It seems people need scenarios to remind them of their self-destructive habits. I sometimes call them end-time scenarios, because in my view several of these will only be viable if we really destroy ourselves, meaning our cultures, or values and morals. The fight between good and evil is always on our minds, but we cannot destroy the evil living inside us, the monster trying to emerge from time to time.
The self-destructive pattern of mankind is something, I cannot quite figure out. Is our race really that dumb to not realize that we are slowly destroying ourselves? Even to annihilation? And yet, we indulge in novels, TV-series and movies that clearly show us, what happens, when we continue on this path and what might happen if mankind comes to the brink of extinction.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
Hunger Games – in a world where food is scarce and controlled by the Capitol, children are used to fight each other to the death in order for their district to receive supplies. When Katniss Everdeen volunteers instead of her sister, a process is set in motion to overthrow the system. The end scenario is rather devestating, though. Children get murdered and the goal of the heroine is not completely achieved. Instead she is deceived and has to find out the truth by herself in order to live happily ever after.
Motives: saving the family, trust, destroying the system, power struggle, hope
It’s a pretty sadistic view – everything is put into a show to keep people entertained, it’s a game and survival of the fittest.
The Book of Eli – in this post-apocalyptic scenario, where people try to survive with little water, food and other supplies on an Earth where even the air is hard to breathe, Eli goes on a journey with one book in his bag. This makes him a target for the gang of Carnegie, who is searching for that particular book. Carnegies goal is to unite people with religion in his violence oriented little town, where he terrorizes everyone. The book is a bible, which Eli set out to bring to Alcatraz where it should be put into storage. Eli believes he is on a path for a higher purpose and doesn’t want to stray. His belief is tested quite a few times until he reaches his goal.
Motives: preserve, faith, religion, staying on the path, power struggle
Interesting about this is the lack of knowledge, meaning lack of books and the struggle to keep wisdom and intelligence intact.
Into the Badlands – also a post-apocalyptic scenario, where people are ruled by warlords, who control areas of the Badlands. Protection is bought for service, guns are prohibited, and each baron has its territory and a band of warriors called „clippers“. The Nomads are the only ones living freely across the land, but with constant battles between them and the barons, it’s a hard life. One day Sunny, a clipper, find M.K., a boy who believes the legend of Azra to be true and he is searching for it. Together they embark on a journey while the barons pick up weapons against each other. Both Sunny and M.K. cross sides with several of the barons and even each other. It is a constant mistrust, mistreat and misuse of power.
As this story is not finished yet, I cannot comment on any finishing lines, yet.
Motives: survival, power struggle, religion, faith
Children of Men – in a dystopian future where people have been infertile for 18 years, a civil servant has to help a pregnant immigrant to cross the borders to the UK, the only country having a still functioning government and extreme immigration laws, because all the world wants to seek refuge there.
Motives: survival, religion, hope, faith
I am leaving Mad Max out of this list, because it doesn’t have the classic struggle as the above mentioned have.
Let’s look at some more examples from DC and Marvel universe:
DC – the super-heroes of the DC universe are much more emotional fragile then the ones from Marvel. Batman, Flash, Superman and Supergirl all struggle more with themselves than with the world around them. The threats they face are almost always „out of this world“ and the common goal is to save humanity from those threats.
Only the Green Arrow is the anti-hero, whose constant struggle is mostly with himself. He and his team don’t have super-powers, they only have strength and a will to fight. Their fights always leave the bitter taste of regret and even defeat when they try to battle a super-human/un-human evil.
What makes the DC universe a little annoying is the frequent return of seemed-dead enemies or loved ones. As there are parallel universes, where same-looking but totally different characters live, it makes the whole DC universe very much less intense. The constant motives however are family, friends, trust, powers, deceit and a more powerful evil.
Marvel – this super-hero universe is a complex one. You have gods like Thor and Loki, scientists like Bruce Banner/Hulk and Iron Man, made heroes like Captain America, Spiderman and simple heroes like Luke Cage, Daredevil and Jessica Jones. On top of that you have the organization, whose main concern is the fighting off evil from outer space – S.H.I.E.L.D.
Now when you think about The Avengers and their individual roles, you always have war and destruction on hand. Thor and Loki obviously don’t have the human moral where it’s not okay to just destroy something, because you want to. However Iron Man and Captain America have a war-based training, where they don’t know anything else except fighting for their country. If you look at the Marvel movies, you will be left with utter destruction by the end of a film. The world is only saved on the cost of massive wreckage. The latest Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season even lets you look at an Earth completely blown to pieces. The motives in this universe are fight, power, saving the world and using excuses to destroy something.
Speaking of destruction of worlds: In The Lord of the Rings the heroes set out to save Middle Earth. When they return home to the Shire, it actually was destroyed too, which isn’t shown in the movies. Even with their main goal, to save Middle Earth from Sauron, the heroes were not able to leave their homeland untouched, because the evil spreads in the mind of others, like Saruman. To root out that evil is even harder than just carrying a ring into hell itself. It’s a power struggle with yourself and that is what makes it harder than just killing some orcs. Samwise Gamgee says in the movies one sentence that wraps it up pretty good:
There’s some good in this world, Mr Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.
In conculsion: In order to save the world, we have to look inside our hearts and souls. It’s not good enough to just fight for a country or a cause. It’s even worse to fight for food, water or supplies! And it’s also not good enough to just fight for survival or for your family and friends. You have to believe in a purpose that’s higher then all this. Think about culture, morals, life itself. Apparently there are some people who always try to use power or the reach for power to inflict pain on others. Death and destruction follows where mankind goes. So the real fight is within ourselves and not with each other or anything else on Earth.