Post Apocalypse: Shattered Immersion
It’s a funny thing, the post-apocalyptic genre, and I don’t mean in a comedic sense, not that there aren’t end-times comedies out there. No, I just mean that no other genre breaks my willing suspension of disbelief quite like it, the tiniest of logic errors turns something that should be scary and suspenseful into something I can’t quite take seriously anymore. In short…nothing offers itself up for being picked apart quite like the downfall of society. Unsure what I mean? Well…the internet’s already said it better than I can.
Sure as hell wasn’t the zombies – this ain’t Land of the Dead, where they’re learning how to use tools again, and I don’t see any roaming flocks of sheep keeping everything neat in The Walking Dead. Now you’re probably thinking – ‘Dude, that’s petty. Is it important to the plot?’ – and on this occasion, the answer is no. It’s not important. But sometimes it can be, and they bring me out of my immersion faster than an in-shot microphone boom. I’ll start you off with a couple of my pet hates and move you up to the big stuff – mainly giving you TWD examples since that’s the biggest name in humanity’s aftermath right now. Then you can make your own list at home…or leave it in the comments.
Why Are You Dressed Like That?
You’ve got two options when it comes to fashion in your average apocalypse. You can go Mad Max, decorate yourself with leather, spikes and warpaint, or you can get somebody to drag you through a hedge backwards, tear up your jeans and get your nice white shirts all dirty. Fallout and The Walking Dead are amongst the best at handling this particular situation – without getting into any spoilers, the hygiene and appearance of the main cast in TWD generally has something to do with their surroundings – if they’re safe, they’re cleaner, if they’re in trouble, they look like it. Outfits in Fallout also come in clean and dirty varieties, so at least somebody is doing laundry.
The film that most sums up this problem for me is the 2008 film Doomsday. Scotland has been trapped behind Hadrian’s Wall 2.0 because of a deadly virus. Despite having access to every clothing store in the land, the principal antagonists of the film are leather-clad pseudo Picts – even if you say that no evil cannibal will ever stoop to wearing ‘off the rack’, then where the hell are they getting all that leather from? And why does that guy have a can of lager? Scotland’s supposed to have been in apocalyptic quarantine for nearly thirty years. The lager would be gone in thirty days.
Oh God, Showers Are The Best!
I’m looking at you for this one, Series One of The Walking Dead. You had all that camping gear and nobody had a portable shower? I don’t even mean one of the upright tents or any of that fancy kit – for less than a tenner you can go to any camping supply store and buy a twelve litre bag with a shower head attached to it. Some of them even heat themselves up, but I’m sure they wouldn’t melt if you warmed some water up on the fire first.
This happens in later series of TWD as well – any time they get a hot shower there’s a montage of how much they’re loving it. I know they’ve got cubicles and privacy in those showers, but they could have been having the hot shower aspect of the hot shower since day one. Until pretty late in the series they never have a problem finding water, so it’s not like they’re doing it to conserve supplies. Clean yourselves up, scrubs!
Gasoline. Is That Still A Thing?
In case you didn’t know…gasoline goes off. Really. It does not last forever, and I don’t mean in a ‘fossil fuels are a finite resource’ kind of way. I mean that it has an expiration date. It becomes useless. I’m sure there’s more out there, but I’ve only encountered one post-apocalyptic show that actually addresses this, and it’s a bloody comedy – The Last Man On Earth. So in all these TV shows, movies and games that are supposed to be about drama and tension would you get rid of a fact of nature that’d cause drama and tension? Just so Daryl can have a motorbike?
I can let Fallout off the hook for this one, since everything is running on the science-magic version of nuclear power, but there are a hell of a lot of shows and movies that don’t address this issue. Mad Max has working refineries in the setting so that’s fine, at least they have an explanation as to how new fuel is being produced, but TWD, Doomsday, half the people with working vehicles in The Last Ship…no excuses guys.
Minor immersion problems or a systematic disregard for realism? Answers scrawled on the safehouse wall, please.