Would a doomsday scenario bring out the best or worst of us?

I love to watch doomsday science fiction. Can’t get enough of it.

Fueling this obsession is my one burning question: “When the end of the world is near, for whatever reason, will we humans band together to fight our common enemy? Or will we break into tribes and battle to the death over the final sprig of kale?

The Covid-19 pandemic has given us some clues. We’re in tribes now. Some of us united to fight the common enemy, but others want to lock the doors, count their money and deny that anything is wrong.

But let’s put that aside for the moment and consider how filmmakers and script writers see humans being wiped off the face of the earth.

Viruses may be the least of our worries. A nuclear holocaust? Too simple. If you want your nightmares to be really creepy, consider these possibilities: Alien invasions, poison rain, toxic sun or collisions with a comet, an asteroid or our own moon. How about a madman tinkering with our climate or unleashing a biological war, or a wave of bugs eating up all our resources?

Or how about an angry god literally taking all the pious folks to heaven and leaving the rest of us sinners to rot in hell on earth?

In real life, many people just don’t seem to care. The year 1995, for example, was the last time the earth noticeably shifted on its axis. The culprit was melting glaciers.  I remember reading about it in the newspaper, but the story was short, and it was buried on page A9.  Why weren’t we running around in a panic, sending extra ice cubes to Antarctica? This, to me, was major news.

By now, you may be thinking, “Judy, you need to watch more Lifetime movies. Or at least, cat videos on Facebook.”  That may be.

But I see a burning question. These shows tell us our doomsday will either bring out the best in people, or the worst. Just two options: Will we: A). unite or B). fight each other?

In the past 21 months, we’ve certainly seen obvious clues that “B” is our final answer. When people literally were dying in parking lots because the hospitals were full,  we couldn’t even agree there was a problem. 

Save humankind with a vaccine or by wearing a mask? Go to hell.

Sometimes, filmmakers give us a ray of hope. If that’s what you’re looking for, check out The Day After Tomorrow (2004), Independence Day (1996), Deep Impact (1998), and Meteor (1998). With the apocalypse on our doorstep, all Americans and the world as well can cast aside our differences. It would be like Noah’s ark, where even the mosquitoes presumably were able to live without being slapped.

But most doomsday films and serials predict the opposite. We will devour each other in one way or another. Even the good guys end up on the slab.

Script writers seem to love cannibalism, and it’s not just a new idea you can blame on Tom Hanks or Hillary Clinton. Remember “The Time Machine” from 1960? Humans basically were allowed to live only until the Morlocks got hungry. 

If you give it some thought, it’s the culmination of a dog-eat-dog capitalistic society, where we not only destroy each other; we are nourished only by your defeat.

My favorite episode of “The Rain” (2019, on Netflix), a Danish show with English translation, shows hapless heroines stumbling into a peace-loving, seemingly countryside cult whose eating habits are plant-based — except for their monthly “celebration.”  This is when they eat stew made with human meat, and one person is ceremoniously picked to be the next sacrificial lamb.  Nice twist: anthropophagy with spiritual and ecological overtones.

That’s not the way I envision my final moments. I figure I’ll be knocked down by a tidal wave, caused by a volcano eruption set off by the earth tilting on its axis because of a collision with an invisible asteroid sent our way by an alien species.

I can’t count on your help. You’ll be indoors, enjoying your cat videos.