Anyone wanting a clearer understanding of what life could be like during the zombie apocalypse would do well to study the Mad Max movies.They were a funny set of movies that evolved over their 36 year run. And if Mad Max Fury Road in 2015 shows anything, it is that this franchise still has much to say (or is that much to sell?). But the bigger point is that from the beginning, the movies show what happens when things fall apart. When law and order and society descend into a post apocalypse existence.
So, studying aspects of this descent I believe is a healthy way to draw the example about why we should be paying attention to things now. If and when things start to fall apart, where will we be? Is there anything that will prepare us for that world? Will we make it?
Mad Max 1
I remember watching the original Mad Max on TV. It was back in the late seventies or early eighties. The movie came out in 1979. You could say we waited for it to come out on cable, but in LA, no one really had that. We had ON Subscription Television. They came out and put a special antennae on our roof. Then at night, starting around 5 or so, they would broadcast 3-5 movies over the course of the evening.
It was a way of selling in home movies before the world of video stores (or even VCR’s which did not exist up til then). I believe other areas of the country had cable. That did not come to LA for a few years. But ONTV was high tech for its time. You had a little box (Actually it was huge – about the size of two VCR’s taped together). And it had 1 control knob – that was off or ON. When it was off, you could see the scrambled version of the movie – without sound. And when we hadn’t paid the bill (or when we wanted to watch R movies or the late night soft core porn without Mom and Dad finding out) you could kind of see it.
I credit ONTV with introducing me to some of the finest film that Hollywood had to offer and we never went to the theaters to see. That being said, they also had a good amount of the stinkers that no one should waste their valuable time watching.
As I recall, Mad Max was one of those movies that you could not tell whether it was a good one or a bad one. It was low budget. Lots of brutal death and killing. Many long car chase scenes – often ending with blood and guts. And of course, Mel Gibson wearing leather and carrying guns. What could it possibly mean and what value could it bring? Just ask the people who put together the Fast and The Furious franchise. Both groups have made bazillions from the formula.
Key Points about Mad Max 1
So if it was so bad, why am I talking about it and how did it grow to be a billion dollar franchise and career-maker for Mel Gibson?
- Dystopia. – Having watched this film multiple times, I never considered it dystopian (what I would have called Sci fi at the time. I had seen Death Wish with Charles Bronson and most of the Dirty Harry films. So seeing cops and robbers indiscriminately kill each other without the whole world come crashing down was run of the mill. Yes it was in Australia. Yes it was in the desert and out in the middle of no where. But hell, I was from the Southern California desert. It could happen. But after it had been out for a while and Hollywood wanted to explain why people dug this movie, they had to make up a story. It also helped to make sense of the movies that were to come.
- Breakdown of Law and Order – What happens to the world when Law and Order lose their effectiveness. If there is anything dystopian about this movie, it is not being able to figure what’s going on between the cops and the politicians. When I saw it at the early age of about 12, I just figured that it was like the cops in the Movie The Gauntlet. If anything, I thought it was a problem with the government in Australia. And since they were way out in the desert, no one in the big city cared. They were on their own. In the course of the movie, the sociopathic, murderous biker gang members were just the bad guys – who just wouldn’t go away or die. They kept getting worse and worse. And the cops could not stop them. The movie becomes like The Thing or Alien, where you have a group of trapped people facing an evil force out to kill them. In the end, the only way for Max – the police – to win was to collapse all thought of following the law. It is win at all cost.
- Peanut Butter and Honey is disgusting – At least the Australians did not choose Vegemite as a snack. That would be totally gross. But when Max told his wife he was eating a peanut butter and honey sandwich, I just about wretched.
- The 70’s Hollywood Ending – If anything helped to bring this movie to Dystopia, it would be the ending. He leaves the main bad guy chained to a car that is about to explode. “The chain in those handcuffs is high-tensile steel. It’d take you ten minutes to hack through it with this. Now, if you’re lucky, you can hack through your ankle in five minutes. Go!” He drives off into the desert and you see the car explode in the background. No idea what happens next. Its a very 70’s ending.
It was the beginning of a series. At the time, I doubt any of them had an idea about where the franchise would go.
Why do I focus on these movies? I will first say that part 2 will take this discussion to a new level. But at this point, the idea of being left on your own with no chance of safety and protection is what its about. You see Max’s family slaughtered. This could potentially happen at any time now. But in the case of societal breakdown, the potential for this is much greater. Where will we go? What will we do? Will it change us? Will we lose our own humanity.
Also, how should we being living our lives now in order to protect ourselves from this kind of future. I am not going to lie. Much of the point of Astrogardens is to remind people about this. And to consider what you might want to be doing to prepare for it.
Whether it is learning how to grow your own food. How to start a fire – with or without matches. Gut a fish. Preparing and canning fruits and vegetables? We will explore some of these.
Next, explore how the Road Warrior takes societal breakdown to the next level.
Funny you mention Vegemite Andrew; it literally is in every cupboard here in New Zealand LOL. I want to dabble but the smell turns me off. I have learned to live more off the land in places, especially when I did 6 weeks in a remote Costa Rica jungle. Save a few provisions purchased from the store in town – which we visited weekly because it required 6 hours of brutal hiking – we lived off of the land, harvesting what we could from gardens, getting water from a jungle stream. Always helps to be resourceful in any situation.
I had one experience with vegemite, and just the look of it seemed gross. You have had an opportunity that most of us urban and suburbanites have not had – and that is survival where you do not have the option of running to the store. With all the trappings of our generation, some may say, “Why would you even want to try?” And one of my Points in writing this blog is to point out that, even if it seems like a bleak way of thinking, this is possible. We are all one terrorist attack or one killer solar flare or an asteroid hit away from the stone ages. And where might we be if that happens?
Starting to think about it is almost the same as people buying insurance. You are paying money in order to protect yourself from future misfortune. So I have started with a garden.
An interesting point. I wrote this article on Tuesday. Yesterday (Wednesday), I was flipping channels for something to watch, and the SciFi Channel was showing Mad Max. I sat and watched for about 15 minutes and saw the iconic Peanut Butter and Honey scene as well as when the motorcycle gang attacked Max’s wife/Girlfriend while out getting icecream. She escapes but a member of the gang tries to jump on the van using a chain as an ancor. When she speeds away, she is able to shake him off. Only later do they find the chain hanging from the back of the car with the perpetrator’s hand and writs still attached (thanks to the dog for finding it).
It is graphic, but I still more felt like Death Wish than The Walking Dead.