There’s an old joke which I’ll spare you, but it involves a little boy asking his father the difference between theory and reality. The joke is funny in an exceedingly politically incorrect way and reality ends up coming in a distant second to theory.
I thought of that joke the other day as I watched TV. I seldom watch shows live, preferring to watch them at my leisure, fast forwarding through commercials and news bulletins about the end of the world. The nice thing about my recording is that I can watch shows in any order I wish. One happy coincidence is that I occasionally watch two shows back to back which inadvertently compliment each other in some perverse way. Kind of like Hoarders followed by American Pickers, or a Paula Deen cooking show followed by The Biggest Loser (Just kidding about that last one, I’ve only watched the Biggest Loser once, and I’m more of an Anthony Bourdain man when it comes to watching folks cook vittles). You get the idea though – one show’s excess is another show’s bare minimum.
In one such happy coincidence of shows, last night I watched the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead (FYI: “mid-season premiere” is not my semantic choice, AMC actually calls it that – sounds like a fancy way of saying “Hey! It’s been months, so we decided to do more shows”). Immediately following that show, I turned on for the second episode of a guilty pleasure called Doomsday Preppers on the National Geographic Channel (Known by it’s snazzy TV name “NatGeo” – mmm mmm sexxxy!).
For the uninitiated among you, allow me to give a quick description of each show:
The Walking Dead is the story of a band of survivors who are finding their way in the rural south following the oft-hyped zombie apocalypse. There’s no shortage of gore and action, but the main storyline is about the interpersonal relationships and dynamics of the group of survivors. This show provides me with a theoretical base of what post apocalyptic living might be like.
Doomsday Preppers is a reality show where the viewer gets to meet folks from “the-end-is-near” fringe. These people don’t stand around on the corner with sandwich boards preaching about the coming doom. Rather, they prepare for the end of days by stockpiling supplies and automatic weapons with plenty of bullets. Each “prepper” we meet has their own educated guess as to what will happen to bring about chaos in the streets and the end of the world as we know it. At the end of each segment, “experts” give the preppers a grade on various aspects of their plan. For the record, they have yet to profile a prepper who feels that the end of the world scenario will include zombies. Despite the lack of “reality” in reality shows, I draw from Preppers for my doses of cold, hard reality.
Now that I’ve watched and digested at least few episodes of “Preppers” and every episode of The Walking Dead, allow me to express my thoughts on theory versus reality as taught to me by my own TV viewing habits:
Theory: The people who survive will include a few handsome men and comely young ladies.
Reality: The people who are preparing for the end are largely creepy looking, and several of them appear to be storing food in the form of fat on various parts of their bodies.
Theory: Among the survivors will be at least a few noble-hero types who will try to do the right thing, despite insurmountable odds against them succeeding.
Reality: The survivors are interested in saving themselves and their families, and if you come too close, Bubba will shoot you…how’s that fer noble?
Theory: The survivors will represent a nice demographic cross-section of this once mighty, cultural melting pot we know as America, bearing something of a resemblance to the Benetton ads of old.
Reality: The survivors will have the ethnic diversity of a large white family (Although, in one of the preppers ads, there is a black guy…at least I think he’s black, he’s wearing a gas mask).
Theory: No matter how bleak things look, the survivors will always have hope.
Reality: The well-prepared survivors will have hope…until they reach the bottom of the last Mason jar of pickled eggs.
Theory: Roaming a lawless and unpredictable landscape with no master plan makes for good entertainment, but may lead you into bad situations.
Reality: Having a master plan and conducting regular drills to prepare for a massive earthquake won’t help when those countless glass jars of preserved food shake off the shelves and shatter on the concrete floor of your bunker. None of the experts commentators on Preppers noticed this potentially major flaw – it was me (and I’ve experienced one minor earthquake in my life).
The bottom line seems to be this; even if I had never seen either one of these shows, the end of the world will undoubtedly suck. I’m not sure if becoming a prepper would make it any better, as I would have to watch from my bunker as friends and neighbors fought for food or were attacked and eaten by flesh eaters. The prospect of putting my life’s priorities in a drastic new order preparing for the doomsday would likely wreak havoc on an already shaky social life. On the other hand, facing global catastrophe unprepared and riding it out freestyle wouldn’t be much better, as I know from life up to this point how little resemblance everyday life has to the fictional world of television. Not to mention there won’t be any commercials to fast forward through as I forage for food in dumpsters while keeping an eye out for zombies.