YMMV: Left Behind

  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Rayford Steele: Relatable everyman, and stand up guy? Or self important Jerk Ass?
    • Buck Williams: Competent reporter with great writing charisma? Or lazy bum who barely reports?
    • Hattie Durham: Provocative woman who deserved her fate? Or sympathetic victim?
    • Irene Steele: Loving, caring, christian who only wants the best for her family? Or selfish, self righteous, fanatic who gets antsy when people don't believe in what she believes?
  • Angst? What Angst?:
    • You'd think that the complete eradication of all kids under the age of ten would be a bit depressing, but people seem to take it in stride. Given how much disruption this would have on the global population, this approaches Cosy Catastrophe levels.
    • If you happen to be a parent who never really wanted a child in the first place, that would seem to be a boon.
    • The 2014 film doesn't lack for this trope either.
      San Francisco Chroncile review: Babies disappear on flying planes and parents object, but donít tear around the aisles screaming or, say, look under the seats. People suddenly reveal themselves behind curtains to have Xanax-calm conversations.
  • Big Lipped Alligator Moment: Kirk Cameron (as Buck Williams) does his "Way of the Master" routine in the second movie in the series.
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • The nature and functioning of the UN. Possibly the nature and functioning of humanity, considering the ease with which one world currency and, even worse, one world government and religion are instituted.
    • The often questionable interpretations of the Bible. For instance, the fourth horseman from the book of Revelation, also known as Death, is said to apparently be the Antichrist by Bruce Barnes, the priest. Thing is, the word "Antichrist" isn't mentioned a single time in the book of Revelation. In fact, opinions vary a lot on whether the Antichrist is supposed to be the name of a specific person or just an adjective, like "anti-communist" (as it is used in the Epistles of John). So having Bruce say that the fourth horseman is apparently the Antichrist is just stupid.
    • The plotline about the recruitment of Rayford, a civilian airline employee, as pilot for Air Force One. In case the name of the plane didn't make this clear, The Other Wiki has a list of all previous Air Force One pilots. All were military officers, none below Lieutenant Colonel.
    • On top of that, Air Force One isn't really a single, specific plane. It's a shorthand for "Air Force plane that the President is currently using or about to use". Strictly speaking, there can no longer be an Air Force One, since the term only makes sense in a strictly American Air Force context.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy:
    • Both 'sides' in the series have exactly the same goals and use pretty much the same methods, everything that happens is part of God's plan and, as such, the characters have no free will and nothing they do at any point in the series makes any difference whatsoever, so it's really rather difficult to root for them.
    • The fact that thanks to massive Values Dissonance, God and Satan Are Both Jerks, and like their minions have nearly the exact same goals: Nicolae wants to kill everyone who doesn't worship him, as does Jesus. Nicolae wants to take over the world and establish a one-world religion comprised of people who worship him, Jesus also wants this (and gets this in the 13th book in the series "Kingdom Come"). The only difference between the two is power-levels, and it is a massive difference. Jesus is so powerful that he comes off as a (literal) God-Mode Sue, while Nicolae is an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain. Rather than choosing Jesus out of moral conviction, it seems quite likely that anybody who joins the 'good' side after the Rapture is simply joining the side that cannot lose, which is hardly proof of virtue.
  • Designated Hero: Buck and Rayford. Most of their behaviour goes beyond even the standards of a Sociopathic Hero. One could argue they're supposed to be newly-converted Antiheroes, but this doesn't hold up since they never do anything for anybody.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The cookies
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: A unique case: Outside of the target audience, any character with a significant fanbase arguably stands out.
    • The sleepy drunk executive from chapter one is described with genuine fondness by the Slacktivist blog, mostly for actually having a sane reaction to the Event.
    • To say nothing of poor Verna Zee, Buck's boss.
    • T. Mark Delanty from books 5/6/7 is also notable for two reasons. One, he called Rayford out on being a total jerkass and got the man to admit he was wrong (this is a Canon Sue he called out, by the way). Two, he's one of the few people in the books who actually comes off as genuinely good.
    • Jonathan Stonagal, a supporting antagonist who doesn't survive the first book, is surprisingly widely regarded as having had a great deal of wasted potential. It doesn't hurt that in the film adaptation, his character is actually played up something fierce, to the point that he comes off as a serious contender for the "Antichrist" position.
    • Loretta, the only person at the church seen to get things done while Bruce the pastor builds a hole in the ground to hide in with only his "inner circle."
  • Fan Nickname/Running Gag:
    • "Fan" is a misnomer, but readers of the aforementioned blog by Fred Clark have made a running joke on Slacktivist of referring to Carpathia as "Nicky (insert mountain/mountain range name here)"; recently, a new nickname, Chairface Carpathia, seems to have caught on. Buck, the Greatest Investigative Reporter of All Time, is called the GIRAT. The authors (LaHaye and Jenkins) are often abbreviated to "Ellenjay".
    • "Meta-(character)" is frequently used by the same community used to describe any character who seems to be showing signs of behaving like an actual human being in the actual situation they are currently in. This title often confers a sort of temporary Ensemble Dark Horse status as well.
  • First Installment Wins: The first book is the best-selling and most famous.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In light of the 2014 movie, the reason Rayford Steele couldn't be taken to Heaven makes more since now: Rayford sold his soul to Mephisto in 2007.
  • Ho Yay: Given what branch of Christianity is responsible for this series, we are talking very, very unintentional. The proliferation of names like Steele, Buck, and Plank doesn't help.
  • Idiot Plot: All over the place.
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Epic demon armies and plagues wracking the Earth? Skip to those and ignore the unsympathetic characters.
  • Love It or Hate It: Like a lot of overtly religious stories, Left Behind's interpretation of the rapture, its characters, and its plot, have either been praised or scorned.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Among non-fans, it's hard not to feel more sympathetic for non-Christian characters (Chloe before her conversion, back when she was tough, independent and questioning), and to dislike the heroes, who come off as rather arrogant.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Nicolae crosses this when he was still a child by conspiring with Viv Ivins to kill his mother.
  • Narm:
    • Quite a bit of it, but Carpathia's speech to the U.N. stands out, considering it's essentially a 4th grader's class report on what the U.N. is, followed by an alphabetical list of the nations that are members. One possible interpretation is that this is an Intended Audience Reaction, to emphasize his supernatural ability to win people over. He could read the entire contents of a telephone book to the assembled people of the U.N. and they would still be falling on their faces for him. Problem is, if that's the case then it still fails since you get the impression that the authors intended the speech to be good.
    • People are raptured without their clothes - thus, the raptured leave behind piles of empty clothing. So the first sign of the end of the world was a field of underpants.
    • In the Book of Revelation, the Two Witnesses are said to destroy any who threaten them with fire from their mouths. When they show up in this series, people who threaten them... collapse dead from heart attacks. The antifans have taken to calling them "the Trip-and-Fall Guys".
  • Newer Than They Think: The doctrine of the Rapture as presented in the series really only came into being 2 centuries ago at most.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • The description of the final fate of Carpathia and Fortunato after 1,000 years in the Lake of Fire (writhing in torment in fire and brimstone and continuously crying "Jesus is Lord" over and over) with the understanding that they will spend eternity like that, not to mention all the unbelievers who are doomed to join them.
    • When Steele had a handshake with Carpathia. You don't want to see the latter's face.
  • No Budget: The 2014 film shares a lot in common with Plan 9 from Outer Space. According to the New York Daily News review, " Director Vic Armstrong seems to have hustled up his budget for this Z-grade rehash by rifling through couch cushions...Instead, Cage plays a pilot on an aircraft that was seemingly shot in someoneís basement."
  • One of Us: The Slacktivist (real name: Fred Clark), who mercilessly critiques the series in his blog, often mentions tropes by name and makes other Troperiffic references. And it's explicitly confirmed at the end of this post that the Slacktivist is indeed a fellow Troper.
  • Periphery Demographic: Many — if not most — of the books' readers were just mainstream agnostic Americans looking for a good supernatural thriller, like The Stand or The Langoliers (The first book has a very similar setup to the Langoliers; where people on an airplane awakening to find many passengers missing).
  • Relationship Writing Fumble: As noted above, the unintentional Ho Yay between Buck and Ray. Ironically, the fact they're both married makes the Ho Yay more blatant.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Many readers of the series see the heroes as complete jerkasses, God as a psychopath and Nicolae as, at worst, a Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
  • The Scrappy: While it's arguable that many if not all the characters are this, the absolute hated character appears in the first book. He's a medical doctor who helps Buck mend his wounds since he's bored and has nothing to do. He says this while he's at an airport that's filled with burning wreckage and suffering victims.
  • Snark Bait: The 2014 film, as stated below under So Bad, It's Good. But also the main book series, just because it can be so fun for a Troper to take apart. The Slacktivist community is a gathering point for those who like to share snark on it.
  • So Bad, It's Good: Considered this by many people.
    • Snark Bait: The 2014 film starring Nicholas Cage is getting reviews that suggest people may go to riff it. A RiffTrax is inevitable.
      Redeye Chicago review: ...a movie so astonishingly, hilariously incompetent that nothing I say can prepare you for it. This movie is the worst. And the best. I havenít laughed like that in a theater in a long, long time, and not one of those laughs was earned on purpose.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • This is a problem with the series of books, as noted in the Slacktivist blog deconstructing it. The main heroes are such Jerk Sues that many of the people with whom they argue come off looking much better by comparison. For example, in the first chapter, a drunk Texan wakes up and sees the carnage wrought by the Rapture (plane crashes, etc). He is mocked as a silly drunk by the narrators, but he is the only one to express any sort of horror at the proceedings. In the next book, we are clearly supposed to cheer for the alleged hero as he is insubordinate to his boss — whose main crime seems to be being a woman who does not fawn over him and expects him to do his job.
    • Verna Zee is constantly presented as a no-fun, uppity woman who thinks Buck is a pompous Jerkass. And she's right.
    • The "heroes" are supposed to be callous to the suffering at this point, as they have not been "saved" and are still unrepentant sinners. The problem is, even after they are saved and supposedly become model Christians, they still consider others' suffering an inconvenience. The only notes of genuine regret or contrition come from the supposedly un-saved.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Done right, a story set during a Rapture-like event could have been quite potent character-driven Religious Horror, if the plot, the premise, and its implications were well-thought-out and the characters were sympathetic. Unfortunately, none of that is the case. Examples of Fix Fic, both intentional and not, include:
    • The blog "Right Behind" takes some of the lingering queries about the world of Left Behind and explores the implications of the setting to their logical conclusion.
    • The HBO series The Leftovers also begins with a sizable population of Earth spontaneously disappearing. Answers to explain the disappearance are not forthcoming, so people turn to religion, cults and self-destructive behavior to cope.
  • Took the Bad Film Seriously:
    • You've got to hand it to Gordon Currie, who played Carpathia in the movies. He might have been a B-List actor in a B-List movie series, but he swung for the fences in every scene, making him perhaps the most engaging actor on the cast and portraying Carpathia as a far more intriguing villain than he ever was in the books.
    • Rayford is remarkably much more human and sympathetic in the movies, reacting reasonably to what is going on as much as the script allows and showing much more genuine loss and regret about his wife and child. Fred Clark sums up:
      "On one side are Irene and Jamie, who are cheerful born-again Real True Christians. On the other side are Chloe and Rayford, who are portrayed by legitimate actors."
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic:
    • Verna Zee is intended as something of a Butt Monkey, a shrieking harpy who dislikes Buck whom Buck in turn stands up to and puts her in her place. However, given Buck's opinion of himself and Verna's motivation seeming to simply get him to do his job, Buck's treatment of her can seem rather unjustified and awful.
    • Carpathia himself to a degree, despite being the Big Bad and the Anti Christ. Early in the story he comes across as, at worst, a Well-Intentioned Extremist with emphasis on the "Well Intentioned". A lot of the main cast do a lot of judging of him internally, but given that the judgement has more to do with who he is than with the actions he takes, it can come across as unfair. Even when he's been established as possessing vast amounts of power and evil, we rarely see him succeed at anything at least not without cost. Add to the fact, that at least once in every book we get a scene where the heroes get to play petty pranks on him without repercussions; like when he's desecrating the temple and about to give his big speech to the world that he is god, they just hack his camera and turn off the audio to humiliate him. Or when New Babylon is plunged into darkness, Rayford amuses himself by staying out of sight and taunting Carpathia from the darkness. Newly resurrected and fully possessed by Satan, and David is allowed to vomit on him without being torn apart by Nicolae's followers. Even God gets in on the act, and causes all the GC planes to collapse in a horrific pile when they are giving an airshow in his honor.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Irene Steele. '"Can you imagine, Rafe," she exulted. "Jesus coming back to get us before we die?"' She says this knowing that Rayford isn't all that religious a person. It's supposed to show how good a Christian she is, but it just makes her seem like she's trying to show off her faith to feel better than people who don't believe. She seems like the kind of person who says grace in a really loud tone of voice whenever she's at a restaurant just so she can feel superior to the other people there, who either don't say grace at all or do it in a reasonable tone of voice (or even say it silently). When Chloe is planning to go off to college on a scholarship and Irene is adamant that she stay and go to church with her (to the point of threatening to have Ray force Chloe into the car to go,) this is supposed to be a demonstration of Irene's care for her daughter and Chloe's ungratefulness. It comes across as Irene having no respect for her daughter's intelligence and growing independence.
  • Values Dissonance: The books are written with a particular religious demographic in mind as their intended readership. Said demographic (being almost entirely confined to the USA, at that) has a very particular set of values, which are not necessarily widely shared outside of it. Even within American evangelical Christianity it's far from mainstream.
    • The Anti Christ being the child of two gay men would seem like an accidental family unfriendly Aesop, but is actually an aversion, since those implications were fully intended. However, other things, such as God smiting the unbelievers and torturing them in hell for eternity simply for being ignorant or wanting to support global peace, tends to imply that God Is Evil, which was not the author's intention.
    • The implication that God Is Evil also comes from his tendency to torture people for eternity on purely religious (and not moral) grounds. Furthermore, since everything in the book is supposedly predestined, none of the people condemned to Hell had any choice in the matter. Depending on how much slack you want to give on His Omniscient Morality License, the series's version of God could range from being an anti-hero to a full-out The Bad Guy Wins. Not that the authors believe that, of course. See Values Dissonance below.
    • And then there's...everything dealing with Israel and the Jews. The bits that make sense are all kinds of horrible.
    • Buck blackmails a woman with the threat of outing her as a lesbian if she reveals certain information that she has, and that she legitimately feels the public has the right to know. Chloe, his wife, who used to be a realistic, fairly nice woman before she was 'saved', laughs about said blackmail. Even better, the scene in question plays out exactly like the opening to a standard smear campaign to harass a woman out of her position (She's his boss, who he's been disrespecting, belittling, and treating like his secretary because he thinks she's not good enough). Buck brings up, out of nowhere, "Well, what if I go around telling everyone you're a lesbian? How will you like that?" It's not even clear initially that she is a lesbian, since her response is simply to panic at the idea he's going to start spreading the rumor and deny it (not that this stops him from taking this as "proof"). Later Buck takes over her office and, when she comes in to demand to know what he's doing, he attempts to kick the door into her face. This is, of course, presented as one of his great heroic actions in the books, and also totally hilarious, even more than blackmailing her.
      • The blackmail story itself reveals even more Values Dissonance between the writers and a large chunk of contemporary society, namely that blackmailing someone about being a lesbian would even work; most people these days in North America wouldn't care if someone working at a newspaper (or anywhere, now including the military) was gay.
    • There's a huge blog dedicated to discussing the Values Dissonance and general craptastic writing in that series. Notable examples: The protagonist Airline Pilot who considers himself a hero for refusing to ride on a bus from his plane to O'Hare Terminal, even though this requires him to walk around plane wrecks and ignore the dead and wounded inside. And the protagonist Reporter who discovers an International Conspiracy after it murders his close friend, and then runs right to the head of that conspiracy and trades silence for his life. It should be noted that Slacktivist is primarily an evangelical blog, so in theory he should be the target demographic.
  • What The Hell Casting Agency: Nicolas Cage is Rayford in the upcoming reboot. Because when you think of the normal stand up guy everyman Rayford, your mind instantly goes to over the top, vulgar, insane, Nicolas Cage.
    • If anything, many think Cage would have been better off cast as Nicolae Carpathia the Anti Christ.