by Aaron J. Shay
The Rogue Festival will be here soon-it opens on March 1! Here is another Rogue Performer Preview article, with another one going up today as well, and more this weekend-you will be able to find them all in our Arts & Entertainment section. We also have a Rogue Festival event page with many of their press releases, and an article about this year’s Muse.
Ecological calamity. International unrest. “Economic anxiety.” Spiraling debt and callous indifference to human suffering. Tide Pods. This generation has seen, experienced, and laughed in the face of terrible things. We sing in spite of how screwed up everything is.
This isn’t the first time the world has tangoed with a prevailing sense of doom and transformed it into art and culture. The horrors of World War One were followed by the Golden Age of Hollywood, as well as that famous Lost Generation of European and American literature (as discussed by countless boring English classes). The exceedingly horrific sequel, World War Two, was followed by Europe’s exploration of Absurdism and other abstract movements, while Japan invented new revolutionary artforms about horror, destruction, and atomic armageddon. Or did you think Godzilla was just a magical dinosaur?
This generation has memes about extinction, guillotines, and nihilism. We joke about eating colorful poison, and we consume countless movies and novels about many different end-of-the-world scenarios, from the undead to disease to climate disruption. In one of the most popular movies of 2018, a genocidal dictator from space plans to erase half of all life in the universe, and a surprising number of viewers walked away thinking, “That cool purple guy had the right idea.” This generation says, “Why not have some avocado toast? It’s not like we’ll ever be able to buy a house or retire, anyway, and have you tried the food here? It’s to die for.”
It turns out, the end of the world as we know it makes for some great entertainment, and it doesn’t really seem so far-fetched. It’s basic. “You’re worried about the apocalypse? Psh, not me, not anymore. I, for one, welcome our insect overlords.”
Doom and gloom have become central pieces of internet culture, and it’s no wonder why. Between the mid-20th century anxiety about mutual nuclear destruction, the late-20th century anxiety about pollution irreparably poisoning the environment, and the clear and present anxiety about greenhouse gases making the planet fundamentally unlivable for humans, the very idea of apocalypse becomes the background music of our cinematic lives. The big difference between our apocalypse mindset and that of generations past is that we keep inheriting the past’s problems. Racism, nationalism, nuclear proliferation, ecological desolation, none of these 20th century problems were ever actually resolved, so we’ve just had to balance all of our new problems on top of the old. It’s a stack of bills that we keep adding to without paying off because we can’t get a damn raise.
How then do we find hope and humor in all of this? How does the Apocalypse Generation continue singing songs and laughing through a slow, creeping destruction? Some look to advancing technologies to save us and preserve the world’s economy as it is, while others take hope in radical policy changes that may lead to brave new kinds of society. And there are still others who stick their fingers in their ears and cover their eyes, claiming it’s not happening, and even if it was, we can’t fix it because it’s not our fault, and if even if it was our fault, there was never any way of knowing before it was too late, so why bother changing now?
In the face of apocalypse, we sing because it helps us keep going. We laugh because it brings us together, even when the laughter is dark and full of unspoken concerns. And we hold on to hope, wherever we find it, because when the future is uncertain and the world seems like it’s spiraling out of control, what else is there to do?
Music is a life-preserver, laughter is a long rope, and hope is dry land.
See Aaron J. Shay in Apocalypse Songs 2.0: A Solo Singer-Songwriter Sci-fi Story
March 7-9 at Hart’s Haven in Fresno (950 N Van Ness Ave)
For more information, check out the ticketing information, or stream the album!
If you love local theatre, be sure to check out our new Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. The first 12 episodes are now up! You can check the podcast out on iTunes and Google Play, and also on podbean.