Daryl: Oh my God, Ryan Seacrest?
Mankini: Eh, it's hard to tell.
It's a few years After the End, and Alice (no, not that Alice, or maybe it is) is Walking the Earth scraping out a meager existence for herself. One day, she runs into Bob. But wait, this isn't any Bob — this is Bob Hoskins! How the hell did he make it through this? And Alice is dying to know: What was it like filming Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Hook?
This is when, in a work set in a post-apocalyptic world, a Disaster Movie, or a similar survival situation, the main characters meet a person who was a rich and famous celebrity before everything went to hell — an actor, director, athlete, model, musician, or even a Reality TV star. Expect them to be asked about their work in better times — or, if they're not recognized at first, "have I seen you before?". Often used to make a point about the fleeting nature of stardom or about our society's obsession with celebrities — we'll have much more important things to care about when the world comes to an end, at which point we'll all be knocked down to the same level. There is, of course, a more obvious use for this trope, and that is to fulfill the audience's desire to see rich and haughty celebrities getting put through hell. Just because you're famous doesn't mean you're immune from disasters and apocalyptic scenarios. Indeed, if karma's feeling like you've been a bad role model or a plain old jerkass, it's likely to come down harder on you for being the snooty celebrity.
Conversely, it can also be used to show that celebrities are as human as the rest of us. Showing that the apocalypse affects the rich and famous just like it affects the rest of us humanizes them as well as "pulling them down to our level." And the Celebrity Surivor is a survivor, after all. They prove that having the determination and wherewithall to weather the apocalypse isn't solely the province of blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth types.
This trope applies not just to actors, musicians, and other artists, but also to politicians, business moguls, and any other kind of real movers and shakers who did important things and earned publicity for it before the apocalypse. These people may actually get a much better share after the end, retaining or even improving their position, however occasionally you see some unpopular politician becoming a Butt-Monkey of the post-apocalyptic world.
For some reason, this is especially common in Zombie Apocalypse works. This may have something to do with the populist, Slobs vs. Snobs messages that are often read into zombie fiction — the downtrodden rising up to feast on the privileged, etc.
- Takahiro Aramaki of the post-apocalyptic manga 7 Seeds, former Koshien regular pitcher, Sole Survivor of Team Winter, and the only human not in cryostasis for fifteen years. In a variation, the Ryugyu Shelter — a base where a larger number of people survived for a time after the asteroid hit the planet — included several famous entertainers in its population, like Idol Singer Maria Miki, to keep the population of the shelter calm and entertained after they were cut off from the outside world.
- The Walking Dead:
- Tyreese is something of a subversion, as he used to be a pro football player, but he wasn't a particularly great or famous player and retired after just a few years in the league due to a Career-Ending Injury. By the time the Zombie Apocalypse started he was pretty much washed up.
- Played straight with Douglas, who was a former congressman.
- Played with regarding Beta. Apparently he was a famous basketball player turned actor before the apocalypse, but his name is never spoken. The reaction of the characters who recognize him is more along the lines of "Hey, isn't he that guy?" "Oh yeah! That guy."
- Not so much an After the End scenario as a Day of the Jackboot one, but Valerie in V for Vendetta, an acclaimed actress who was sent to a concentration camp for being a lesbian, possibly qualifies. She wasn't much of a survivor, though (although one fan theory holds that she became V).
- A few examples from Y: The Last Man:
- Epiphany is a Canadian Idol Singer who found herself stuck in Japan during the Gendercide. She uses her wealth, charisma and popularity with teenage girls to rebuild the Yakuza.
- Waverly is a former supermodel who found that her job is now obsolete, with no men left to ogle her and with women no longer caring about dolling themselves up to impress said men. She now works as, essentially, a garbage lady, collecting and disposing of all the dead men left behind.
- Fish & Bicycle Productions is a troupe of actresses who continue to work after the Gendercide, traveling from town to town. Some of them feel that the plague was karmic punishment for how older women would often find themselves pushed out of acting.
- In the post-alien invasion America of Resurrection, the main group of survivors come across a walled town that had been set up when the aliens first arrived, 10 years earlier in 1998. The town is holding a person codenamed "The Eagle," who turns out to be none other than former President Bill Clinton, who ended up stranded in that region after Air Force One was shot down by the aliens during the initial invasion.
- In The Bridge: Humanity's Stand, Lauren Faust and Craig McCracken are among the many people who constantly have to deal with Kaiju attacks. Then the two get conscripted into the GDF and have to survive terrorist situations.
- In The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum, all of Earth is embroiled in a war for survival against the Solar Empire, so every able-bodied man, woman and child is required to do their part in some way no matter which walk of life they've come from. One of the most famous soldiers in the war is a South Korean actor named Yon-Soo Park (who is heavily based on Min-Ho Lee), a couple side stories make references to real life celebrities such as side character Viktor Kraber wanting to be played by Sharlto Copeley in a biopic of his life, DJs Markus Schulz, Armin Van Buuren, and Ferry Corsten appear in person for no other reason besides Author Appeal, and The British Royal Family appear more than once and contribute to the war effort in their own ways.
- Bill Murray in Zombieland. The movie justifies this by establishing that Murray used his acting abilities to blend in with the infected, and the main characters only come across him because they visited his house specifically.
- Former pro basketball player Luther West in Resident Evil: Afterlife. A faded billboard featuring him shilling fancy watches can be seen from his fortress. There's also Bennett and Crystal, who were, respectively, a movie producer and a struggling actress before the T-virus outbreak. While Luther is a fighter and Crystal cooks for the other survivors, Bennett is arrogant and still thinks he has privileges due to his former status.
- Good Bye, Lenin! has a very bittersweet example involving the fall of communism. In one scene, the protagonist gets a ride from a taxi driver who, as the first German cosmonaut, was his childhood hero.
- The Player has this as the plot of a proposed Film Within A Film. Producer Griffin Mill hears a movie pitch from two writers with a story about a TV actress who is found and worshiped by an African tribe; the story is described in a nutshell as both "The Gods Must Be Crazy, but the Coke bottle is replaced with a TV actress" and "Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman." The drama would boil down to the actress having to choose between staying on the TV show or with the African tribe.
- The Kevin Costner film The Postman (Inspired by... the David Brin novel) had Tom Petty playing himself as the mayor of Bridge City.
- Depending on the interpretation, it is also entirely possible that Shakespeare is in fact Kevin Costner.
- Poseidon (the 2006 remake of The Poseidon Adventure) gives us former New York City Mayor Robert Ramsey as the leader of the survivors, and the ship's star singer Gloria as a disposable early victim.
- In the Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake, the survivors play a game in which they look for people in the crowd of zombies outside that resemble pre-apocalypse celebrities (such as Jay Leno).
- Piranha 3D has, among its cast of characters, a sleazy producer of Girls Gone Wild-esque videos, as well as a pair of porn stars who are shooting his latest video. None of them make it to the end of the film.
- Piranha 3DD has David Hasselhoff as a jerkass version of himself at the opening of a waterpark. When someone asks him for help during the piranha attack, he remarks that "that's what natural selection's all about".
- Parodied in Hatchet. Doug pretends that he's a famous porn producer, but is actually a marketing manager who posed as one simply to build his own private porn collection. Jenna also imagines herself to be a legitimate actress, despite the fact that she's doing sleazy softcore porn for Doug.
- Two of the survivors at the end of Mars Attacks! are a former World Heavyweight Champion boxer... and Tom Jones. The latter case is particularly ironic, since up to that point the film had gruesomely killed off its entire All-Star Cast.
- In Scary Movie 4, rapper Chingy is one of the many people abducted by the aliens. Since this is Scary Movie 4, naturally he gets his own VIP section in the holding area, complete with alcohol and women.
- To a certain extent, Robert Neville from I Am Legend. He is shown on the cover of TIME his "cure" for cancer is the cause of the Zombie Apocalypse.
- The indie film Ever Since the World Ended is portrayed as a documentary by survivors 12 years after a plague, who go around interviewing and filming various other survivors in San Francisco (the population of the city is reported to be 182). They go to visit a guy named Adam who knows a lot about engineering. They find him outside his house practicing with a bullwhip. That's right, it's Adam Savage.
- The Edge features Anthony Hopkins as a billionaire magazine publisher (with a supermodel wife) who is forced to survive in the Alaskan wilderness after a plane crash.
- This Is the End is about a bunch of actors (all of them played by themselves) trying to survive the apocalypse in James Franco's mansion. At one point, Jonah Hill says that help ought to be on their way because they're rich celebrities, and that the authorities would make an effort to save them first rather than the plebs below. Emma Watson also breaks in and loots the place.
"Hermione just stole all of our shit."
- Sharknado 2: The Second One has several celebrities who play themselves. A former professional baseball player kills a shark with a bat. Al Roker and Matt Lauer of the Today show holds down an attacking shark and stabs it to death. Kelly Ripa stomped through a shark's head with her high heeled shoe.
- In Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!, several celebrities appear only to be killed, but as for survivors...
- The President of the United States picks up a shotgun and grenade and joins Fin in killing sharks.
- Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb from the Today show defend themselves from sharks by breaking wine bottles and stabbing them.
- In Sharknado: The 4th Awakens, several Chippendales Dancers performing in Vegas fight back and kill sharks. The Mayor of Salt Lake City punches out a shark.
- In Lavalantula, washed up 90's action star Colton West gets a chance to be a hero for real when a volcano erupts and Giant Spiders that breathe fire attack his town. Eventually, the crew of his latest movie helps him out.
- In Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies, a bunch of pro-wrestlers playing themselves plus the model Taya Parker struggle to survive an outbreak of zombies.
- In Under Siege, Playboy Playmate Jordan Tate (who's played by real life Playmate Erika Eleniak) is hired to go Jumping Out of a Cake topless for a party on board a battleship. Unfortunately, the ship gets hijacked by terrorists, and she's dragged into the "Die Hard" on an X plot. Although she spends most of her screen time terrified, she pulls her weight at times and even saves the hero's life.
- Discussed in Anna and the Apocalypse; at one point, John and Chris wonder which celebrities are still alive at this point. They decide that Robert Downey Jr. and Taylor Swift should still be alive.
- World War Z has lots of fun with this. One of the soldiers that Todd Wainio served with was a former pro wrestler, and another one may or may not have been Michael Stipe. A pre-war film director also finds work shooting propaganda movies for the government. And then, of course, there's the celebrity fortress on Long Island...
- In the beginning of Stephen King's The Stand, Larry Underwood is a musician who's just had his first big hit with the song "Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?". And then the Superflu hits before he can release his second single. Since he's such a new name, he's easily forgotten about in the ensuing chaos, and by the time he meets other people he doesn't care much about fame anyway and decides to return to obscurity (so much so that when someone starts singing a snatch of his song later in the book and asks him, "....say, wait, who was the guy who wrote this song? I can't remember," he claims he doesn't know).
- In The Day of the Triffids, the protagonist encounters a novelist named Josella Playton, author of a book entitled Sex Is My Adventure.
- In The True Meaning of Smekday, invading aliens force all the citizens of America onto a "reservation" comprised of the entire state of Arizona. Hilariously, celebrity rags are still being passed around despite uneventful headlines (FILM STARS CONTINUE TO WAIT FOR SOMEONE TO MAKE MOVIE). Actors now live in "New Hollywood" (formerly Scottsdale), while seventy percent of the music industry lives in Sedona and are planning their sixth benefit concert to raise awareness of the alien invasion. Steven Spielberg gets a brief mention.
- Discussed in Left Behind. Shortly after the Rapture, Buck, while traveling to New York City, gets dropped off in Easton, Pennsylvania, by Ken, who remarks that the city is the hometown of former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. Ken jokes that, if Holmes hadn't disappeared as well, he'd probably go after whoever was taking people (at the time, Ken believed the raptured people had been kidnapped or abducted).
- Battlestar Galactica (2003):
- Starbuck runs into a band of survivors who used to be a professional sports team before the nuking of Caprica, who only escaped the initial blast because they were training up in the mountains. The team was also not really trained in guerrilla warfare. They were just using techniques that they saw in contemporary movies. (Life imitating Art) They learned the hard way that Hollywood Tactics don't actually work.
- Before the Cylon attacks, Gaius Baltar was also a well-known scientist and proponent of re-developing advanced computer technology. It is Baltar's celebrity status that causes Helo to give up his seat on the Raptor to him, stating that if humanity was going to survive, it would need smarter people than himself. Ironically, Baltar was an unwitting pawn of the Cylons, meaning he was directly responsible for the massive civilization-destroying attacks.
- Dead Set: This show is about a group of Big Brother castmates, along with some of the show's staff, fighting for survival against a Zombie Apocalypse and each other.
- Gilligan's Island: About desert islands, there is glamorous movie star Ginger Grant.
- The Howells, one of the wealthiest families in the USA and firmly entrenched in the Social Register, no doubt also qualify for certain segments of society.
- I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!: This is essentially the premise of this Reality Show.
- Jericho: Referenced in one episode. As Skyler is flipping through some of the old tabloids at Dale's general store, she wonders aloud if Lindsay Lohan survived. Her friend chastises her for this, asking why she still cares about celebrities in a time like this.
- On The Leftovers it's a running gag to name-drop celebrities who vanished in "The Sudden Departure" including the entire cast of Perfect Strangers. In season two Mark Linn-Baker turns up alive. He's been hiding out because of a combination of shame and survivor's guilt at not being taken with the rest of his cast. He becomes instrumental to the fate of one of ther show's central characters.
- Lost: Charlie and Nikki were, respectively, a drugged-out rock star and an actress who got stranded on a desert island after a plane crash.
- Married... with Children: One episode has the Bundys and Darcys ending up on a life raft after their cruise ship sinks. Their raftmates? A fat lady and Gilbert Gottfried, who was the comedian entertainment on the cruise.
- It's implied in the episode "Ghosts" that one of the Affleck brothers is governor of what once was California.
- The Season 2 opener has David Schwimmer (or at least someone claiming to be him; he's not actually shown) as the last surviving member of the cast of Friends plying his trade as a sideshow act.
- A later season 2 episode features Bret Michaels performing in one town. Upon seeing him, Sebastian Monroe comments "When the world ends, all that will be left will be Bret Michaels...and the cockroaches."
- In The Outer Limits (1995) episode "The Deprogrammers", Earth has been invaded by aliens and mankind has been brainwashed into slaves, one character stating that the aliens took a perverse pleasure in turning celebrities and leaders into slaves. A group of rebels rescue the protagonist, including his wife, and try to deprogram him by reminding him of his life, including showing him a poster of his favourite movie.
"I wonder where they are right now, I wonder where all the famous people are now"
- Smallville: Invoked Trope in the episode "Apocalypse", where Clark goes to an alternate future where he never arrived on Earth and Lex Luthor became President. President Luthor plans to provoke a nuclear war, but before he does, he has the military secretly shuttle the country's best and brightest (which presumably includes a fair number of famous scientists and businessmen) to bunkers so that they will be the largest group of survivors, this planting the seeds for Lex's idea of a "perfect" world... led by Lex of course.
- The Soup: Played for Laughs in the show's crossover with The Walking Dead, which features Daryl, Glenn, Courtney Stodden, and cast members from The Soup (and Rich Sommer, who thought they were doing a Mad Men skit) battling zombie versions of Ryan Seacrest and the Kardashian sisters in the E! studio building. It ends with everyone except Daryl and Glenn dead, as they head over to the Comedy Central studio to see if Daniel Tosh is still alive.
- Supernatural: In the episode where Dean gets transported three years into the future after the Devil's Zombie Apocalypse destroys much of humanity, he arrives in a Crapsack World (yes, even more crapsack than the Supernatural world already is) where a drunken, depowered Castiel lives in a survivor camp, much of the United States (and the rest of the world) lies in ruins... and Sarah Palin is President. Also meant as a Take That! against Palin, as she apparently decided to bomb Houston according to a newspaper Dean looks at in one scene.
- On The Strain (TV series), one of the survivors of the outbreak on the plane is a rock star named Gabriel Bolivar (an Expy for Marilyn Manson). Later subverted when it turns out the "survivors" are infected with the same contagion that killed the other passengers and caused them to rise as vampires. Then double subverted when he's the last of those "survivors" to remain until The Master possesses his body, essentially killing him in the process.
- This humor article from The New Yorker details Lin-Manuel Miranda's oddly calm Tweets during the post-apocalypse. Javier Muñoz has fashioned a suit of armor from raccoon skulls, Jonathan Groff has become the king of the giant rats, Timothy Geithner has apparently become a mutant, an unnamed Grammy winner was decapitated, and "Weird Al" Yankovic is still making song parodies.
- Left 4 Dead 2:
"You might've heard about a lot of bands cancelling their tours this week because of all the airports shutting down and the government telling people to stay indoors. To that the Riders say: We'll stop touring when we stop breathing. What America needs most right now in its time of trial is MUSIC, and that is one thing the Riders are proud to provide."
- The Midnight Riders are a badass Southern rock band who, in the midst of a Zombie Apocalypse, refused to cancel their tour until they had to be evacuated from an overrun concert.
- Jimmy Gibbs Jr., former stock car champ, writer and hero to the South, particularly Ellis and Coach. He doesn't do much surviving — you (sometimes) face his zombified corpse at the end of Dead Center — but the survivors' reaction to him goes along the lines of this trope.
- Dead Rising 2, being set in a glitzy Las Vegas analogue called Fortune City, naturally features a bunch of these.
- Chuck Greene, the protagonist, is a former motocross champ turned contestant on the zombie-killing reality game show Terror is Reality. In the Case: Zero prequel, one of the survivors recognizes Chuck and finds it awesome to be in his presence and getting rescued by him.
- Tyrone "TK" King, the Don King-esque host of Terror is Reality and the Dragon-in-Chief to the real villain, Sullivan. The show's two Lovely Assistants, sexy twin sisters Crystal and Amber Bailey, are his Dragons.
- Bibi Love, a One-Hit Wonder pop star who was planning her big comeback tour, which was interrupted by zombies. She goes crazy and kidnaps a bunch of guests. It is possible to get her to pull a HeelFace Turn and join the survivors.
- Luz Palmer, a professional golfer. She kills several zombies with her golf club.
- Reed and Roger, two stage magicians who are equal parts Penn & Teller and Siegfried & Roy. Seemingly unaware of or ignoring the outbreak, they kidnap people and use them to practice their tricks, and murder an unfortunate woman by trying to do the Saw a Woman in Half trick for real.
- Angel Lust, a British rock band that throws a concert right in the middle of the zombie-infested Fortune City Strip, and wipes out a whole crowd of zombies with The Power of Rock.
- In Off the Record, Frank West was celebrated for saving the day and breaking the story of the Willamette Mall Outbreak, but his 15 Minutes of Fame dried up and he was forced to compete in Terror is Reality to make ends meet. During the Fortune City outbreak, a lot of people recognize Frank, but dismiss him as a washed-up D-lister. He quickly proves he's still a zombie-slaying machine.
- Several characters in the BioShock series, such as singer Grace Holloway, artist Sander Cohen, stage magician Suresh Sheti, football star Danny Wilkins, and actress Blanche de Glace. Some of them were famous before coming to Rapture, while others became celebrities after moving there. Rapture was set up in part as a place of refuge from censorship of the arts, so it's not surprising why there are a whole bunch of celebrities living down there.
- In Fallout 3, Vault 92 was populated with famous musicians, ostensibly to preserve artistic talent in the wake of World War III. In reality, the Vault's intention was far more sinister — the people inside were being brainwashed through Subliminal Seduction as an experiment in creating super soldiers. Naturally, it went horribly wrong, with about a third of the occupants being driven insane and killing everyone inside.
- Fallout: New Vegas:
- The Dead Money DLC introduces the "King of Swing" Dean Domino, one of the most famous British singers before the war, now a ghoul.
- Robert House himself counts as this. In the old world, he was the founder of RobCo, the company that creates many of the robots in the series, including the Pipboy that the protagonists use. He was legendary for his wealth and genius, in a manner similar to the real world's Howard Hughes. Nowadays, he's known as the self-styled CEO of New Vegas and a prime example of a real mover and shaker who pulled a lucky straw in the apocalypse.
- In Fallout 76, Shannon Rivers was a voice actress known for her work in radio serials, in particular voicing the Mistress of Mystery on The Silver Shroud (a parody of The Shadow), while her husband Frederick Rivers was a renowned architect and inventor. In anticipation of the TV adaptation of The Silver Shroud (before Executive Meddling screwed Shannon out of reprising her role), Shannon and Frederick built a full-scale, fully-functional replica of the Mistress' lair beneath their estate in West Virginia... which came in handy after World War III, which caused Shannon to don the mantle of the Mistress for real, soon taking in a number of orphaned girls to form the Order of Mysteries.
- The zombie game Dead Island has a rap star named Sam B and a former football player named Logan as two of the playable characters.
- Zombie-infested Vehicular Combat game Blood Drive has Punk Rock frontman Bedlam and wrestler Superstar, who've both found new careers in zombie-splattering TV entertainment.
- The Call of Duty: Black Ops map "Call of the Dead" has this as its setup. George A. Romero is shooting a zombie movie on location in Siberia starring Robert Englund, Danny Trejo, Michael Rooker and Sarah Michelle Gellar (all played by themselves). Life Imitates Art, a real Zombie Apocalypse happens, Romero is zombified (and becomes the "King of the Zombies"), and now the four aforementioned actors must fight off wave after wave of the undead.
- Augustus Cole from Gears of War was a famous Thrashballnote player before Emergence Day. Dom and Marcus gush about him a bit when they first meet.
- When the Zin invade in Saints Row IV, they capture the Saints and imprison them instead of leaving them on Earth when they blow it up. The Saints then escape imprisonment and fight back. Not only do the Saints themselves (especially the Boss) count, as their leader was the President of the United States and he/she had many "homies" as Cabinet members, but their Vice President is Keith David. And at the end of the game, we find out one of Zinyak's first abductees (and therefore, one of the people spared from Earth's destruction) was none other than Jane Austen.
- Story Breadcrumbs in The Forest reveal that the player character is a famous television survivalist, which comes in handy when his plane crashes in the remote, cannibal-infested wilderness.
- In The Walking Dead, Javier García was a professional baseball player before he was banned from the league for betting on himself shortly before the apocalypse.
- In the second season of the zombie web series Bite Me!, news reporter Rod Putman makes reference to a zombified Kirstie Alley going "off her diet... way off."
- The main group also runs into one Monte St. Clair, a Roger Corman-esque horror movie producer who turns out to be responsible for the Zombie Apocalypse. In order to give his new zombie movie Evilution a killer gimmick to draw in crowds, he hired someone to develop The Virus so that he could put real zombies into the movie.
- The Zombies, Run! podcast has used this trope multiple times in Season 2:
- Side-mission 4 has Margaret Atwood guest-starring during the first trans-Atlantic transmission since the outbreak.
- Side-mission 7 has Runner 5 escorting a journalist who writes primarily about celebrities-turned-zombies. A sort of zombie paparazzi, if you will.
- In Side-mission 8, Runner 5 comes across a pop music star whose concert was interrupted by the outbreak and can't shake her rabid teen zombie fans.
- After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, supermodel Petra Nemcova spent eight hours stuck in a tree.
- And the current President of Finland, Sauli Niinistö, and his son survived by climbing into a concrete electric pole.
- Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, carrying the Old Christians Club rugby team from Montevideo, crashed in the Andes in 1972 on their way to Chile. The survivors spent 72 days in the Andean wilderness, and eventually had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Their experience was adapted into the film Alive!.
- The only two survivors of a 2008 Learjet crash in South Carolina were blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and celebrity DJ Adam "DJ AM" Goldstein.
- Fats Domino was rescued by the Coast Guard after being stranded in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.
- Eagles of Death Metal were performing at Le Bataclan, in Paris, in November 13, 2015. The exact same night an ISIS cell launched several attacks on the city, the Bataclan being one of the focal points of their attack. Jesse Hughes and the accompanying musicians managed to make it out of the club safely (Josh Homme rarely tours with the band, and that night was no exception).