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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 (which leads to Fridge Logic if you think about it too much; in real life, poisoned air never lasts that long, and if it does, it might involve things where a gas mask wouldn't be sufficient), although there are occasional cases where the masks are present for no obvious reason. They are wandering round after an apocalypse with the only protection being their own oxygen supply.

This is common among Steampunk, both in stories relating to the genre and IRL among Steampunk scenes.

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

Gas Mask, Longcoat and Gas Mask Mooks are related. Also a Sister Trope to Post-Apunkalyptic Armor.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Coppelion, everyone wears them (except the protagonists) when going into the Tokyo because of the nuclear meltdown.
  • Desert Punk Most characters wear gas masks in the deserts created by the nuclear war. Not only do they serve as a defence against the frequent poison attacks they have built in binoculars and personal air-conditioning units.
  • In Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, both the manga and the movie, almost everyone carries gas masks in order to deal with the highly toxic atmosphere of the Sea of Corruption.

    Comic Books 
  • 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 Ralph Bakshi's Wizards, the "generic" mutants all wear coveralls and gas masks. (It's hard to tell but a couple of cutscenes seem to imply that their faces are gas-mask shaped!)
  • In the Steampunk film 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.
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    Films — Live-Action 
  • Total Recall (2012): 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Downplayed but no less a sign that it's Just Before the End, in Interstellar 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.

    Literature 
  • 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 
  • The Doctor Who episode "Genesis of the Daleks". The lands outside the sheltered cities of the Kaleds and the Thals has 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.
  • On 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.
  • 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 
  • The Black Parade, but specifically in the music video for "Welcome to the Black Parade".
  • Inverted in the video for Poets of the Fall's "Choice Millionaire", which does take place in a post-apocalyptic 2045 where laborers are enslaved to a Machine, but the gas masks are a method of sedating the laborers, feeding them vapors that keep them asleep and imprisoned.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 gasmasks all the time, whether at home or off-world. It goes very well with the WWI trenches look (which Krieg now looks like).
  • The Palladium Books game/Rifts prequel Chaos Earth is a Post-Apocalyptic setting that features 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 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.

    Video Games 
  • In Metro 2033 and its sequel Metro: Last Light, Moscow has been contaminated after nuclear war. Gasmasks are required for traversing irradiated tunnels and the 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.
  • In the Fallout series, despite featuring an irradiated wasteland, gasmasks are not a requirement but Powered Armor suits which feature built-in gasmasks are emblematic of the franchise.
    • Fallout: New Vegas has several:
      • In the first DLC, "Dead Money", the main enemies are the Ghost people. They were/are the former inhabitants and workers of the casino, heavily mutated and still wearing their (presumably ineffective) gas masks and hazmat 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 lack the servos and the power source for them in order to allow regular soldiers 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 siganture power armor, the adavnced 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 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.
    • Fallout 4 features a few models as well. The most common is a World War II looking one that is simply titled gas mask. It is 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.
  • In Sheltered, this is one of the things your family can use to be able to survive the nuclear radiation outside the fallout shelter.
  • 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)
  • 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 offworld 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 that has destroyed most of humanity.
  • In the early 90s game Burntime, a gasmask 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 Non Player Characters portraits also feature gasmasks.
  • In The Reckoning, set in 2019 after a Zombie Apocalypse, some troops of the US Army and the Aryan Brother Faction wear gasmasks as headgear.
  • Enforced in 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Web Comics 
  • Romantically Apocalyptic:
    • Handled in a semi-realistic manner: 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 because Zee Captain stole them to try to make a soup stock. Each character's mask has different colored glowing eyelights.
  • The setting of Gone With The Blast Wave is pretty apocalyptic (radiation and buildings appear to be in a state of disrepair). It's not apocalyptic enough that it prevents 3 factions fighting using tanks and planes. Each of the three armies has its own design. All the characters wear gas masks, due to the city's high levels of pollution, poison gas and fallout.
  • Circa After The Apocalypse also follows this trend.
  • 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.
  • In Concession Roland's art thesis was a post-apocalyptic fashion exhibit that was heavy on gas masks, and included a performance.
  • 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 The 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.

    Web Original 
  • Wasteland Empires on Facebook, especially the sprites of some troop types.

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