In the slew of survival and outdoor entertainment programs that have evolved since the initial success of the reality series Survivor one of the most absurd (and entertaining) is National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers. The series follows a day in the life of people convinced the world is ending within in their lifetimes and show cases the measures they take and preparations they make to defend themselves and their families from apocalyptic scenarios.
Despite the hilarity of the premise, the series often manages to hit close to home. One episode follows a New York City firefighter who was a first responder in the 9/11 attacks. This man’s doomsday scenario is the eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano and the ash cloud it would create. He is afraid of the debris covering the country, including him and his family in Manhattan. While the likely hood of, and hypothetical fallout from, this eruption is up for debate by naturalists and geologists, his personal experience dealing with an ash cloud engulfing much of New York City made this fear tragically rational in his mind.
Throughout New York there are advertisements put in place by both state and federal agencies to promote emergency preparedness
Government organizations like FEMA have proven only so useful in reacting to catastrophe, due the fact that responding to massive emergencies are difficult to say the least, and so these ad campaigns are hoping to encourage the public to take more personal responsibility in emergency situations.
While the Preppers on Nat Geo’s show take this message to the extreme, Doomsday Preppers and shows like it speak to the mindset of a people put through a particularly tough recession. While most Americans didn’t drop everything to start seed banks as subsistence farmers, there was a general feeling of fear and uncertainty that made people more invested in defending their own. Rather than learning to eat specific berries and shoot automatic weapons, many people responded by picking up a second job and doing what it took to make ends meet. The public felt that they could no longer rely on overarching powers or supports and instead had only themselves.
The recession paved the way for television series about survivalists, from personalities like Bear Grylls and Les Stroud to series like Doomsday Preppers and Ultimate Survivor Alaska and everything in between as people reaccessed their priorities. TV viewers wanted to see how other people managed to get by on what little they had and share in that experience of scarcity regardless of whether it was in society or outside of it.