Cozy Catastrophe

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"Cosy Catastrophe" is a term coined by Brian Aldiss.[1] The End of the World as We Know It has arrived and ... our heroes feel fine. Sure, it's a pity for all those billions who just perished at the hands of super-plague/aliens/nuclear war. But for our safe, middle-class, (usually) white heroes, it means a chance to quit their day job, steal expensive cars without feeling guilty, sleep in a five-star hotel for free, and relax while the world falls apart around them. Maybe things weren't as good as they were in The Beforetimes, but all in all, life is still enjoyable.

Maybe later they'll band together to recreate a humble yet sustainable pretechnological society. Maybe, if they're of mixed genders, they'll see it as their duty to repopulate the species (wink wink). Maybe they'll just learn to accept the extinction of the human race with quiet dignity. Either way, the end of the world shouldn't be the ... end of the world, so to speak.

Expect Arcadia since there's not as much pollution and construction.

Compare with Scavenger World. See also Disaster Democracy and Angst? What Angst?.

Examples of Cozy Catastrophe include:

Anime[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou (Yokohama Shopping Trip) is one of the most laid-back depictions of the twilight of humanity ever; as seen through the eyes of an android coffee shop owner.
  • In Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, sea levels rise by some 20 meters around the island where the story takes place, which would likely wipe out everything on it. Still, most anyone in the movie is shown to have fun and the focus stays on the relationship between Sosuke and Ponyo. It's strongly implied that there are no casualties at all (no human ones, anyway).
  • Beginning in episode 4 (out of 7) of Freedom, Takeru and Biz escape from the dystopian government on the Moon and crash-land their spacecraft in the ruins of Las Vegas. Even though the survivors on Earth After the End live in poverty, have lost most forms of technology and can grow crops only with great difficulty, for some reason seafood-flavored Cup Noodles are readily available, and everyone the protagonists meet is cheerful, friendly and optimistic. They safely drive 2400 miles to Cape Canaveral without getting waylaid by bandits or anything. This is perhaps the most sympathetic portrayal of Americans ever to be seen in an anime: possibly a subversion of Eagle Land, the message seeming to be that Americans would be great folks to be around if they didn't have any money or government.
    • "Freedom" was commissioned by Nissin Cup Noodles as a promotional film, so of course they've got to work ramen in there somewhere...
  • Despite having barely survived an apocalyptic war at some point, the world in So Ra No Wo To is surprisingly doing well for itself. Sure there's the possibility that the Earth's dying but life had moved on.
  • Played with in Axis Powers Hetalia: Paint it White where the embodiments of Switzerland and Liechtenstein share a sweet picnic together while the rest of the world reels from an Alien Invasion.
    • Also done at the beginning of the movie, when good chunks of the world are being turned into aliens. The meeting held to figure out what course of action to take ends with them arguing over which of them makes the best kind of movies.

Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Raymond Briggs' ultimately tragic When the Wind Blows, and its animated adaptation are Deconstructions of the trope.
  • El Eternauta starts out kinda like that... But then It Gets Worse. Much worse.
  • This is the intent of the Life Foundation, a group of rich survivalists who usually oppose Spider-Man. Certain that The End of the World as We Know It is coming, they intend to survive it, but they have no intent of having to work for it, and are sure there are others with such views. Thus, their schemes usually revolve around building or planning "luxury bunkers", enclaves where they and paying customers could live out the apocalypse in luxury.

Film[edit | hide]

  • Casablanca. Isn't it great to spend one's time drinkking and gambling at a luxurious nightclub while there is persecution, bloodshed, tyranny, war, and generally impolite behavior all over the world?
  • In Zombieland, the apocalypse actually improves the main character's life and learning to enjoy life is as much a survival trait as being able to fire a shotgun.
  • It could be argued that Delicatessen is a relatively cozy catastrophe, as the mail is still delivered, everyone's basically middle class, and while people are eaten (according to set rules), life goes on pretty a-ok.
  • Played as satire in Night of the Comet, where Earth's passage through a comet's tail turns most animal life into red powder. The only survivors in Los Angeles, aside from some Zombie Apocalypse cannibals, are a pair of Valley Girl sisters ... who immediately hit the mall and play dress-up.
    • And the electricity just keeps on chugging through and beyond the end of the movie.
    • Even before the comet's effects are felt by the characters, a news reporter doesn't seem at all alarmed by reports that all communication has gone dead in the first region of the world to see the comet.
  • The Last Man On Earth and The Omega Man, both film adaptations of the original I Am Legend novel have Neville living a relatively civilised post-apocalyptic life.
  • Although not the end of the world, the end of Fight Club fits this description in a sense.
    • In fact, the entire point is to create this, to break everything down and start over new.

Tyler Durden: In the world I see – you're stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway.

Literature[edit | hide]

  • John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids is one of the archetypical examples, with the eponymous killer plants running (well, lurching) amok after most of the human population is blinded.
    • Another Wyndham book with this theme is The Kraken Wakes, in which the Earth's seas are colonized by unseen aliens; the aliens eventually melt the polar icecaps, causing world-wide flooding.
  • The Changes by Peter Dickinson (and BBC Children's Television spin-off). Funny noise/feeling causes all white people in England to reject all technology beyond the horse and cart.
    • A sci-fi short story "The Waverlies" is about alien microbes that "eat" electricity (just bear with me), causing virtually all technology to stop working. People are surprisingly ok with this.
  • The short story the "The Highway" by Ray Bradbury takes place in a Mexican village after a nuclear war has destroyed the outside world. Despite the holocaust and the ensuing flood of refugees, the residents of the village continue to live their lives as if nothing happened.
  • On The Beach, a 1957 novel (written by Nevil Shute), a Film of the Book (made in 1959, directed by Stanley Kramer and starring Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, and Fred Astaire), and a made-for-television movie based on the book (made in 2000) each handle the story slightly differently, although the plot remains that of a Cozy Catastrophe. Nuclear war has devastated the whole world, except for Australia. The winds will bring the radioactivity soon enough, but until then, life goes on largely as normal.
    • "On the Beach" is a special case. Depending on the reader, it may either be this trope played dead straight, or it may be a psychologically-horrifying subversion: it takes place in a world decimated from nuclear warfare. The northern hemisphere barely exists anymore, but in Southern Australia the book's protagonists are drinking tea and waiting calmly for the fallout to reach them, knowing that when it does, virtually all life on earth will be destroyed.
    • The 1959 movie focuses on the captain of an American sub that was at sea in the Pacific during the war. The sub makes its way to Melbourne, and a romance ensues. With the sub commander played by Gregory Peck, a nuclear scientist played by Fred Astaire, and Peck's Australian love interest played by Ava Gardner, how can their behavior be anything but civilized, gracious and dignified?
    • The 2000 made for TV has a lot more conflict and angst than either the earlier movie or the book, but much of that is due to the trend toward Darker and Edgier that was in full swing when it was made. So the end is nearer, the American sub commander (Armand Assante) is more abrasive, the Australians in general are less welcoming, and the Australian Love Interest (Rachel Ward) and the scientist (Bryan Brown) are ex-lovers.
  • S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series, in which the mysterious Change has killed off high-energy-density technology (electricity, gunpowder, steam engines...), is at least a partial example of this trope; while many of the successful survivors are unusual in some way—bush pilot, ex-SAS, member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, etc—the only "gangs" that do really well are the ones specifically recruited by a would-be warlord to serve as muscle. In general, having a sense of community and a willingness to work hard is more valuable than mere combat readiness. Sitting around waiting for the Army to show up and fix things is also explicitly noted as being generally fatal.
    • All of this is true, but as the series progresses, the protagonists explicitly note they have either fallen into the luckiest string of fortunate coincidences ever or, far more likely, some powerful behind-the-scenes force is assisting and/or guiding them; by the end of the third book, they're receiving overt psychic visions. The chance that this is all somehow tied directly into the Change is very high.
    • thought sheer mathematics mean they have to be lucky. If 99% of the population dies, anyone who survives will be lucky; anyone who survives and does well will have to be -very- lucky. Someone has to be on the end of the bell curve.
    • The survivors also note that their catastrophe isn't particularly cosy except compared to the slow or quick deaths of almost everybody else. One person is grateful to be carrying buckets of milk on a yoke across her shoulders—80 pounds total per trip—because she was carrying them at the ends of her arms—through more than one pregnancy—for years after the catastrophe hit because making a carry yoke was #1,032 on a looooong list of urgent priorities.
  • The Girl Who Owned a City, a children's novel, where The Plague wiped out every one on Earth over the age of twelve (in two weeks' time...). The novel's suburban children get on quite well in this curiously clean, decay-free world. Or at least they do once the novel's heroine steps in and teaches them.
  • One of the ultimate examples may be George R. Stewart's timeless Earth Abides, which depicts most of humankind dying off due to a superplague, and the ones left to repopulate the earth are fairly ordinary people who aren't at all badasses or Well-Intentioned Extremists. The protagonist, Isherwood Williams, is a Wide-Eyed Idealist who starts off with the intention of rebuilding civilization, but in his old age settles into comfort with the idea that, although technology has been set back to the Stone Age, the spirit of humanity lives on.
    • The book also plays with this as the protagonist initially roams the US looking for survivors. On one hand, he finds a group fulfilling this trope living a reasonably comfortable life from looted goods in New York, but realises they'll be doomed when the food runs out, or when winter comes. On the other, he meets a family of black semi-literate sharecroppers deep in the rural South, still growing their own vegetables and raising animals just as they did before the plague. Their descendants are probably doing just as well as (or even better than) Ish's tribe.
  • In 'The City, Not Long After' a plague has wiped out a pretty large percent of the world population, but never mind. The remainder is too poor and diffuse to fight and, with the leftovers of civilisation, they have plenty of support till they develop an agrarian society. The artists in the remains of San Francisco have pretty infinite art supplies.
  • In Little Big, the protagonists are largely untouched on their large private estate by the chaos gripping the American continent.
  • I Am Legend, as with its [many] film version[s], has Neville living in luxury with scavenged and stolen items (most of LA is uninhabited... save for the vampires). He even considers moving to a hotel, but that would mean having to start all over again.
    • Not the best example, as Neville is in constant danger and spends most of his time alternating between mindless activity and frenzied angsting. There's very little that's "cozy" about his life.
  • Arto Paasilinna's Maailman paras kyla (non-translated) is about a quiet village where people till the fields, look after their own, and don't care overmuch about the goings-on in the wide world as don't concern them. Meanwhile the world's economy collapses, World War III starts, and a giant asteroid obliterates or floods two continents. The villagers send out a couple of folks to sell a crashed nuke, and have the children sing hymns to pass the time until the sun reappears. The thing doesn't have a plot as much as a saunter.
  • John Christopher is another English author who has written several books in this genre, most notably The Death of Grass (disease wipes out all grasses, including food crops like wheat), The World in Winter (an ice age), and A Wrinkle in the Skin (massive earthquakes).
  • Stephen King's Night Surf (appears in the collection Night Shift) is a kind of early version of The Stand that features a group of teens in a small New England town in a world that has been almost depopulated by "A6" superflu. They are traumatized by the deaths of almost everyone they have ever known, but at least they know they are immune. Then one of them catches A6.
  • Two nerdy college kids do pretty well during governmental collapse in NOiSE.
  • In the short story "Fields" by Desmond Warzel, the world is overcome by mutant wheat that chokes out all other vegetation; after most of the people of Cleveland have fled (futilely, it is implied) for greener pastures, the narrator, a homeless man, relaxes by reading and eating canned food—he considers himself better off. When other stragglers arrive, they form teams and while away their days playing baseball.
  • Evelyn Smith's short story "The Last of the Spode" is set in a gently post-apocalyptic England, where a handful of survivors play tennis, try to discuss the problem of repopulating the planet without getting too coarse, and drink tea from the last of the Spode.
  • Completely averted in The Road. Quite possibly the farthest you can avert it without killing off the entire population before the book starts.
  • The world following the Rapture in the Left Behind books. Crashed airlines, mass disappearances, and political upheaval everywhere, but the trash is still getting collected, airline flights are uninterrupted, and it's safe to walk the streets at night.
    • It arguably gets more cozy right on the day of Jesus' second coming, at least for the believers. Conveniently, the world's economic system crashes with the destruction of New Babylon on the same day that Jesus comes. Everyone on Carpathia's side, who isn't in Carpathia's Unity Army and isn't so determined to go forward with destroying the Christians and Jews in Petra and Jerusalem, is in a world-wide panic.
    • The latter half of the Tribulation gets somewhat cozy for the believers. Sure, they're still getting hunted down and beheaded by those who take the Mark of the Beast. But bloody rivers? God provides clean water. Sun-baking heat that scorches everything? Not if you're a believer. Pitch-black darkness over New Babylon? God will provide some level of visibility. Petra is basically a Place of Protection that nobody on Carpathia's side can even enter.
  • Spider Robinson and Robert A. Heinlein's Variable Star involves a Cosy Catastrophe. The solar system is wiped out and all that's left, so far as we know, is one colony of ~1000 people and one Generation Ship of ~500. Of course, no few people commit suicide. And then disaster strikes the ship.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • The short lived series Three Moons Over Milford takes place after a meteor hits the moon and shatters it into pieces, with pieces of debris falling from the sky in growing numbers. Despite the fact that everyone is all too aware of the fact that eventually one of the larger pieces will inevitably fall and destroy them all, life on Earth goes on as normal with everyone trying to pretend things are fine.
  • An episode of the Science Channel's series Curiosity, which addressed the question of if scientific advances could make people live forever, had a scenrario where a transhuman Adam Savage not only survives an apocalypse triggered by a meteor hitting San Francisco, but thrive despite the fact that at this point, Savage is a cyborg who cannot survive without the advanced technology which the aforementioned apocalypse rendered quite scarce.


Music[edit | hide]

  • Fairly obviously: "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" By REM. It doesn't make oodles of sense, but one can assume it's Exactly What It Says on the Tin
  • The Decemberists' "Calamity Song", which is a refreshingly peppy and fun song about, well, the apocalypse.

"Had a dream, of you and me in the war of the end times
And I believe, California succumbed to the fault line
We heaved relief, as scores of innocents died."

  • Alice Cooper's song "Last Man On Earth" is about a guy who wakes up one morning to find that he's, well, the last man on earth. And instead of being depressed about it, he proceeds to sing about why it's awesome.
  • "The End of the World" by Lenka is an upbeat song about a girl who is perfectly fine with dying as long as she dies with her loved one.

At the end of the world, we'll be together, be together
If I can spend it with you, then the end of the world don't matter
At all


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Early Shadowrun products' Alternate History timeline depicted downtown New York City being virtually leveled by an earthquake in 2004, and tallied the damages around 200 billion dollars. Even at 1989 prices, that figure seems preposterously like this trope, as does the premise that even that game-setting's Mega Corp powerhouses could finance its reconstruction in a matter of a couple of decades.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Exmortis 2 features a small and peaceful community of farmers isolated from the apocalyptic carnage that the Exmortis demons are unleashing on the rest of the world. Of course, by the time the PC actually finds this place, the inhabitants have been slaughtered, but one of the farmers was considerate enough to leave a lengthly journal recording the disasters in the outside world, the measures put in place to defend themselves from approaching Exmortis, and the foraging expeditions to abandoned settlements. Of course, with supernatural entities roaming the Earth in search of humans to torture and murder, the cosy catastrophe lasts only until the first air-horn sounds.
  • In Fallout 3, Allistair Tenpenny (along with those who can afford it) live in a giant fancy hotel in the middle of this Crapsack World.
    • Fallout: New Vegas explores this further. On the west coast, instead of the the land being rendered near-unlivable by the Great War, everything just reverted back to the 1880s save for locations and things like The Strip and the occasional Killer Robot or two. Most people seem to live fairly relaxed lives due to the NCR and the significant lack of raiders.
      • Actually, the West Coast was slammed pretty hard, and went through a period of relative anarchy (Fallout 1). Then things started improving (Fallout 2), before getting downright civilized. However, a few of the descriptions for the Boneyard (former LA) suggest that part is still pretty dodgy.
        • And in contrast to the aforementioned Crapsack World of Fallout 3, the American Southwest has running electricity, non-radioactive water, actual non-lethal wildlife and fully-functional communities: things that the Capital Wasteland denizens wished they had.
          • Best shown in Novac; the town has all of the above, two Badass Snipers for protection, and one of the snipers wife thinks it's a hellhole and some of other townfolk agree.
  • Although the world isn't in a great shape, Francis from Left 4 Dead thinks the zombie apocalypse is the best thing that every happened to him. No cops, no law, no worries.
  • This seemingly applies to most of Bright Falls' residents in Alan Wake; despite a dark presence engulfing the town at night, numerous residents going Ax Crazy and a whole series of mysterious events being dictated by Dr. Hartman and the very real boogeyman Barbara Jagger, most of the residents seem to be either totally ignorant to the happenings or too drugged/mentally ill to notice. Even more notable in that people just seem to shrug off odd occurrences [2] due to their frequency around Deer Festival.
  • Dead Rising and its sequel are pretty much "Cozy Catastrophe: The Game. The zombies are only dangerous in packs (though there are a LOT of them) and aside from rescuing survivors or running from the occasional psychopath, you're free to roam around, eating, drinking, stealing or wearing whatever you can find.
  • Gears of War has Azura, a island-based five-star hotel/hideout/research facility protected by a maelstrom defense where the elite of the COG goverment spent their days in luxury while the rest of the surviving population deals with starvation and constant attacks by the Locust and the Lambent.
  • Assassin's Creed: Revelations reveals that this happened in the backstory. Jupiter mentions at the very end of the game that "less than ten thousand of your kind and mine remained." It's played straight - that's still much more than enough for humanity to regain a foothold of control, even allowing for several thousand deaths by starvation, disease, etc.

Web Original[edit | hide]

  • "The Quiet Apocalypse" mentioned in Stefan "Twoflower" Gagne's "Unreal Estate" is one of these. All of those End-Of-The-World-As-We-Know-It scenarios came about (and at more or less the same time), but were far less catastrophic than expected and failed to finish off the human race. The story can be found here.
  • Nineteen Eighty Three Doomsday deconstructs and plays with this trope. South America, Australia-New Zealand and the Alpine countries managed to escape the nuclear holocaust (almost) unscathed. And while they do fare remarkably well, there were still some rather harsh moments, involving food shortages, refugees and mass unrest.
  • The Mall could be on the verge of being obliterated, but the heroes of Mall Fight generally take it in stride. At one point, Mango starts having job interviews while the Mall is being destroyed by Eric and Diablo.
  • This AMV Hell clip: Unicron noms a planet.
  • 'Souls RPG depicts a post-apocalyptic world run by dogs, and they're having a grand old time.

Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • According to Word of God, Adventure Time takes place After the End. Apparently, due to an (implied) nuclear war. It's a pretty awesome place to be if you're a Hero.
    • To be fair, the show takes place about one thousand years After the End. More than enough time for a new civilization to establish itself, as seen with the great many kingdoms in the show.
  • Beavis and Butt-head mistake an evacuation for the apocalypse in one episode. Naturally, rather than being horrified, they delight in how everything is now free and all the toilets in town are available to them.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • The Protect and Survive films and leaflets produced by the British government in the early 1980s seemed to imply that this would be the outcome of a nuclear conflict. Sure, you'd have to stay inside for a couple of weeks, but after that everything would be just find and dandy. Threads and When the Wind Blows (see Comic Books, above) were produced in response.


Other[edit | hide]

  1. to dismiss the work of fellow British Sci Fi icon John Wyndham, particularly The Day of the Triffids. The book doesn't fit the trope, but the term has stuck none the less
  2. Ranging from several people disappearing being treated like a normal occurrence, to a boat landing in a trailer park only to be briefly brought up in conversation.