The end of the world: when you picture it, you don’t usually give a lot of thought to the regular folks—bog-standard humanity. But without humanity, it’s not really the end of the world—just a showdown between the Big Bad and the Ultimate Good. It’s the humans’ world that’s ending, after all.
In the traditional view of humanity in the End Times, humans are often portrayed with a sort of ‘Onward, Christian soldier’ attitude—that is, they’re shown doing whatever God deems necessary to fight the Devil and speed on Armageddon (since after the Apocalypse happens and God wins, it’s Paradise on Earth, according to Revelation).
This is very contrary to the recent trend in depictions of the apocalypse which gives the characters a whole damn lot of free will and put a very humanistic spin on things: basically, these characters stick it to the man and fight against both Heaven and Hell in order to protect Earth.
The characters in The Stand by Stephen King are very much the former kind of humanity.They are the only survivors of a superflu that has decimated the world’s population, and they flock to the side of Mother Abagail, who represents the forces of Good. These characters will do anything, including dying a violent and horrible death, in the attempt to destroy the ultimate force of Evil, Randall Flagg. They want to rid the world of evil and create a new, free society out of the remnants of humanity.
This sort of character motivation, however, has fallen out of style in scriptwriting. The newer outlook chooses to focus on humans making their own world outside the influence of gods or demons.
As Lady Geek Girl has pointed out in the posts preceding this, Supernatural’s fifth season is all about the End Times. And a big part of the plot is that Sam and Dean have been destined to be Lucifer and Michael’s human vessels, respectively. They’ll let the two angels in, and the forces of Heaven and Hell will have their grudge match, and the world as we know it will end. Well, this is not okay with either of the boys. Rather than picking a side, they choose to try to stop the Apocalypse from happening altogether. Even at the very end, Sam chooses to sacrifice himself in order to trap Lucifer (and Michael) back in the Pit, indefinitely postponing their big showdown. Because of this, Armageddon is averted and the world keeps spinning as usual.
A huge theme of Good Omens is that, well, humanity is awesome. This is another series with an averted apocalypse, as Aziraphale and Crowley don’t want to lose the human world which is so much more enjoyable than either Heaven or Hell, and the Antichrist, Adam, (as Lady Geek Girl mentioned in her last post) sides with neither God nor the Devil, choosing to let humanity remain as it is, messed up but generally trying to be good. In this story the major human players are probably Newt, Anathema, and the Them (Adam’s friends). The former two try to avert the Apocalypse, and the Them are probably a large part of why the world doesn’t end—by being Adam’s friends and giving him an explicit example of what good humanity has to offer.
This about sums up our discussion of the Apocalypse. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments. Otherwise, from here, we’re going in a new direction!
Next week on Oh, My Pop Culture Jesus: Christianity in Anime!
Tune in next time and get some religion!