The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About...Before It's Too Late

The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About...Before It's Too Late

by Laura Barcella

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People have been making predictions about how and when the world is going to end for ages. The End is a fun pop culture read about the top 50 movies, books, songs, and artworks—from the movie Shaun of the Dead to the song It's the End of the World as We Know It—about the apocalypse. Each item includes:
- A synopsis of the apocalyptic work
- Information about the apocalyptic theory behind it (from alien invasion to meteors, nuclear war, and natural disasters)
- An explanation about why this work is important in pop culture
Love doomsday talk and the art made about it? Check out this fun and entertaining read!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781541582088
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/01/2019
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 178
File size: 10 MB
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Laura Barcella is a freelance writer and editor who can't decide between New York and San Francisco. During the past ten-plus years, this pop-culture junkie and Washington, DC, native has written about feminism, music, news, and lifestyle topics for more than forty publications, including, the Village Voice, ELLEGirl, Time Out New York, NYLON, Bust,, and the Chicago Sun-Times. As far as other books go, Laura is the editor of the anthology Madonna and Me, a book of essays by female writers about Madonna (Soft Skull Press, March 2012). She has also contributed to the anthologies BitchFest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism From the Pages of Bitch Magazine, Somebody's Child: Stories About Adoption, and It's All in Her Head, a forthcoming collection about women's mental health. When she's not writing or editing, she's reading magazines, at the movies, watching bad reality TV, eating imported gummy candy, or hanging out with animals (she has two cats and a dog, all rescues).

Read an Excerpt

28 Days Later (2002)


WRITTEN BY Alex Garland


In this realistically shot apocalyptic film, Jim (Cillian Murphy), a bike courier, wakes up from a coma in a deserted London hospital with no memory of how he got there or how long he’d been there. When he walks out onto the street, London looks like a ghost town: The streets are all empty and the cars have been left abandoned with their doors splayed open. After stumbling upon a rabid pack of humans in a church, Jim is saved by a quick-thinking duo, Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley). They take him to their hideout and tell him what’s happened: While Jim was in a coma, most of his fellow Brits (and possibly people throughout the world) had become infected by an ultra-contagious virus named Rage that is spread by infected laboratory primates. The virus, which is irreversible, causes people to twitch and spasm, uncontrollably vomit infected blood, and attempt to attack and kill as many people as possible.

The three band together to try and survive, but soon Mark gets infected and Selena kills him before he can infect anyone else. Now a duo, Selena and Jim soon find two more survivors, a man named Frank (Brendan Gleeson) and his young daughter, Hannah (Megan Burns). The group hears a radio broadcast transmitted by soldiers who say they have "the answer to infection." The four head to the location, just outside Manchester, to find a fortified mansion under the command of Major Henry West (Christopher Eccleston). Before they get inside, Frank is infected, and a soldier kills him. Inside, it’s all men, and West confesses to Jim that he has essentially promised Selena and Hannah to his soldiers. Jim tries to rescue the women, but West orders his soldiers to execute Jim. Still, Jim manages to escape. He frees Selena and Hannah from the mansion after a bloody showdown with the soldiers, and the three of them drive out into the deserted world to try and find other survivors.

The Inspiration

According to director Danny Boyle, writer Alex Garland was inspired to write 28 Days Later after watching the opening sequence of The Day of the Triffids (page 50). In that scene, a man wakes up in a hospital to discover that a meteor shower has blinded everyone.

The Impact

The film was a critical and commercial success. Unlike many horror films, which fare well at the box office but less so with critics, 28 Days Later garnered great reviews and made $82,719,885 worldwide.

It’s one of the few sci-fi/horror movies that actually feels and looks somewhat real. This is partly because it was filmed in gritty digital video, has realistic dialogue, and its lead actor (Cillian Murphy as Jim) was then unknown (as opposed to being a recognizable Hollywood star).

It led to a sequel, and a graphic novel. The movie sequel, 28 Weeks Later, came out in May 2007. It takes place six months after the Rage virus took over England. A graphic novel by Steve Niles, 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, was published in April 2007 and focused on the time between 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks.

Unforgettable Moment

As the sun goes down, Jim stumbles into a church and calls, "Hello?" After spotting huge piles of corpses scattered on the floor and in the pews, he catches the ominous glare of a few pairs of hollow zombiefied eyes staring back at him.

Reality Factor

The chance of there being a population-decimating virus has a relatively high reality factor among the various apocalyptic scenarios. Super-contagious, lethal viruses—like HIV, Ebola, and the bubonic plague—have already wreaked havoc on our population. That said, there’s never before been a Rage-like virus that causes people to eat each other, and there’s been no prediction by the medical community or otherwise that there will be one.


"If you look at the whole life of the planet, we … you know, man, has only been around for a few blinks of an eye. So if the infection wipes us all out, that is a return to normality."

One of West’s sergeants says this during Jim, Selena, and Hannah’s first dinner at the creepy army barricade. The soldiers had been discussing whether it was possible for things to ever return to normal.


Graffiti on the wall of the church where Jim sees his first batch of infected people

More Movies Directed by Danny Boyle

Trainspotting (1996)

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

127 Hours (2010)



Gimme Shelter (1969)

PERFORMED BY The Rolling Stones

WRITTEN BY Mick Jagger and Keith Richards


In "Gimme Shelter,"one of the best songs by the legendary rock group The Rolling Stones, singer Mick Jagger’s trademark voice captures a dark moment at the tail end of the ’60s. During that time, the movement for peace and love seemed to be overtaken by drugs, war, and violence. The song’s dire chorus, "Rape, murder / it’s just a shot away," captures the sense that terrible forces have been unleashed and that shelter is both necessary and elusive. The music itself—threatening and ominous—sets the mood as much as the howl of the lyrics, which are only half-intelligible and blend into the overall sense of menace and breakdown.

The song starts out with Mick Jagger singing that a building storm is threatening his life, and that if he doesn’t find shelter, he’s "gonna fade away." He then launches into the chorus, imploring listening "children" to understand and acknowledge that war is right around the corner. The apocalyptic imagery builds as Jagger describes a huge fire, like a "red coal carpet," and then likens it to a crazed, violent bull. Jagger then describes a world descending into chaos, and again reminds us that the end—large-scale destruction—is "just a shot away." Toward the end of the song, though, Jagger changes his tune a bit and asks us to remember that, though war may only be a gunshot away, love and peace are "just a kiss away," too.

The Inspiration

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (who co-wrote "Gimme Shelter") intended for the song and the entire Let It Bleed album to capture the sense of impending doom and apocalyptic social disintegration that was in the air at the time. In a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone, Jagger explained that the band’s inspiration for the album was the Vietnam War and the generally violent overtones of the era.

The Impact

"Gimme Shelter" became notorious at the famous Altamont concert. The day after their album Let It Bleed was released in 1969, The Rolling Stones were part of a famous free concert at the Altamont Speedway in Altamont, California. Unlike the Woodstock concert four months earlier, which was all about love and peace, this music festival was marked by fighting, property damage, drug use, and death. While the Stones were playing "Under My Thumb" on stage, a homicide occurred in which a guy from the Hell’s Angels (a motorcycle gang that was hired to provide security at the concert) stabbed and killed a fan who was high on methamphetamines and seemed to be holding a gun. After working to calm the generally uneasy crowd, the Stones, uninformed about the murder, played eight more songs, including "Gimme Shelter." The song has been linked with the event (and the whole atmosphere of the time) ever since. Gimme Shelter was also the name for a famous documentary about the band’s 1969 tour, and its tragic climax at Altamont.

Martin Scorsese has featured the song in several of his gangster films. He tends to use the song to signal the beginning of a character’s violent downfall—check out Casino (1995), Goodfellas (1990), and The Departed (2006).

The song has historical import. It was ranked at #38 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Unforgettable Moment

"I tell you love, sister: it’s just a kiss away."

This lyric may be saying that love is just as viable as hate. It may also be saying that, if the world is crumbling around you, you may as well make out while you can.

Reality Factor

The lyrics cover a broad swath of apocalyptic themes: everything from rape and murder to fire, floods, and wartime gunshots. Much of the imagery feels very realistic, but the chances of all of these things happening at once in a kind of apocalyptic superstorm is slim. However, it’s certainly possible, in hard times, to feel like everything is falling apart all at once and bringing the world to an end.


"Ooh, see the fire is sweepin’ / My very street today / Burns like a red coal carpet / Mad bull lost its way."

The portion of the song where Jagger likens the late ‘60’s turbulence to a fire and a raging bull

More Songs Written and Performed by The Rolling Stones

"(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction " (1965)

"Sympathy For The Devil" (1968)

"You Can’t Always Get What You Want" (1969)

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