Once upon a time, people thought December 21, 2012 was The End of the World as We Know It. Silly, right? Well, a surprising number of people took this seriously. Where did this date come from, you ask? Well, let's sort out fact and fiction:
- Myth: The Mayans predicted December 21, 2012 would be the end of the world.
- Fact: Conspiracy theorists pulled a mathematically significant date from the Mayan calendar (not the end of the calendar, as it's usually reported) and reappropriated it as the end of the world. The actual Mayans had nothing to do with it. Also, whenever the "Mayan" calendar is shown, expect it to actually be the more visually appealing Aztec calendar.
- Myth: Nostradamus also predicted something would happen in 2012.
- Fact: The only years Nostradamus mentions by name in his quatrains are 1999 and 3797. Of course, he could be talking about 2012 in some of his other quatrains. Or he could not. That's the magic of Nostradamus — he was so vague that you can interpret him however you like, which is where his "correct" predictions come from.
- Myth: Lots of other ancient civilizations also cited the year 2012.
- Fact: Yeah, no. Conspiracy theorists just took every doomsday prediction under the sun and attached it to December 21, 2012 because why not.
- Nibiru, a.k.a. Planet X: A planet about as real as Tatooine which was supposed to hit the Earth in May of 2003. For some reason, the theory was later dusted off and applied to — you guessed it — December 21, 2012. (Conspiracy theorists tend to ignore NASA when they assure us that if something the size of a planet were going to hit the Earth, they'd know about it years ahead of time.) note
- Polar shift: Supposedly, the magnetic poles were going to reverse in 2012. Didn't happen and wouldn't have caused disaster if it had.
- Solar flares: Solar flares happen all the time, but obviously solar flares happening on December 21, 2012 would be evil, world-ending, magic solar flares.
- Planetary alignments: When the planets line up, you know it's bad! Except there were no planetary alignments in 2012 and planetary alignments have happened many times before without any effect on the Earth.
- The Rapture: Naturally.
- New World Order: Presumably, The Illuminati thought it would be fun to kick their plans into high gear on December 21, 2012, since people were expecting something to happen anyway.
- Three days of darkness: A theory which got lots of traction in China, leading to huge sales of candles there.
- Pic de Bugarach: A mountain in southern France near the Spanish border associated with UFO phenomena. New Agers flocked to the mountain in December of 2012, believing they would be spared from the apocalypse and also get to reenact Close Encounters of the Third Kind. French police eventually had to block access to the mountain itself, concerned that a doomsday cult might carry out a mass suicide or worse.
- The Zombie Apocalypse: Because again, why not?
- The reintroduction of magic and the start of the Sixth World, or the Age of Aquarius. (Shadowrun)
- The Ancient Astronauts who guided the Mayans returning to Earth. In fact, one such theory pointed out that The X-Files predicted an Alien Invasion in 2012 and that the creators of the show was trying to warn humanity that way. Why they would choose to do this through the plot of a TV show instead of going to the public is unknown.
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- "Fruitcake" Mullins in Hard Time is a crazed scientist who claims he can predict the future, and who believes in the Mayan apocalypse. However, he thinks "the end of linear time" is to come on December 23rd, 2012. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue reveals that it was the end... for him; he died that day.
- The Invisibles: The world ends with the on Dec 21, 2012 with the ascension of mankind. Grant Morrison talks about it here.
- The Roland Emmerich film 2012, of course.
- Various mockbusters ripping off the Roland Emmerich film. The Asylum has created three.
- Melancholia doesn't mention the Mayans or 2012, but the titular rogue planet is an Expy of Nibiru, and the film was definitely tapping into the apocalyptic zeitgeist of the time.
- Why else do you think Anthropology takes place in 2012? With all these weird end-of-the-world conspiracies people were having at the time, Discord causing chaos seems just as plausible. In fact, Nathan mentions in chapter 28 that "the end of the world wasn’t for a couple more months", referring to the Mayan Doomsday.
- The Mayan Doomsday is brought up in chapter 1 of Ed, Edd n Eddy's Quest for the Pure Hearts:
Jonny: [to Plank] What'd yah say buddy? [beat] End of the world. Are you buyin' into that Mayan stuff? It's always a fad with you, mister!
- Yes, Dan Brown did his thing with this one too, in The Lost Symbol.
- Played for laughs in That Is All, the conclusion to John Hodgman's Complete World Knowledge trilogy, for world knowledge cannot be complete unless the world itself is finite. It's a sort of Fantasy Kitchen Sink of apocalypses - the return of the Ancient and Unspeakable Ones, an inferno of unquenchable Masonic fire, DOGSTORM, the magnetic North Pole burrowing through the Earth, The Singularity, The BLOOD WAVE... but, most emphatically, no Zombie Apocalypse.
- The entire plotline of the Invisible City novels by M. G. Harris.
Live Action TV
- The Go On episode "The World Ain't Over 'Till It's Over" (aired December 4, 2012) takes place on December 21, 2012. Mr. K believes the world will end, but nothing happens.
- 2 Broke Girls: "And The High Holidays" makes comments referencing this.
- Penn & Teller: Bullshit! tackles this in the episode "The Apocalypse".
- According to The X-Files, December 21, 2012 is the date of a future Alien Invasion. Word of God says that the upcoming mini-series will address whether or not anything actually happened.
- A Saturday Night Live skit featured two Mayans showing their newly completed calendar to their countrymen. They say the calendar ends in 2012 because the world will end, but eventually admit they just ran out of space.
- The 1990's Speculative Documentary series Ancient Prophecies got in on the fun quite early, predicting that mankind's technology would suddenly come to life and rebel (think the plot of Maximum Overdrive). Cue humorous shots of a guy getting his tie caught in a printer, an anachronistic 90's computer screen flashing "The End is Near", and a Christmas tree shaking around menacingly.
- The Discovery Channel had a special on this, taking the proposed "how the world would end" ideas that were scientifically possible. But the end conclusion was "there's a chance any one of these could happen anyway, regardless of date".
- Prime Minister Julia Gillard appeared on the Triple J TV show for a very tongue in cheek end of the world speech.
- "A Certain Shade of Green" by Incubus
- "2012 (It Ain't the End)" by Jay Sean
- "Till the World Ends" by Britney Spears (the song doesn't mention 2012, but the official music video does)
- Industrial Metal act Hanzel Und Gretyl's album 2012 was dedicated to the Mayan prophecies.
- On The Now Show, Mitch Benn devoted a song to mocking the idea the week before the apocalypse was due.
And even if that's what they meant they could've been wrong or lyin',
'Cos if the Mayans could predict the future — we'd still have Mayans.
They might have been crazy or deluded, they didn't see that their fate included
Diseases and Conquistadors; what makes you think that they predicted yours?
- Some comics referenced the supposed doomsday in their strip for December 21, 2012:
- Mother Goose and Grimm has a story arc about Ralph's Mayan girlfriend who panics about the supposed "end of the world" and wants him to make a bucket list of what to do before the world ends. This arc, of course, ran◊ for◊ five◊ whole◊ days◊ on the week of November 27, 2012. The aftermath did not occur until December 30◊, the day before New Year's Eve, and only nine days after the supposed "Mayan Doomsday".
- In early January 2012, Sally Forth had a two-week storyline where Ted, while not seriously believing it, used the doomsday talk as a reason to look back on their lives thus far, leading into a What If? storyline speculating on a future where Ted and Sally had never met.
- The Shadowrun universe backstory has the fifth (our) world end on December 24th, 2011 according to the Mayan calendar, and the sixth world begins, bringing with it magic, dragons, new types of humans that resemble the legendary dwarves, orks, elves and trolls, among others.
- One of the more hilarious examples: Civilization V: Gods and Kings has the Mayans as a civilization. Not only do you get an achievement for using a nuclear weapon as them in the year 2012, but when you encounter them in game, their leader Pacal always talks about how the world will end any day now.
- The conspiracy-themed MMORPG The Secret World commemorated the date with a special event titled "End of Days", which started on December 21, 2012.
- A bulk of the Assassin's Creed series takes place in 2012, with the Myth Arc concerning the giant solar flare that is supposed to reach Earth and eradicate all life on December 21, 2012.
- Dikembe Mutombo's 4˝ Weeks to Save the World centered around Dikembe helping Science the Bear stop possible threats that could end the world and construct a new Mayan Calendar before the old one finishes and the world ends. It was completed on December 20, 2012.
- Oracle Of Tao uses this as a checklist. All of the possible occurrences happen in rapid succession as a possible cause for the end of the world.
Textbook: Ancient legends speak of Belial as the cause of the first Earth being destroyed. But I know the real truth.
Ambrosia: Yes, what is it?
Textbook: On Dec 21, 2012, ancient Mayan sorcerers caused the planets to line up, sending a giant planet to crash into Earth. This powerful ritual combined with the massive collision knocked Earth off its orbit, and caused the poles to shift, causing deadly solar flare radiation. Naturally, this in turn caused The Rapture, as well as three days of darkness, before UFOs came and simply wiped the Earth out of existence.
Ambrosia: Suddenly, I think a demon coming from another dimension and destroying everything before getting sealed away sounds more plausible.
- The less than stellar Steam videogame Revelations 2012 had its plot revolve around this. Supposedly, on the fated day, a sealed demon would come out of his can and wreak havoc on the world. Four chosen people had to make sure this didn't happen.
- The Omega Stone (the sequel to The Riddle of the Sphinx - no, not that trope) is set in the year 2012. You, the protagonist, are warned about an apocalypse that can take place anytime, and you are sent to stop it from happening.
- Azrael's Tear is set around this time, and indeed there is a hint in the backstory that the world might end, what with all the huge earthquakes and plagues, although just so you know, this doesn't dominate the plot, which is about exploration and piecing together the story of what happened with the place and the characters in the past, and eventually acquiring a certain artifact.note An unusual example in that the game was published in 1996, over 16 years before this setting.
- Grand Theft Auto V makes a brief reference to this in its in-game radio. Ronald "Nervous Ron" Jakowski, the Conspiracy Theorist host of Blaine County Talk Radio's "Blaine County Radio Community Hour" podcast replays, dates his podcast to be from less than three months from this date (late September to early October 2012).
- Universe at War: The Hierarchy's invasion of Earth began on 2012.
- The MOBA game Smite includes the Mayan Jaguar God Xbalanque, whose joke pokes fun on this whole doomsday, because, nope, he doesn't have such power. Bonus point for being released in exactly the date of December 21st 2012.
12-21-12. Hahaha! You guys are so gullible...AAAAARRRGGHH!! I'M SUMMONING THE APOCALYYYYPSE!! Hahaha, no I'm kidding, I'm kidding. I don't have that power.
- Debunked by SciShow here and here.
- Jib Jab's 2012 year-in-review video is themed around this. It's also briefly mentioned in their 2011 video.
- Cracked.com's The Embarrassing Aftermath of the Mayan 'Apocalypse'
- The Onion: "Man Who Just Bought Mayan Headdress, 4 Crates Of Corn Pretty Sure You'll Be Looking Like The Fool When Apocalypse Happens" and "Mayan Word For 'Apocalypse' Actually Translates More Accurately As 'Time Of Pale Obese Gun Monsters'."
- Made into a Running Gag by Jesse Cox and Crendor during the Cox n' Crendor Show podcast. Jesse & Crendor would frequently remark about evil Mayan robots rising against humanity in their takeover bit and then make it more ridiculous from there.
- Weekly World News had some articles about this, such as the Mayans doing an "apocalypse countdown". Notably, on the date itself, the site reported that the end of the world was postponed to September 3, 2015.
- In December 21, 2012, Chuggaaconroy posted a Tweet making fun of how people were hyping over the supposed end of the world. It's more of a humorous post, really.
Days like today make me glad that I already stopped the moon from crashing last year! Play Majora's Mask today, you owe it to yourself!
- Know Your Meme claims the phenomenon has reached memetic status, as seen here.
- The Damn Few, episode "The Mayans."
- Spoofed in the opening of the 2012 "Treehouse of Horror" episode of The Simpsons.
- On Futurama, a Martian calendar predicts a sunflare that will destroy the planet in 3012. Later it is revealed that the planet in question is Mars, and the calendar was sent to Earth as a warning to not visit Mars, but by then the Earth's people had already relocated to there.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated which started in 2011, played with this, indirectly, with Nibiru being the Big Bad.
- In a mid-season Gravity Falls short, (released in 2013) Dipper asks a magic mailbox that gives answers to all questions when the world will end. It gives the answer of 3012, to Dipper's mild surprise.