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Post-Apocalyptic Gas Mask

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For reasons that are not quite clear, if there's one item that seems to have become visual shorthand for post-apocalyptic settings, it's the gas mask (part or not of a Hazmat Suit). Generally this is due to the air being poisoned in some way,note  although there are occasional cases where the masks are present for no obvious reason. Although for some people, it's better to be safe rather than be sorry. They are wandering round after an apocalypse with the only protection being their filter mask. In some extreme environments, survivors wear oxygen tanks or respirators.

This is common in Steampunk, both in stories relating to the genre and in real life among steampunk cosplay scenes.

Pretty much every post-apocalyptic short film on the internet does this.

Gas Mask, Longcoat, Gas Mask Mooks and Post-Apunkalyptic Armor are related Sister Tropes.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Coppelion, everyone wears these (except the protagonists) when going into the Tokyo because of the nuclear meltdown.
  • Most characters in Desert Punk wear gas masks in the deserts created by the nuclear war. Not only do they serve as a defense against the frequent poison attacks they have built-in binoculars and personal air-conditioning units.
  • In Nausicaš of the Valley of the Wind, almost everyone carries gas masks in order to deal with the highly toxic miasma and plant life of the Sea of Corruption. Ironically, the plants have actually been genetically engineered to filter out pollutants from the soil — when the forest finishes purifying the land, the place becomes a pure, healthy environment — but since humanity has adapted to the polluted atmosphere, they still can't survive in the Sea.

    Comic Books 
  • The eponymous protagonist of El Toxico wears a gas mask as part of his giant bug extermination gear in the giant insect apocalypse.
  • The protagonist of Y: The Last Man wears a gas mask to conceal his identity as the last male person on Earth but pretends it's to protect himself (a popular assumption being that biological warfare caused the Gendercide). It actually gets used for its intended purpose in the final book.

    Films — Animation 
  • In April and the Extraordinary World, everything is powered by steam-powered boilers that burn coal or wood. It is established that it is not safe to walk the streets on heavy pollution days without a respirator mask. However, only the wealthiest in society can afford them. This does afford Pops an excellent disguise, as no one looks twice at an elderly man walking around in a gas mask.
  • In Wizards, the "generic" mutants all wear coveralls and gas masks. (It's hard to tell, but a couple of cut scenes seem to imply that their faces are gas-mask shaped!)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 28 Days Later, with blood-spitting Infected roaming the UK, it's not uncommon for survivors to wear some kind of facial covering to keep them from being infected by the inevitable blood splatter. Mark, one of the first survivors Jim encounters, wears a gas mask.
  • The Book of Eli takes place some thirty years after an obvious nuclear war. We see the hero wear a gas mask in the opening scene in a contaminated forest where dust falls from the sky.
  • Interstellar: Downplayed, but no less a sign that it's Just Before the End; the Dustbowl-like conditions of future America have forced people to keep surgical masks and carpentry respirators on hand in case of sudden dust storms.
  • IO: The low-lying areas are enveloped in toxic clouds due to atmospheric change that has driven most of Earth's population off the planet. Sam has to wear a gasmask and change her oxygen tanks at regular intervals to survive on expeditions from her mountaintop outpost into the Zone. When Micah tries to force her to leave the planet with him on the last shuttle, she removes the gasmask to prove that she has Acquired Poison Immunity. Fortunately, she's right.
  • In The Last Mimzy, future Earth is apparently under attack from green aliens which turn out to be humans in full-body suits and respirators, because the planet has been almost destroyed by a war which has been fought for so long that everyone's forgotten why it began in the first place.
  • Subverted in Mad Max: Fury Road: the villainous Immortan Joe wears a rather impressive and menacing breathing apparatus, but it's less to do with the air around him being toxic and more to do with him suffering from numerous health problems.
  • Space Battleship Yamato: The Gamila's Orbital Bombardment has made the surface of Earth so deadly that Susumu has to wear thick clothing and a gas mask to scavenge for useful materials.
  • Total Recall (2012): The members of the resistance all wear gas masks when outside their sealed base in the "dead-zone" of London, an uninhabitable wasteland made toxic from the use of chemical and biological weapons.

    Literature 
  • Clockwork Century. Everyone is Seattle has a mask to protect them against the Deadly Gas that turns men into blighters. Given that it's Steampunk some of them are almost Technology Porn, such as the gasmask worn by Jeremiah Swakhammer.
    The man with the tinny voice was speaking through a helmet that gave his face the shape of a horse's head crossed with a squid. The mask ended in an amplifier down front, and it split into two round filters that aimed off to either side of his nose.
    Dr. Minnerichtís mask was as elaborate as Jeremiah Swakhammerís; but it made him look less like a mechanical animal than a clockwork corpse, with a steel skull knitted together from tiny pipes and valves. The mask covered everything from the crown of his head to his collarbones. Its faceplate featured a flat pair of goggles that were tinted a deep shade of blue, but illuminated from within so it appeared that his pupils were alight.
  • In Free Flight by Douglas Termen, the protagonist and his girlfriend are in a mountain cabin when World War III happens, so he constructs an improvised version against fallout using milk containers. His girlfriend is careless about using them, catches radiation poisoning and dies.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The 100, the Mountain Men wear these as part of a Hazmat Suit while on the surface, since radiation from the nuclear war is still strong enough to kill them.
  • Doctor Who: In the episode "Genesis of the Daleks", the lands outside the sheltered cities of the Kaleds and the Thals have become so toxic from their war that their soldiers have to wear gas masks to survive in the open. This isn't so much because the atmosphere is toxic (the Doctor and his companions wander barefaced without issue) but due to the chemical weapons still being deployed in the war.
  • In The Shannara Chronicles, the Trolls wear stylized gas masks. This is likely a cultural affectation after their ancestors survived on the irradiated surface following the Great War.

    Music Videos 

    Tabletop Games 
  • The End of the World:
    • Zombie Apocalypse: The post-apocalyptic stage of "Under The Skin" features the UN carpet-bombing the world in a desperate attempt to get rid of the parasites and their hosts, then fleeing to underground bunkers. As such, the only people allowed on the surface are scientists and soldiers - one of whom is depicted wearing a gas mask in the intro to this scenario.
    • Revolt Of The Machines: In the post-apocalyptic stage of "Nanopocalypse", the world has been stripped bare except for a few safe regions in the North and South pole, reducing most of the Earth to a barren desert. Because the slightest movement stirs up clouds of choking silicate dust, survivors trapped in the deserts beyond the poles have to wear gas masks along with the rest of their improvised survival gear (which, incidentally, does nothing to stop the nanobots still dormant around the wastelands).
  • The Rifts prequel Chaos Earth is a post-apocalyptic setting featuring Zone Wizards, who wear gas masks/air filters and protective cloth wrapping. The game does provide a justification; the Yellowstone supervolcano erupted shortly before the game takes place, and choking ash is still falling from the sky. A couple of centuries later, the legacy of the Zone Wizards lives on with the Ley Line Walkers, who wear gas masks and cloth wrappings as symbols of their vocation.
  • Unhallowed Metropolis has a fondness for gasmasks for its Zombie Apocalypse setting, particularly since it is part of the uniform for the Deathwatch. It even describes itself as "The gas-mask chic role-playing game of Neo-Victorian horror."
  • Warhammer 40,000: Krieg is an even harsher example of a Death World than most (in 40K, that's saying something): their planet was subject to a massive nuclear war, and as a result, they wear gas masks all the time, whether at home or off-world. It goes very well with the WWI trenches look (which Krieg now looks like). The masks also disguise the fact that they're all clones, a technology frowned upon by the Mechanicus but necessary to Krieg's continued survival (see: massive nuclear war).

    Video Games 
  • Ashes 2063: Militia security forces in towns and scavs wear gas masks constantly. A plot point in episode 2, Afterglow, is that Scav needs to go through a section of old tunnels where a very toxic misture of poisonous and corrosive gases has leaked and the air filtration pumps need to be restarted: it's specifically pointed out that just the gas mask won't cut it, and a full hazmat suit is needed.
  • In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm, the villain Boxxyfan needs one of these to survive in Catie's world. Ironically, it's the same one that Catie originally used to breathe in his world, but she accidentally left it behind for him to use.
  • In the early '90s game Burntime, a gas mask is required to survive in locations affected by poison gas, and also (along with an overall) as a radiation suit for those irradiated places. Some NPCs' portraits also feature gasmasks.
  • Code Vein: All of the Revenants wear gas masks to protect themselves from the Miasma, a near-invisible fog that enhances a Revenant's bloodlust and causes them to frenzy into an insane Lost. Miasma used to be rare, as it's only produced by Lost and the Mistle plants push it back, but then the Queen frenzied. Due to the destruction she caused, a lot of Revenants frenzied, which created more Miasma, which created more Lost, which created more Miasma... Now, safe zones are rare, and mostly under the control of the Provisional Government. Funnily enough, despite humans being far frailer than Revenants, Miasma has no effect on them, so they can quickly be identified by their lack of a gas mask.
  • All of the hunter adaptations in Evolve in the Wasteland time period wear some form of gas mask. Justified as the Monsters are terraforming the planet and going without one would be a good way to choke on poisoned fumes.
  • Despite the Fallout series being set in an irradiated wasteland, gas masks are not a requirement, but Powered Armor suits with built-in gas masks are emblematic of the franchise.
    • Fallout: New Vegas has several:
      • The main enemies of the first DLC, "Dead Money", are the Ghost People. They were originally construction workers employed at the Sierra Madre Casino, and as the owner was loaning the building site out to the Think Tank in order to make ends meet, they were forced to wear full-body hazmat suits and gas masks to protect themselves from the toxic gas Cloud that was being tested there - but they didn't work. When the nuclear war broke out, long-term exposure to the Cloud trapped them inside their suits and mutated them to the point that they could survive the gas despite the useless suits.
      • The New California Republic has the Veteran Rangers, who wear Pre-War riot gear and are the best and toughest units the NCR has. They also have salvaged power armor, made from older T-45d power armor, which lacks the servos and the power source for them in order to allow regular soldiers to have heavier armor. Lonesome Road has Colonel Royez's scorched Sierra power armor, a fully functioning power armor suit that can only be obtained by killing Royez after you nuke the Long 15.
      • The Brotherhood of Steel return in their T-51b power armor along with T-45d power armor scattered across the Wasteland.
      • The Enclave return as well, or at least some Remnants, and have their signature power armor, the advanced version from Fallout 2. The Courier can gain the armor to wear by either finding it or getting it as a gift.
      • Old World Blues has the Lobotomites, surgically altered people who the Think Tank captured and experimented on until their minds were left in shambles. They often wear crude gas masks made of goggles, respirators, and headphones that provide extra protection.
      • Lonesome Road also adds the Breathing Mask, along with an Ace Custom one worn by Ulysses which provides ten times the resistances.
    • Fallout 4 features a few models as well. The most common is a World War II-looking one simply named 'gas mask'. An armored version integrated into a metal helmet and facemask can be found in the starting area on a dead army man. They're pretty handy until the player can acquire a full rad suit.
    • Fallout 76 has certain areas that require one (or some equivalent) to keep from taking extra damage, such as the heavily polluted Ash Heap.
  • The Combine from Half-Life 2 outfit their soldiers in white gasmasks. Being either plain humans in uniforms or cybernetically enhanced converts, they don't actually need the masks for anything seen in-game and it's mainly to dehumanize them and conceal their identities. It's possible that Civil Protection could use them for deploying non-lethal riot control gas or on off-world assignment invading other dimensions. Early concepts for the game had everyone wearing masks on a horribly polluted Earth, but it was probably dropped for making it hard for characters to emote.
  • Gasmasks are ubiquitous in The Last of Us, as they are needed to protect against the airborne spores of the Cordyceps fungus which has destroyed most of humanity.
  • Let It Die: Within the Tower of Barbs (the game's main dungeon) are a large variety of mushrooms not found anywhere else in the world, including a few varieties with poisonous spores. The air is so contaminated with these spores that it's impossible to breathe without dying (which is a really bad thing inside the Tower), so everyone besides Uncle Death wears a gas mask to survive.
  • In Metro 2033, Moscow has been shelled with atomic warheads. Gasmasks are required for traversing irradiated tunnels and the permanently contaminated surface, and since filters only last so long these sequences are effectively timed missions. Last Light has a dedicated button for wiping off any dirt, water, or blood that's spilled on the mask; this is retroactively added to 2033 in the Redux Updated Re-release. The gas mask doesn't see quite as much use in Metro Exodus, but it's still a vital piece of gear and you can repair it at a workbench if it got damaged; you can also craft your own filters.
  • In The Reckoning, set in 2019 after a Zombie Apocalypse, some troops of the U.S. Army and the Aryan Brother Faction wear gas masks as headgear.
  • In Sheltered, this is one of the things your family can use to be able to survive the nuclear radiation outside the fallout shelter.
  • Shin Megami Tensei IV: The air in Blasted Tokyo has been poisoned by the demon Pluto, so everyone has to wear thick clothing and gas masks. The only two residents whose faces are shown are Kiyoharu, who is explicitly insane, and Akira, who has one but doesn't always wear it.
  • The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series, set in the contaminated Zone of Exclusion around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, features gas masks heavily. Gas masks filter out contaminated dust and fumes from radiation and toxic anomalies and provide (very) minor protection against bullets and psychic attacks. All high-end armors feature either a closed-circuit breathing system (like the SEVA nuclear-biological-chemical suit) or a built-in gas mask (such as the Powered Exoskeleton).
  • Featured prominently in Wasteland 3's cover art and promotional materials. The game itself features a wide selection of possible masks, hats, helmets, and other headgear to kit our your squad with.

    Webcomics 
  • Bridget of Bicycle Boy is always clad in her fashionable gas mask, despite not needing to wear one.
  • In Concession, Roland's art thesis is a post-apocalyptic fashion exhibit heavy on gas masks, including a performance.
  • All of the characters in Gone with the Blastwave wear gas masks, due to the city's high levels of pollution, poison gas and fallout, and are distinguished by an icon on their helmets (crosshair for the snipe, fire for the flamethrower, etc.).
  • Paranatural has a wallpaper available for download which shows the main characters in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and Ed is shown with a gas mask.
  • Handled in a semi-realistic manner in Romantically Apocalyptic. While you rarely see the masks come off, they do occasionally have to change filters, Snippy having to do so once not because they are used but rather because Zee Captain stole them to try to make a soup stock. Each character's mask has differently colored, glowing eye lights.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Any area in which there could potentially be a Plague Zombie is risky for anyone who isn't The Immune. This is more often the case than not in the Forbidden Zone the main cast is exploring. While most are immune, for obvious reasons, the scholar and Little Stowaway are not, so they are frequently seen wearing special breathing masks whenever they venture too far away from the tank. Their design can be seen on this page, for example.
  • Almost every character (human or otherwise) in BaDoom thanks to the infectious worm eggs that are in the air of the wasteland.


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