On his immensely popular HBO show last Friday, the host of Real Time with Bill Maher observed, “Not every movie set in the future has to be a super clean utopia or a smouldering post apocalypse.” “Isn’t there something in between,” he asked. “It’s always either the earth is a giant Apple store or burning man got way out of control.”
Maher is onto something. There is a strange disconnect between Hollywood’s dark vision of humanity’s future and a much more palatable reality of human existence.
An average person today is much better off than he or she would have been at any previous period in human history. That’s obviously true of citizens of developed nations, who are the beneficiaries of two hundred years of material, scientific, technological and medical progress. But that’s also true of ordinary people in the developing countries, who have seen tremendous improvements in their standards of living since the end of World War II.
And while it is true that past performance is not indicative of future results, the steady stream of apocalyptic movies is surely overkill.
Between 2010 and 2019, close to 100 Hollywood movies dealt with such apocalyptic subjects as run-away climate change, asteroid impacts, nuclear holocausts, resource depletion, pandemics, eschatological end of days, zombie apocalypse, cybernetic revolt, dysgenics and alien invasions. That was an all-time record.
In the 1950s, 13 such movies were made. In the 1960s, the number increased to 24. The 1970s saw 39 apocalyptic movies and the 1980s saw that number rise to 40. Perhaps as a result of the unexpectedly peaceful ending to the Cold War, the number of disaster films fell to 37 in the 1990s, but in the first decade of the third millennium it shot back up to 65.
Due to my work on population growth and availability of resources, I will focus on just one of those apocalyptic offerings – Avengers: Infinity War.