The date Dec. 21, 2012 will go down in infamy as the day the everyone thought the world would end. Well, at least, those who believe in the Mayan apocalyptic prediction. But those believers aren’t the only ones who think about the end of it all. Since the beginning of time, humans have been preparing for the apocalypse (yes, Prince was not the first to suggest spending our last night “partying like it’s 1999”). Audiences flock to experience television series, films and local events that urge them to “live life to the fullest” before zombies, meteors or flesh-eating epidemics end the world as we know it.
Trying to deal with your end-of-days fears? Here are a few ways to get your apocalyptic fix in the theater or out on the town:
- The conservative Christian book series, “Left Behind,” recounts the last days on Earth as described in the Book of Revelation, in which believers in Christ are swept up to heaven, while unbelievers are left to endure the apocalypse. The 16 volumes, written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, have widely appealed to mainstream America (more than 65 million copies sold) as a way to deal with the impending armageddon.
- Everybody loves some zombies. Especially a zombie-pocalypse. Currently halfway through its third season on AMC, The Walking Dead series tells of a man (played by actor and British cutie Andrew Lincoln) waking up from a coma to find that zombies have overtaken the world. Morphing from a comic book series to a cable show with about 6.9 million viewers last season, The Walking Dead perfectly builds on audiences' emotions. “People are aware that the end of times is approaching, so the industry kind of plays on that. The industry will draw on people’s phobias, anxieties and fears and lets them deal with this stuff in a safe, contained manner,” said Matthew Irvine, an associate professor of directing and screenwriting at DePaul University.
- If the apocalypse is nearing, Chicago is certainly a place where you can party up the last of your time on this planet. Take the End of the World Dance Party as a prime example: Lincoln Hall is going all-out December 21 with nightlife partiers Porn & Chicken and Ghetto Division and live new wave musicians Perfect Kiss. For an $8 pre-sale ticket, Lincoln Hall invites you to “allow yourself to be seduced” by temptations during your last night on Earth.
- The 2012 drama Seeking a Friend for the End of the World gives the traditional rom com an apocalyptic spin – how about an asteroid coming towards the Earth, just to mix things up? Steve Carell’s character spends his final time on Earth searching for his high school love (Keira Knightley). Although the film is not your typical sci-fi Armageddon, Seeking a Friend brings up the same emotions for audiences. Justin Haden, a professor of screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago, said apocalyptic cinema in any form has been a particularly sustaining genre over the past few decades (Terminator, Matrix and Independence Day) because it brings up so many relatable themes.
- Looking for your reality TV fix? National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers follows American families who are preparing for the end of the world. Little did we know that seemingly ordinary “PTA families” are preparing for nuclear war, deadly earthquakes and absolute anarchy. Maybe you could take a hint or two about how to prepare yourself.
- If the world is ending, humans only have so long to “live in the now,” points out the 2011 drama Melancholia starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg. Dunst plays a bride who, on the night of her wedding, must deal with the looming collision of Earth with another planet. This story is one that humans have been telling time and time again, Irvine said. “How do you live ‘in the now?’ It’s the number one question people have been asking themselves since they could think. It just so happens that the idea of the apocalypse is playing into that,” the director said.
Editor's note, Nov. 29 at 12:59 a.m.: The original verison of this article included incorrect titles for Irvine and Haden.