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:
- the rise of lawless punks leads to the downfall of civilized society (a social apocalypse wherein maintenance of lawful order is overwhelmed by lawlessness)
- 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 other such as Desert Punk (specific to deserts and wastelands, on or off-world, with or sometimes without a proper Apocalypse), this trope 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).
- Fist of the North Star After nuclear armageddon, most life goes extinct except mankind, which lives on in the post-Apunkalyptic world.
- The above is parodied in Excel Saga, but limited to one city.
- Downplayed in NEEDLESS. 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.
- The anime adaption of Accel World 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 young, fanatical followers the closest thing to a structure society has left.
- Robin Williams jokes about how violence in society is slowly escalating and references The Road Warrior.
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!"
- In the later-set portions of the Grendel 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.
- Age of the Wolf: Played for Laughs when a group of visitors from a neighbouring 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.
- 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.
- Doomsday — After a viral outbreak, Scotland is walled off and its inhabitants return to their tribal, modern primitive roots.
- Judge Dredd — Lawless punks, taken to the extreme after nuclear wars force humanity a little too close together into cramped quarters, would overrun this post-apocalyptic dystopia if not for the over-zealous ministrations of Dredd and the other Judges.
- In the comics at least, they at least try to explain the roving street gangs and block wars as something more than just Humans Are Bastards. Between robots and other forms of automation, nearly all physical labor is done without the need of humans. Unfortunately, this also means that there's over an 85% unemployment rate. In "an area housing 65 million people, that was barely designed to handle two million." Yeah, bad situation.
- Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and Mad Max: Fury Road all feature examples of post-Apunkalyptic tribes of ne'er-do-wells wearing scavenged Post-Apunkalyptic Armor and clothing encountered in the wastelands of the apocalyptic world they inhabit. The films are pretty much the Trope Codifiers for the look and setting. The first film, despite common misconceptions, takes place Just Before the End, with civilization just barely still existing and the villains simply being an outlaw biker gang.
- Things to Come — Where Mad Max codified the trope, the film adaptation of H. G. Wells' 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come could be the Ur-Example in film. A world war breaks out in 1940 and lasts for decades, until the humans left alive have long since forgotten why it started, or what peace looks like. Most relevant for Wells' depiction of a desolate 1970, with horse-drawn cars and neo-feudal warlords bedecked with animal skins.
- The Postman. After a bout of unspecified Doomsday, society breaks down, and people revert to either insular villages or large authoritarian, sometimes punkish, communes for survival.
- Waterworld. In large part this is Mad Max at sea, in a post-Apunkalyptic world, wherein the polar icecaps have melted, humanity is adrift and the Smokers are the punks-du-jour.
- Jubilee provides a literal example, where gangs of punk-rockers prowl the streets and the world's few remaining governments were bought out by a record producer.
- Peter Clines'Ex-Heroes is about how the world has been overrun by zombies. The street gang called the Seventeens then promptly proceed to take 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.
- 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.
- Parodied in a sketch of The Daily Show, 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.
- Doctor Who:
- In "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.
- In the Just Before the End episode "Utopia", much of humanity has devolved into animalistic punk cannibals called the Futurekind.
- In the Farscape episode "Taking the Stone", the Clan have this as their dress sense and image, although they're more amiably nihilistic stoners than violent.
- In The 100, 97 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.
- In 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: priority registration, $100,000 cash and a 1st edition comic book valued at $50,000, respectively. In the final case, Jeff notes that the school is on the ignore list for 911.
- In the final eponymous Quatermass TV 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 premise of the David Bowie 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.
- 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.
- The video for Tupac Shakur's "California Love".
- Dark Future was a wargame created by Games Workshop and set in a United States falling apart.
- Being designed as a crossover of Dungeons & Dragons, John Carter of Mars, and Mad Max'', artwork for the people of Dark Sun shows them in quite punky outfits.
- The Sixth Ranger faction of Dropzone Commander, the Resistance both subverts and plays this strope 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 plays this trope absolutely straight, with scrap-armour-wielding berzerkers, spike-covered vehicles and skulls and jaggy metal everywhere.
- The Fallout series 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 civilise 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.
- Caesar's Legion are 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.
- The factions described most closely as punk in the original games were 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.
- In Fallout 4 The Nuka World DLC, you 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.
- Each bandit tribe in RAGE 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.
- The Twisted Metal series as of Black and the 2012 reboot. 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.
- The Last of Us: Outside the quarantine zones, society has disintegrated into this, with various gangs preying on each other.
- In Crude Buster, two crude dudes with mohawks and Cool Shades fight a gang of mutants that now infests the ruins of New York City.
- A staple setting for Beat 'em Up games from early to mid 90s, such as Final Fight or Streets of Rage, was Wretched Hive cities infested with literal armies of punks sponsored by supervillain-esque crime bosses. While society did not collapse per se, Police Are Useless and it's highly dangerous for a civilian to ever step outdoors - that is, until our heroes arrive to restore order.
- Likewise, Double Dragon, the originator of this scenario, takes place in the year 199X after World War III. It's almost like Fist of the North Star minus the exploding heads.
- 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.
- 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.
- A number of Racing Games employ this sort of post-apocalyptic motif, including Atari's Badlands.
- In Overwatch, Junkertown and the rest of the Junker faction is styled like this. This is contrast to the rest of the universe, which is more akin to 20 Minutes into the Future. For reference, Junkertown is in the middle of the Australian Outback.
- During the 2013 Government Shutdown in Manly Guys Doing Manly Things Commander Badass dressed 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." And his main competition is actually a cenobite.
- In Adventure Time, Farmworld.
- The Amazing World of Gumball has one episode- "The Pizza" where this occurs. 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. Smalls. The Wattersons eventaully dress up like Mad Max characters after beating up Mr. Small's Marauders.
- Sumo's gang/team forms into a post-apocalyptic raider army after Belson abuses his potion as king of the Flags in "Capture The Flag". Percy even dresses up as "The Toadie" from The Road Warrior.
- The Rick and Morty episode "Rickmancing the Stone" takes place in this kind of setting, serving as an homage to Mad Max.
- 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.
- 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, and 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.