The Apocalypse Isn’t What It Used to Be

How our vision of the end times has changed on screen and beyond.

This video originally appeared on Aeon and has been reprinted here with permission.

In the first two decades of the new millennium, stories of the post-apocalypse have permeated pop culture, from books such as Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, and Emily St John Mandel’s Station Eleven (2014) to films and TV series such as The Walking Dead, the Hunger Games series, and Mad Max: Fury Road. While post-apocalyptic fictions of previous eras largely served as cautionary tales—against nuclear brinksmanship in On the Beach (1959) or weaponised biology in The Stand (1978)—today’s versions of these tales depict less alterable, more oblique and diffuse visions of our doom. Why can’t we seem to get enough of our unavoidable collapse and its bleak aftermath?

Dispatches from the Ruins reflects on what these stories—set among crumbling buildings, overgrown lots, and barren wastelands—might be telling us about modern fears and fantasies. The Aeon original video above is adapted from an Aeon essay by Frank Bures.