The Revolution of the Apocalyptic Myth Presented by Ashley Marie Ryan
Abstract This paper critically examines J.J. Abrams’ post-apocalyptic television show Revolution from a mythic perspective. The television show’s plot displays a contrast between the traditional Christian apocalyptic myth and the new myth of the “human centered apocalypse.”
The “human centered apocalypse” is a catastrophe that is manmade rather than God sent. This shift is seen in hegemonic struggle between those who believe in God and that He caused the apocalypse because humans “created an electronic Tower of Babel” and those who think that man created the apocalypse through his own devices. This power struggle between religious and non-religious views is a reflection of the increase in Humanism in popular culture and the evolution of apocalyptic myth.
What is hegemony? Hegemony The process by which a social order remains stable by generating consent to its parameters through the production and distribution of ideological texts that define social reality for the majority of the people (Cloud, 117).
Vocabulary Rhetoric- Rhetorical theory originates constructs and argument using ethos, logos, and pathos (credibility, logic, and emotion). Mythic criticism is the study of narratives in a culture or society, narratives that report the struggles and heroic exploits of a society’s past to explain the world. Such criticism opens many avenues for discussion of how current religious trends (esp., Judeo-Christian) are played out in television; more specifically, how the show, Revolution, recreates the apocalyptic myth for contemporary audiences.
Vocabulary for Mythic Criticism Myth- A myth according to Joseph Campbell (1991) is a story that plays a role to vitalize a personal journey and help one make sense of the world around them. Sign - A sign is something that induces you to think of something other than itself, and everything has the potential to be a sign. Cosmological- This is the study of the origins and eventual fate of the universe, (Ratzinger). “Mythological cosmology deals with the world as the totality of space, time and all phenomena” (Raztinger). Many questions in this field are asked in a philosophical manner such as: Why we are here? Where did we come from? What our ancestors were like?
Vocabulary cont. Apocalypse- The traditional Christian definition coming from apocálypsis, meaning 'un-covering', translated literally from Greek, is a “disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the mass of humankind” (Lostpedia, 2013). Eschatological- This word is Greek for “last” and “study of” (Wikipedia). Literally eschatology is the “study of the end.” Those who study is are concerned with the final events in humanities history or the apocalypse. Secularization- This word means that traditional religious institutions no longer exercise the power they once did (Martin & Oswalt, 67, 1997).
J.J. Abrams’ Lost and Revolution Both Lost and Revolution are “big epic adventure dramas with a strong central mystery, executive produced by J.J. Abrams” (Berkshire, 2012). Both shows fit into “the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it” theme (Stanley, 2012). Revolution, debuted in 2012, is NBC’s attempt at creating a drama to take Lost’splace. Revolution is similar to Lost in several ways: J.J. Abrams is one of the creators, a similar cast and characters (i.e. Elizabeth Mitchell and the comparison between Hurley and Aaron Pittman), the plot focuses around an apocalyptic event and mysterious circumstances regarding the even, and Christian overtones.
Genre Description Apocalyptic fiction is a sub-genre of science fiction that is concerned with the end of human civilization. This apocalypse is typically portrayed as being due to a potentially existential catastrophe such as nuclear warfare, pandemic, extraterrestrial attack, impact event, cybernetic revolt, technological singularity, dysgenics, supernatural phenomena, divine judgment, runaway climate change, resource depletion, or ecological collapse (Leigh, 2008).
Historical and Contemporary Context Y2K The Y2K bug was a computer programming issue; most programs saved the last two decimals of a date (i.e. 1990 would be saved as 90). In the year 2000 the fear was the date would roll over to 1900 rather than 2000 causing crashing stock markets, financial system, Internet and recorded keeping programs (Wikipedia). 06/06/06Rev. Tim Lahye co-author of Left Behind series, are calling this age “the end of times.” “The evangelical Raptureready.com Web site puts its ‘rapture index’ at 156, calling that “fasten your seatbelts” time. Rev. Lahye used 6/6/06 as a marketing date for the release of his new book The Rapture with the tagline ‘06.06.06 Will You Be Ready?’” (Associated Press). Harold Camping’s Rapture When righteous men and women would be taken up to Heaven (about 3% of the world’s population) and the rest of the Earth would suffer endlessly for five months before ending on October 21st. (eBibleFellowship). The End of the Mayan Calendar December 21st 2012 is the European date for the Mayan apocalypse, because the calendar ended on 13thb’ak’tun (O’Neill, 2008).
Types of Apocalyptic Myth Traditional Christian Apocalyptic Myth/Prophecy “Biblical literature that emphasizes the lifting of the veil between heaven and earth and the revelation of God and his plan for the world. Apocalyptic writings are marked by distinctive literary features, particularly prediction of future events and accounts of visionary experiences or journeys to heaven, often involving vivid symbolism” (Walter, 1997). Human Centered Apocalypse The end times have been created by humans rather than God sent. “The emphasis is not on the end itself but on avoiding the end and on renewal without the necessity of cataclysmic destruction” (Martin, & Ostwalt, 61, 1995). The goal is no longer to accept the second coming of God but rather to avoid the end all together.
The Role of the Human-Centered Apocalyptic Myth “The apocalyptic model allows us to make sense of our lives by providing as means by which to order time” (Martin & Ostwalt, 61, 1995). The apocalyptic myth in the modern culture is changing; humans are gaining control of time and history rather than God. “The modern apocalypse has replaced a sovereign God with sovereign humanity, and instead of providing hope for an eschatological kingdom, the cinematic apocalypse attempts to provide hope for this world” (Martin & Ostwalt, 61, 1995).
How does Revolution fit in apocalypse? When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life” (Campbell, 3, 1991). Revolution portrays its apocalypse as manmade, giving man the power to humankind’s fate. Where is this shift taking place? “The emphasis is not on the end itself but on avoiding the end and on renewal without the necessity of cataclysmic destruction” (Martin, & Ostwalt, 61, 1995). The goal is no longer to accept the second coming of God, but rather to avoid the end all together. Revolution accurately showcases this change in mythic structure.
Christian vs. Secular Humanism What is Secular Humanism? The philosophy or life stance of secular humanism (alternatively known as Humanism) embraces human reason, ethics, social justice and philosophical naturalism, while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision making (Wikipedia). Christian vs. Secular Humanism in Revolution translates to Militia vs. Rebels. Those in power still have faith compared to the counter culture of those who don’t have faith in a supernatural deity do not have power.
Religious Tones & Hegemonic struggle Episode Two “Chained Heat” 5:00- A man preaches, “That is why God caused the black out, friend. Why he wiped away our cars, planes, batteries and spark plugs, computers and phones, because we built ourselves an electric tower of Babel. We had power but not truth, followers, but no family.” The story of Tower of Babel is found in Genesis chapter 11. The story is about humanity, united by one language after the Great Flood, working to build a tower to reach Heaven. God came down from Heaven angry with them, scattering people around Earth and confounded their language. 20:00- Talks about the afterlife or “Heaven.” 26:15- Militia funeral is Christian based prayers. Monroe republic, which is Christian, is holding order “the only order we have left.” Foil – Episode 5- 3:14 When Maggie dies there is not formal funeral just saying “goodbyes”
Changing of Apocalyptic Myth I argue that because of the increase in Secular Humanism (or non-practicing religious persons) and decrease in Christianity that it is affecting the apocalyptic myths/prophecies. Rather than God coming to save the world in His second coming, humans will create a catastrophe but will attempt to correct it avoiding the end times all together. From the Huffington Post, August of 2012, The poll, called "The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism," found that the number of Americans who say they are "religious" dropped from 73 percent in 2005 (the last time the poll was conducted) to 60 percent. At the same time, the number of Americans who say they are atheists rose, from 1 percent to 5 percent. "For a very long time, religiosity has been a central characteristic of the American identity," he said. "But what this suggests is that is changing and people are feeling less inclined to identify as religious to comply with what it means to be a good person in the U.S.” – Ryan Cragun, a University of Tampa sociologist of religion.
Reflection of Change in Pop Culture This hegemonic struggle between those with power and those who are without power in Revolution is a reflection of the changing belief system in modern America. The battle between Church and State (i.e. abortion, gay marriage, etc.) Revolution is a change in myth, placing the power into the hands of the humans rather than a deity.
Back Up Links http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4YMAXSo4Lg http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/lost-religion-christianity-faith-played-big-role-abc-series-article-1.204340