A cousin trope to No OSHA Compliance
In the real world, when some horrible disaster happens, humanitarian aid generally pours in to the area. In the United States, these efforts are (in theory) coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or "FEMA" for short, hence the trope name. It may not be effective for whatever reason, but people try
Not so in fiction, where earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and stranger events are avoided
or outright cordoned off by the outside world and the survivors are left to fend for themselves. This seems especially prevalent in Japanese fiction, as it appears that nation has zero
confidence in the stability of the social order — the slightest accident on the street will inevitably lead to people cracking each others' skulls open to feast on the goo within
. This goes double if it's a Go Nagai
This covers isolated disasters ignored by the outside world, not conditions where the entire
fabric of civilization has been destroyed by global-scale events. A Lampshade Hanging
of this trope as the first clue that a disaster extends beyond
the purely local scale is such a common narrative device that it's very nearly a sub-trope.
Note that this can sadly be very much Truth in Television
, mostly in isolated areas the world doesn't pay much attention to, where civilization is less organized.
Compare Militaries Are Useless
and Police Are Useless
open/close all folders
Anime And Manga
- Somewhat justified in AKIRA (manga version), as by the time major humanitarian aid efforts are on their way to Neo-Tokyo, Tetsuo and his followers have already organized the survivors into a militantly isolationist nut cult who attack the relief workers.
- In S Cry Ed, the Lost Ground has been placed under the jurisdiction of HOLY, which doesn't seem to care about civilizing the area in any way other than getting Alter Users under their control.
- The combination of an earthquake and a surge in demonic activity causes a large chunk of Tokyo to become a lawless danger zone in Demon City Shinjuku.
- Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 is an Aversion. The anime is about how to deal with a post-earthquake condition.
- Averted in Uzumaki, where relief is quick to come in once news about the weird shit going on in town reaches the outside world. The problem comes when whirlpools form in the harbor and sink all the ships, and any attempts to get into or out of town run headlong into the roads following entirely different paths.
- Slightly justified in Devil Survivor 2, where the government has much bigger things to worry about than an earthquake, such as an invasion of Eldritch Abominations.
- And the fact that everything outside of the three cities is gone. Like an empty void gone.
- Batman No Mans Land: After two outbreaks of a horrific genetically engineered plague virus are followed by a devastating earthquake that smashes Gotham City flat, the government (influenced by covert supervillain activity) decides that any further aid and reconstruction would just be throwing good money after bad and orders the city evacuated and left to rot. Anyone refusing to leave is no longer their problem. Gotham is left to the mercies of the Arkham inmates, criminal organizations, and street gangs for over a year, and the government actually goes so far as to declare Gotham to no longer be part of the American territory (something that's not possible under the US Constitution) and shot down any attempts to bring relief aid to the people who insisted on staying!
- And Metropolis, a city that had similarly been extensively damaged by Lex Luthor shortly before, was fixed magically (by GOTHAM NATIVE Zatanna the Magician) but nothing was done to restore Gotham (until, ironically, Luthor paid for the repairs to get the publicity that got him elected President.)
- Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Raccoon City is sealed off and the inhabitants left to die to prevent the T-Virus from escaping.
- Justified seeing as how quickly the virus spreads, is incurable, and turns everyone infected into a vicious killing machine.
- Outbreak: The city was quarantined, and they the plan was to Fuel Air Bomb it to stop the infection from spreading.
- The Crazies: The Remake has the first city cordoned off and Fuel Air Bombed. Worse, they made everybody think they were evac'ing, when they really were just herding them into trucks to burn them alive. Survivors made it to another city which was then targeted for the same treatment.
- In Day of the Dead (2008), the Army cordons off the town, and all phone and cellphone service is cut off.
- 28 Days Later: While society has pretty much entirely collapsed in Great Britain, the outbreak had not spread outside of the British Isles due to the very short period between infection and full on Rage. Granted, it has only been less than a month, and other governments may have still been trying to figure out how to help, assuming that their first aid missions weren't overrun or driven out by the spreading outbreak.
- 28 Weeks Later reveals that there were a large number of refugee camps in Europe, so at the very least Britain's nearest neighbours were probably pulling uninfected civilians out of the ports or off the beaches.
- Super 8: An alien has gotten loose in a town. Rather than try for a covert operation or even "try" to save any of the several people who have already been kidnapped by it, the government evacuates the town and initiates " Walking Distance ", a.k.a., "burning the town to the ground". They don't check if everyone is out, or even try to stop people coming back in.
- The Dark Knight Rises justifies it. Bane has a nuclear bomb powerful enough to level the city, and threatens to detonate it if anyone enters or leaves Gotham (though delivering supplies is allowed). The government has no choice but to enforce this.
- This is initially subverted in No Safety in Numbers, with the authorities trying to supply the quarantined shoppers with food, medicine and other supplies. Once they realize how deadly the virus is, however, they play it straight and seal off the mall so as to let the virus burn itself out.
- The government tries to do this in Arnette, Texas in Stephen King's The Stand. However, due to the communicable nature of the superflu, they realize that containment became impossible "as soon as Campion bought his first take-out hamburger."
- Used as a plot point in the original The Day of the Triffids, as well as the first TV adaptation. The major conflict in the first third of the book is between one faction of survivors who were trying desperately to hold things together in central London and keep the victims of the blindness plague alive until some official relief effort turned up, and another group who'd realised that there wasn't going to be one and that the able-bodied should get out while the going was good. The second group turns out to be right, and the first faction's desperate attempt to keep as many blinded and helpless people alive as possible for as long as possible was all for nothing. Just because it's a Cosy Catastrophe doesn't mean it can't be pretty bleak at times.
- Shadowrun supplement Bug City. After insect spirits are discovered infesting Chicago and possessing its citizens, most of the city is sealed off to prevent them from escaping.
- Later editions Retcon it somewhat in that FEMA was on scene to help with the quarantine, extermination, and cleanup.
- Devil Survivor features the Yamanote Circle, a vast swathe of Tokyo's shopping district, cordoned off by military forces ordered to kill anyone trying to escape the blackout zone. Partly justified by the government's advance knowledge of events that are soon to take place and their attempts to keep the released demon-summoning technology from spreading to the rest of the world, and then FULLY jusitfied when it's revealed that the angels were the ones who told them to lock down the circle, and have them under threat of heavenly retribution if they refuse.
- Averted in the Left 4 Dead series. There was a governmental response called CEDA, but the infection grew out of hand far too quickly for them to handle, and thus the military began to resort to more... extreme measures.
- After the opening destruction in the video game inFAMOUS the government occasionally drops food and medical supplies, but no personnel enter the area, and there are groups of soldiers with authorization to use deadly force on anyone attempting to leave the city. Partially justified in that some unknown and deadly plague has infected a goodly amount of the citizenry.
- There is a FEMA in Deus Ex series... it just doesn't do what people expect them to do. Mainly, they maintain the fictional equivalent of CIA black sites.
- Among other things, it's directly and intentionally responsible for the disaster it's supposed to be managing, and actively trying to make it worse.
- The original premise of I Am Alive was that massive earthquake in Chicago coincides with mass water shortages worldwide, so no early rescue teams arrived at the city.
- Subverted in the finished game with the Event, a cataclysmic series of disasters so widespread and destructive that it not only hindered relief efforts but also effectively destroyed almost all semblance of civilized order within a year after it began. This in turn left the survivors to fend for themselves...against other survivors.
- Justified in Prototype. Blackwatch places the entire island of Manhattan under strict quarantine and will destroy anyone attempting to leave the island; in this situation, it's unlikely they would allow humanitarian aid to enter.
- Averted in Dead Island which has everything from the Australian Biological Institute setting up quarantine zones and medical stations to the Banoi Island Defense Force working with Australian special forces to contain the outbreak.
- In the early Resident Evil games, Raccoon City was cordoned off by the military and basically left to fend for itself until the government finally went ahead and cratered the place with high-yield warheads.
- This sums up a lot of what happened after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. In that case it was literally the lack of a FEMA response.