We’ve been watching The Last Of Us, the new HBO series in which a few human survivors remain in a horrific alternative world. In this show’s grim vision, fungal creatures have taken over Earth and turned infected humans into bloodthirsty, blind zombies controlled by some all-encompassing fungal network, and the hardy remnants of the human race live (for the most part) in brutal, quasi-military zones in the bombed out shells of old buildings.
In short, The Last Of Us is about par for the course in terms of how TV shows and movies tend to envision the human future. The vast majority of depictions of the world to come in popular culture seem to be incredibly bleak. In these shows, every conceivable disaster–nuclear holocaust, climate change, alien invasion, artificial intelligence deciding that humans should be killed off or used as power cells, global pandemic, zombie attacks–plunges civilization into chaos, most humans perish, buildings collapse, the world as we know it ends, and the survivors live hand to mouth in a grim world, marveling at the glory that once was part of daily life.
And it seems like the producers and designers of these TV shows and movies love to present compelling pictures of just how far the human race has fallen. Gutted, collapsing buildings, overgrown urban landscapes, bad food, gross zombies. fascist governments–no detail of future bleakness is ignored. Is it because they want people to understand how much worse things could be, or do they just enjoy the challenge of presenting fallen civilizations–or is there some other reason? It’s as if some people revel in a kind of apocalyptic porn.
It’s interesting how science fiction took a turn for the worse. In the Star Trek universe, the future world is a hopeful place in which nagging societal problems have been solved and humans have become noble creatures seeking peace and progress in the galaxy. But how many Star Trek-like visions of the future do we see these days? The pessimists are dominant.