt-Headmistake an evacuation for the apocalypse in one episode. Naturally, rather than being horrified, they delight in how everything is now free and all the toilets in town are available to them.
The Protect and Survive films and leaflets produced by the British government in the early 1980s seemed to imply that this would be the outcome of a nuclear conflict. Sure, you'd have to stay inside for a couple of weeks, but after that everything would be just find and dandy. Threads and When the Wind Blows (see Comic Books, above) were produced in response.
A lot of American Civil Defense material implied this as well.