Monday, June 27, 2011

Building the future (or: Why I hate The Road)

As someone who marches in the Apocalypse Pride parade every year, I am frequently met with surprise when I shudder at the mere mention of "The Road", Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalypse novel and the movie based on it.

This came up recently when my dad offered me the SIX HOUR audio book adaptation, to which I replied "do you want me to kill myself"?

He looked taken aback and then said, "this is usually YOUR thing, not mine".

Here's the thing- the Road is nothing like type of post apocalyptic fiction I enjoy.

There's movies like Mad Max or Book of Eli, which show the perseverance of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Then there's Terminator and 12 Monkeys, which show time traveling heroes attempting to prevent the apocalypse from ever happening.

And there's the awesome TV show Jeremiah, in which the generation following a pandemic attempts to rebuild society.

And then there's the Road, where your choices are death by exposure to the elements, death by starvation, or death by roving packs of human cannibals (usually following a good rape to liven things up).

There's absolutely no hope- not a single iota of light at the end of the tunnel. Even the appearance of "the Veteran" at the end, leading the family that takes in the boy, is explicitly just another delay.

This is a story where a mother committing suicide is doing her son a favor.

I do not like reading snuff fiction.

To me, the post-apocalypse genre is most decidedly not about that, and so I don't want to read The Road, hear its audio performance or see the movie based on it (again), any more than I would ever watch a "Saw" movie.

And had I fully appreciated what I was in for, I wouldn't have watched The Road the first time.

I don't a trip down the rabbit hole of misery. The post-apocalypse fiction I enjoy is the opposite of that. Terminator is the movie that stresses "there is no fate but what we make ourselves".

It's not a story of robots walking on fields of human skeletons, it's the story of the hero who has defeated them so thoroughly, they have to prevent his birth.

It's the story of a time traveler in love with one image of beauty, a soldier who gives his life for one moment of happiness and a mother who sacrifices everything for the love of her son.

Yes, there is sadness in all post-apocalypse fiction. A sense of what has been lost. Although it's a very gonzo movie, with a lot of hilarious images, including three apes doing the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", the image everyone first mentions about Planet of the Apes is our hero railing in sadness at the Statue of Liberty.

But that should never be confused with an absence of hope. Life is about loss. People die. Terrible things happen. That's not about the apocalypse, that's about being human.

What happens next is what defines us and the apocalypse provides a stage for heroism. Not the only stage of course, but a very interesting one to me.

However, to interest me there has to be hope. There has to be a chance to carry on. And there has to be a hero.


SirKerry said...

Well said.

Greg Christopher said...

Totally agree

Larry Clapp said...

+1, like.

Jon said...

totally agree Chuck, one of the most depressing reads.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't 'The Road' the one where they visit some interstellar space sensor facility and notice a signal from deep space and transmit a reply or something?

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