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The Apunkalypse

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Even After the End, hairstylists still managed to make out like bandits.
Mr. Krabs: Welcome to the Apocalypse, Mr. Squidward. I hope you like leather.
Squidward: I prefer suede.

Do we really have to Describe The Apunkalypse Here? Can't we all just get Beyond Thunderdome?

Societies collapse. This is a law of nature.

In fact, according to this trope, it seems all societies degenerate into lawlessness with punks and other toughs roaming the streets (or waves; thank you, Kevin Costner) and doing naughty things After the End of civilization.

This degeneracy is part and parcel of The Apunkalypse. Effectively, this trope says that one of two things happens:

  1. the rise of lawless punks leads to the downfall of civilized society (a social apocalypse wherein maintenance of lawful order is overwhelmed by lawlessness)
  2. any apocalypse (nuclear war, disease, meteor impact, etc.) leads to a breakdown of the usual civilized system of lawful justice and the emergence of tribal, punkish, modern primitive or otherwise post-Apunkalyptic life.

This state of affairs only goes on so long as nobody decides they have had enough or nobody gets volunteered to fix it. But it may be a while before either happens, since the Apunkalypse is just another day in the neighborhood.

This generally falls within the bounds of dystopic worlds, post-apocalyptic worlds, crapsack worlds, and various punk genres. While this trope may overlap with others such as Desert Punk (specific to deserts and wastelands, on or off-world, with or sometimes without a proper apocalypse), it deals with the sociology of the apocalypse (a general agreement on fashion choices and anarchic, punkish, tribal governance) more so than the landscape of the apocalypse. The Apunkalypse befalls Big Cities and societies riding the waves just as surely as it does those cowering in the Ragnarok-proof ruins of a bygone era or those walking the face of a scorched Earth.

If there was in fact a major disaster or production breakdown to the point that nothing new is being produced (food, clothing, machinery, etc.) or the Apunkalypse has gone on long enough that everyone has forgotten how to produce things, people may become Disaster Scavengers in a Scavenger World. If so, Post-Apunkalyptic Armor may be all that's available to the goodies or the baddies for protection (typically consisting of, though not necessarily limited to, things like motorcycle helmets, football shoulder pads, baseball catcher padding on the front, soccer shin guards, or other items resourcefully scavenged or bartered for and a few feathery adornments complete the ensemble).

A staple setting for Beat 'em Up games from early to mid 90s is a Wretched Hive city infested with armies of punks sponsored by supervillain-esque crime bosses. While society has not collapsed per se, Police Are Useless and it's highly dangerous for a civilian to ever step outdoors — that is, until the heroes arrive to restore order.

Mad Max is the Trope Codifier, so expect a lot of works that employ the use of this trope to give it a shoutout.

This should not be confused with the 2006 album The Arockalypse released by Finnish hard rock band Lordi. Contrast Cosy Catastrophe.


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  • "American Honda Presents DC Comics Supergirl": One of Steve Gordon's nightmares involves a frozen apocalyptic world and gangs of mohawk-wearing, bike-riding marauders roaming about the icy landscape and raiding villages and envoys.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Accel World: The anime adaption uses the aesthetic trappings of this trope every time Ash Roller appears in the End of Centuty stage's post-apocalyptic background. The Weathered stage can also fit in a sort of Mad Max-style desert theme.
  • AKIRA and its film adaptation both have this take on a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, following the story of two teenage biker punks in a veritable city of sin; in the manga, this intensifies to a full societal degeneration after Akira wakes up and levels the city, leaving Tetsuo and his followers the closest thing to a structure society has left.
  • Fist of the North Star After nuclear armageddon, most life goes extinct except mankind, which lives on in the post-Apunkalyptic world inspired by the Mad Max movies.
  • NEEDLESS: Downplayed. It's only post-Apunkalypse in the Black Spots. Elsewhere the world was rebuilt and now functions just fine. This is after World War III.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! SEVENS, one of the characters uses a Beast Gear World deck based on an in-universe Mad Max-esque show.

  • Robin Williams jokes about how violence in society is slowly escalating and references The Road Warrior by describing a future where people shoot at each other with machine guns, flamethrowers and grenade launchers on lawless freeways.
    Robin:...And it's escalating! Pretty soon it's gonna be Road Warrior on the freeway. People with twin .50 caliber machine guns mounted on the front of their Chevrolets, going, "Look, Helen, a slow Chinese driver." And he's going, "No you don't, you wonton asshole!" WHOOSH! Flamethrower in the trunk! And a little old lady in a Volkswagen bus with a grenade launcher going, "Make my day!"

    Comic Books 
  • Age of the Wolf: Played for Laughs when a group of visitors from a neighboring tribe visit the camp of a group of Neo-Nazis led by a crazy old Racist Grandma. She asks them what the hell they're supposed to be wearing, and they sheepishly admit that their own leader made the Mad Max-esque get-up mandatory.
  • The DCU:
    • Gotham City Garage is a DC Universe alternate version in which, after an unspecified apocalypse, Lex Luthor is the supposedly-benevolent dictator of a high-tech City in a Bottle, while the mostly-female heroes are living the Apunkalyptic biker lifestyle in the desert outside.
    • Harley Quinn: The trope (and specifically the Mad Max films) is parodied in volume 3 issue 42, and the Old Lady Harley mini-series that continued the story in it.
  • Grendel: In the later-set portions of the series, much of the world becomes Apunkalyptic after World War III and remains that way in later centuries. The "punk" level varies, but the Grendel gangs in #22 are entirely Apunkalyptic and Susan Veraghen's dress-sense is heavily punk-influenced.

    Fan Works 
  • Tales of the Otherverse: In the post-apocalyptic Otherverse Earth, the bands of scavenging thugs look like "rejects out of a Mad Max movie", with hair styled into garishly-colored spikes and the standard spiky, furred leatherwear.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Dead End Drive-In: Australia is in the first stages of falling into this. Notably, the characters who are less stereotypically punk in their dress sense are the less sympathetic ones.

  • Cthulhu Armageddon: A lot of the tribals and cultists are treated like this. Apparently, the human race becoming wild and free as the Old Ones means they're a bunch of murderous chaotic bandits as well as slavers.
  • The Cyber Dragons Trilogy: The Jackals are groups of nomadic bandit gangs consisting of Neo Confederates, Neo Nazis, and militias that exist to prey upon people outside of the main cities. The government doesn't bother to deal with them as long as they keep their victims to the poor or those outside the arcologies.
  • 'Ex-Heroes is about a world overrun by zombies. The street gang called the Seventeens takes over the ruins of Los Angeles, keeping all the other survivors as serfs.
  • Mortal Engines went through this stage (most obvious in the prequels) going for steampunk punk but has now transitioned largely into Apocalypse Not.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 100: Ninety-seven years after a nuclear apocalypse, what's left of humanity (on the American East Coast, anyway) has devolved into primitive, almost constantly warring tribes, who wear masks that make them look like monsters. Played with, in that the people from Mount Weather and the Ark, who have done a much better job preserving modern civilization, are often shown to be just as violent and cruel as the "savages", just in different ways.
  • Community: Greendale has a tendency to turn into this within a matter of hours, thanks to the students taking an Absurdly High-Stakes Game really seriously and turning on each other in order to win the highly-valued prize such as priority registration, $100,000 cash and a 1st edition comic book valued at $50,000. In the final case, Jeff notes that the school is on the ignore list for 911.
  • The Daily Show: Parodied in a sketch in which Rob Riggle claims to be reporting from after an apocalypse caused by the latest political kerfuffle. He sports Post-Apunkalyptic Armor, saying that it's standard "leathers 'n feathers" wear for post-apocalyptic warriors.
  • Daybreak (2019): The series gets a lot of mileage from this trope, with the Jock tribe in particular embracing it to lampshade-worthy levels.
  • Deadly Class: Discussed by Marcus with the punk kids, and he says it's because they already predict dystopia, so that it makes sense they would be prepared in such stories.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Paradise Towers": The titular post-apocalyptic tower block is overrun by teenage punk girl gangs called Kangs. They turn out to be the most benevolent of the story's various factions.
    • "Utopia", a Just Before the End episode, has much of humanity devolved into animalistic punk cannibals called the Futurekind.
  • Farscape: In "Taking the Stone", the Clan have this as their dress sense and image, although they're more amiably nihilistic stoners than violent.
  • Quatermass: In the final series, Britain and by implication other parts of the Earth are in the early stages of this, due to out-of-control youth violence and delinquency. It's implied to be due to alien interference.
  • The Tribe: Living in a Teenage Wasteland isn't so bad right? Apparently, The Virus, which was largely fatal to adults created a Cozy Catastrophe and now the teens are living it up in this Brave New Zealand Post-Apunkalyptic world. Its sequel The New Tomorrow picks up some time after the original series and focuses more on tribal children living the Post-Apunkalyptic life in rural areas.

  • Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys is something like this — BLI/nd, their employees, and the drugged-out masses live in shining, sterile Battery City (a rebuilt post-apocalyptic Los Angeles), and the punked-out rebel Killjoys live in the dusty, derelict, but more colorful and alive Zones.
  • David Bowie: The premise of the Concept Album Diamond Dogs (which emerged from an aborted stage musical version of 1984): After an unknown catastrophe, the remnants of humanity in "Hunger City" form decadent, scavenging tribes.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dropzone Commander: The Sixth Ranger faction, the Resistance both subverts and plays this trope straight at the same time. The "Allied" Resistance settlements are generally civilized and retain some sort of order, even if it is a bit rough at the edges. The "Feral" forces on the other hand play this trope absolutely straight, with scrap-armor-wielding berzerkers, spike-covered vehicles and skulls and jaggy metal everywhere.
  • Flying Circus is set twenty years "after the end of the world", and features many of the elements of punked-up apocalyptica, such as ravaged cities, warlords dominating the remains of civilization, and battle-hardened mercenaries riding scalvaged machines. Unlike Apocalypse World, however, the setting is a late 19th century/early 20th century fantasy counterpart to Germany, with the world-ending event being its equivalent to World War I.
  • Gorkamorka is a Warhammer 40,000 Gaiden Game centered on a desert planet populated by orks. The orks are attempting to construct the titular giant spaceship to finally get them off the planet (it's their second try, the first one was destroyed after a civil war over whether the ship looked more like Gork or Mork, the new name is a compromise), and their society is based on gangs scavenging metal and resources from the desert/each other to help build it in exchange for passage on the ship once it's built in hilariously implausible vehicles. One expansion added "Digganobz", pale-skinned humans that seek to emulate ork society, something that led to many fans declaring Mad Max: Fury Road to be the game's Spiritual Adaptation.
  • GURPS After the End roughly divides hostile groups into two categories. The bandit gangs embrace this trope and stand in contrast to the more sensible and organized paramilitaries.
  • Mutant: Year Zero: The Helldrivers wear spiked leather outfits and multi-colored Mohawks, and are a gang comprised entirely of grease monkey motor-heads that drive armored cars and roaring motorbikes.
  • Wastelands subverts this trope: during the Cold War, 90% of Swedish males were drafted to 1-1½ years of military service. Hence, a fair share of the sensible denizens of post-apocalyptic Sweden know squad-level tactics. The leather-and-mohawk marauders have to fight hard for their loot.

    Video Games 
  • Borderlands proposes the idea that, if a world is way too deadly and inhospitable for civilization to flourish, chances are it will evolve this way. Pandora, which is a world where you can die from freezing cold, scorching sun, being eaten by just about any local animal or even by touching a local plant, is dotted with bandit gangs everywhere, most of them left behind after repeated failed attempts from Dahl Corporation to tap into Pandora's resources only to end up turning tail without even evacuating anyone. The more organized forces, such as Dahl's Crimson Lance division, end up coalescing into well-organized civilizations capable of running a city; but for the most part, the people abandoned by Dahl in Pandora turn into ragtag gangs of bandits who care about nothing but basic hedonism and violence, and most of them, in turn, develop the punk aesthetic.
  • Crash Bandicoot:
    • In Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, the Rustland Grand Prix introduced a desolate, graffiti-covered desert racetrack and gave punk-themed skins to ten members of the game's roster.
    • Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time has the Hazardous Wastes, which features discarded machinery, cyborg sand sharks and crazy metalhead punks out for Crash and Coco's blood, culminating in a boss battle with N. Gin at the controls of a Humongous Mecha drummer.
  • Crude Buster: Two crude dudes with mohawks and Cool Shades fight a gang of mutants that now infests the ruins of New York City.
  • The Kings of Chaos MC from Dead Rising 3 possess an apunkalyptic vibe; sporting mohawks, goggles, and are mostly shirtless, while those that wear denim vests wear football helmets. They are one of the common human enemies encountered in Los Perdidos.
  • Death Road to Canada: A random car conversation has a survivor express disappointment on how this trope failed to happen in the game universe. However, this doesn't stop the player from making custom characters sport mohawks and leather outfits, not to mention the guest appearance of Lord Humungoid in the "Car Collecting Bandits" event.
    "Wasn't the apocalypse supposed to be rad cars, leather, and way less waiting?"
  • The Division 2: While the apocalypse is still very recent and the first game's factions didn't have much of it, it is in full effect for the Hyena gang. They dress in punk fashions, tag everything in graffiti, and murder indiscriminately anyone they encounter in order to live wild drug-fueled lives of hedonism. At least until the Sheriff puts them all down.
  • Double Dragon in the vein of Fist of The North Star has a backstory where a nuclear war rendered the collapse of society, enabling punks of varying flavors to take over New York and terrorize innocents living there. The protagonists, Billy and Jimmy are even dressed similarly to Kenshiro, and, like him, are the only one's that can restore order.
  • Fallout has played with this over the years.
    • Since the very first game, people have been banding together to form peaceful back-to-basics tribes as well as towns, companies, governments and charities. However, for every New California Republic or Followers of the Apocalypse, there are hundreds of bands of raiders, slavers, ruthless mercenaries, sadists, drug makers and the like. The games often feature a struggle between attempts to civilize the Wastes and conflicting desires to live a hedonistic life of base pleasures.
    • Speaking of the Followers of the Apocalypse, their leader is a bit of a subversion: She certainly dresses the part (complete with a garishly-colored mohawk), but she wants to help make the Wasteland a better place by providing aid and education to the needy.
    • Fallout: New Vegas: Caesar's Legion is an interesting example. Their leader aims to create a totalitarian state using bits and pieces of ancient Roman culture and aesthetics to create a single, unified tribal identity for his slave soldiers. The result is a powerful, well-organized army that's nonetheless fairly punkish as far as their technology level is concerned (primitive medicine and emphasis on low-tech, reliable weapons and melee are deliberate, to emphasize personal sacrifice). On the other hand, Legion subjects in territories its controls (which reach from Arizona to Colorado) enjoy a well-developed modern infrastructure and unparalleled safety.
    • Fallout 3 plays this trope straighter, with only a handful of decent town structures, and the entire wasteland filled with small gangs of raiders who have no organization amongst themselves at all.
    • Fallout 4: The Nuka World DLC lets can run your own gang of raiders by becoming the overboss. However, if Preston Garvey witnesses you joining the raiders or you take over a settlement with your raider gangs, he will permanently refuse to work for you.
    • The factions described most closely as punk in the original games are mostly good people — the original Followers of the Apocalypse looked like a biker gang, the tanker vagrants were good-natured nomads who found the Shi welcoming, the other "punk" faction in the Boneyard in the first game were just poor people trying to fend for themselves and you can end up helping them liberate one of the Boneyard's towns from the military dictatorship the mercenaries in charge of official security there have imposed. As a general rule, when it comes to Fallout, you can tell the degree of black in a faction by how stuck in the past they are.
  • Grim Dawn: Cronley's gang are a band of violent raiders who use civilization's leftovers to outfit themselves with weapons and armor.
  • The Last of Us: Outside the quarantine zones, society has disintegrated into this, with various gangs preying on each other.
  • LISA is an interesting case: at some point in history, an event simply known as the Great White Flash occurred, and every woman in the world disappeared. With no women left, the remaining men pretty much brought the world to a state of apocalypse themselves after realizing the human race was doomed to extinction.
  • Overwatch: Junkertown, the base of the Junker faction, is a ramshackle settlement in the middle of the Australian outback, created in the wake of collapse of local society and inhabited by anarchic bandits, gangs and scavengers dressed in crude collections of junk metal, rubber and leather. This is in contrast to the rest of the universe, which is more akin to 20 Minutes into the Future.
  • Rage (2011): Each bandit tribe comes in its own distinct, punky flavor: cannibals, drunken Brits, gadgeteering Faceless Goons, Pyro Maniacs and gibbering Wild Men, to name a few. The sequel takes it up a notch with 1990's spraypaint gun-punks making a global comeback.
  • Speed Kills: The first race venue is a planet that was turned into a wasteland by nuclear war, and it seems to have something of an apunkalyptic atmosphere going on (judging by some of the racers there and by the fact that you race in nasty-looking monster trucks).
  • Sunset Overdrive is a more literal and saturated take on this trope, in particular the way the main character can wear anything they please no matter what it is or who it's intended for, most of it being punk clothing. The Scab faction is a more traditional approach on the trope with spikes and hoodies. It is however localized to Sunset City, although the ending highly suggests that it spreads to the entire world.
  • Twisted Metal: While the world hasn't suffered any kind of great cataclysm and normal society still marches on, the characters and vehicles have a definite Apunkalypse style about them.

    Web Comics 
  • FreakAngels doesn't have much in the way of leather chaps or mohawks, but the main characters definitely have the punk attitude down, albeit in a more modern "disaffected Millennial" way than the classic archetype.
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things: During the 2013 Government Shutdown, Commander Badass dresses in leather, claiming that "it's a well-documented fact that in times a' social anarchy that folks respect the authority a' th' most leather an metal looking dude." His main competition is actually a cenobite. Mad Max himself shows up in one story arc, although his role is limited to an excuse for the creator to joke about the similarities between this trope and the leatherman aesthetic.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Pizza", Elmore falls into anarchy after Larry quits his jobs and nobody else is doing the jobs that keep the town running. The residents, in turn, group into raider gangs and are completely willing to eat each other, including Mr. Small. The Wattersons eventually dress up like Mad Max characters after beating up Mr. Small's marauders.
  • American Dad!: In "Rapture's Delight", the survivors of Armageddon are reduced to bikers, thugs, prostitutes and punks wearing leather and animal hides while living in the apocalyptic wasteland that was once Earth.
  • Clarence: Sumo's gang/team forms into a post-apocalyptic raider army after Belson abuses his position as king of the flags in "Capture the Flag". Percy even dresses up as the Toadie from The Road Warrior.
  • Jellystone!: "Gorilla In Our Midst" shows Snagglepuss, Benny the Ball, Squiddly Diddly, and Shag Rugg dressed in post-apocalyptic punk attire and turning over Jonny and Hadji's car as a result of Grape Ape's destruction.

    Real Life 
  • Dark Age Europe, at least according to Renaissance historians; in fact tropes commonly associated with punk culture, such as "Gothic" and "vandalism" were in fact derived from the names of the major Germanic barbarian tribes who sacked Rome after its collapse. A bit of a Truth in Television in this case, although not to the extent that the Hollywood would have you believe. General living standards plummeted, obviously, since the gradual collapse of central government ended most services provided by it — and Roman government at its heyday was probably the most developed in the ancient Mediterranean, providing services such as upkeep of buildings and roads, post (although roman postal service was reserved for government officials), grain dole (providing the impoverished Romans with grain) and most importantly the army, which kept the often hostile tribes at the borders at bay and maintained the order within the empire... Although the generals of later years often participated in wars for the throne, undermining the empire themselves trough prolonged civil wars. Either way, barbarian incursions in the last century of empire's existence gradually became harder to combat and most of the provinces either fell to the hands of the "barbarian" warlords, or Romans simply abandoned them, unable to afford paying local officials and soldiers. The smaller the empire got, the poorer and less able to sustain its remaining provinces, which created something of a feedback loop. With that said, people did try to hold on whatever peace they were able to maintain; many regional governments, as well as church officials took it upon themselves to maintain order, and barbarian kingdoms weren't completely lawless themselves. In fact, as time went on, these kingdoms gradually stabilized, and though they went trough a rough patch during Viking invasions, they eventually became the basis of modern European nations. Contrary to the popular belief, the decline in culture didn't last through the Middle Ages; in fact, the medieval period from about 11th-12th century was an era of high culture and learning not unlike Ancient Rome.
  • The Russian Civil War. It went both ways: the collapse of the society was caused by a rise in crime, riots and general lawlessness after the February Revolution. During the war itself, if you were not a soldier, odds are you were some kind of moonshine-addled bandit looking like a Rummage Sale Reject (remember, this was way before the punk subculture formed). And the border between "soldier" and "moonshine-addled Rummage Sale Reject bandit" was very, very fuzzy.
  • Also, the Warlord Era in China, before the Communists came.
  • Somalia now. Subverted by Somaliland, which not only kept its regional government but "upgraded" it to a separate nation by declaring independence from the Somali Republic. It hasn't been recognized as an independent country, though.
  • The Libyan Crisis of 2011 which led to the overthrow of Gadaffi, was noted for the crazy DIY vehicles which the Rebels used. Enough to make any Mad Max villain proud.
  • The Argentine survivalist blogger Fernando "Ferfal" Aguirre, owner of the site Surviving in Argentina, frequently examines this trope. Having experienced the economic crisis in Argentina in 2001-02, which led to a breakdown in civil authority, he noted that the major cities were the first places where law and order was restored, while the countryside was for months crawling with bandits and gangs who would make short work of any would-be survivalists who decided to head out to the sticks to escape the feared chaos in the cities. He also sharply criticizes the modern survivalist theme revolving around solo or simple family groups, instead of including the most basic building blocks of surviving: multi-family community networks with dedicated patrol units like private community police, similar to the old kommando system in Apartheid South Africa. But then, any group trying to do what is common sense usually gets a significant amount of attention from any national government, since unlike gangs and such, they are an affront to the government's ego and authority.


Video Example(s):


Lego Movie 2 [Apocalypseburg]

Scene from the 2019 film, Lego Movie 2 The Second Part. Five years past from the start of the film and, due to constant attacks from the Duplo aliens, Bricksberg has fallen into a post apocalyptic state where everyone is now grunge-y, sport cynical and tough demeanors and just overall accept the bleak nature of things. Well... almost everyone.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

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