Hoarders, Doomsday Preppers

Hoarders, Doomsday Preppers, and the Culture of ApocalypseA new book by Gwendolyn Audrey Foster.


The culture of twenty-first century America largely revolves around narcissistic death, violence, and visions of doom. As people are bombarded with amoral metanarratives that display an almost complete lack of empathy for others on television, in films, and on the internet, their insatiable appetite for excessive pain and routine death reflects an embrace of an endlessly warring culture. Foster explores this culture of the apocalypse, from hoarding and gluttony to visions of the post-apocalyptic world.

Table of Contents

1. Disposable Bodies
2. Bunker Mentality
3. Buy Before You Die
4. Embracing the Apocalypse
5. The End of the Future

Advance Critical Commentary

“Gwendolyn Audrey Foster writes passionately about the debased media-scape of our death-worshipping culture. She probes into our collective fascination with an Earth without us, even as we continue activities that are sure to lead to yet more ecological devastation and mass extinction. Hoarders, Doomsday Preppers, and the Culture of Apocalypse is not a comforting book, but it is an eloquent call from a voice crying in the wilderness: a warning that we ignore at our peril.” – Steven Shaviro, DeRoy Professor, English, Wayne State University

“In this urgent and important book, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster exposes and explores the multiform obscenities – of violence, wealth, consumption, ownership, avarice, aggression, and more – that infect the politics, businesses, entertainments, and mentalities of today’s narcissistic, fear-peddling, death-celebrating culture, shining a laser-sharp spotlight on excesses of sexism, neo-liberalism, speciesism, capitalism, and nationalism in the contemporary media.” – David Sterritt, Columbia University

“In her newest book, Hoarders, Doomsday Preppers, and the Culture of Apocalypse, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster explores the excesses of late-capitalist American consumerism; her exploration of media representation of gluttony, hoarding, waste, and debt is compelling reading for anyone interested in contemporary popular culture.” – Patrice Petro, Professor, English, Film Studies, and Global Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

“Gwendolyn Audrey Foster challenges us to confront the apocalyptic narratives of our time in her engaging and thought-provoking book. Through our desire for what she terms ‘apocotainment’ – the apocalypse as entertainment for the masses – we eagerly digest the mediatized horrors of our planet’s ecological destruction on screen as we continue to deny it as reality in our own front yards. Foster’s book is a wakeup call to take notice of the preciousness of our common humanity, before we confront the death of our planet in real life.” – Valérie K. Orlando, Professor, French and Francophone Literature and Film, University of Maryland

Gwendolyn Audrey Foster is Professor of Film Studies and English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her books include A Short History of Film (with Wheeler Winston Dixon, 2008, 2013), Performing Whiteness (2003), and Class-Passing: Social Mobility in Film and Popular Culture (2005). For a full list of her publications visit www.gwendolynaudreyfoster.com.

Palgrave Pivot, 7/10/2014
ISBN: 978-1-137-46940-3
ISBN10: 1-137-46940-4

12 thoughts on “Hoarders, Doomsday Preppers, and the Culture of Apocalypse”

  1. Thanks Matthew!

    It is a short manifesto on the depravities of a society hellbent on our own destruction and more interested in prepping and consuming things than actually pulling together as a species to address global warming and the destruction of the planet.

    It is really something I did not enjoy writing, but it is something that I have been driven to write about since I was a little kid who read SILENT SPRING.

    I hope you enjoy it.

    More than that, I hope it has an impact on our empathy-deficient apoco-tained society. The book is dedicated to Tilikum.


  2. This makes for interesting reading. I wonder if we truly do deny the apocalypse as a reality in our own font yard or weather, in fact we are all to aware of its inevitability and that it is our nervous desire for escapism which forces us to make entertainment of it?

  3. Today’s society has been numbed to other people’s pain and struggles. We seem to be extremists in everything: buying stuff we can’t afford or need with money we don’t have, preparing for the next war/invasion/natural disaster/zombie apocalypse like it’s about to happen tomorrow, wasting time focusing on what life others live and hating them for having better X than us.

    Blame it on the media, on the so called social upgrade or on our never-ending hunger for bettering ourselves, it doesn’t matter.

    “Hoarders, Doomsday Preppers, and the Culture of Apocalypse” sounds like a great analysis Gwendolyn, added it to my “to read” list!

  4. Thanks for your comments, Daniel. In “Hoarders, Doomsday Preppers, and the Culture of Apocalypse” I take up some of the ideas that you bring up here. Yes, we seem to be in a perpetual war state and a state of constant gluttony and consumption and denial, as the polar ice caps melt and we destroy our own environment. As Bunuel said of our species, “Mankind is slowly committing suicide, or not so slowly: each day it accelerates-producing all kinds of wastes: corporeal, industrial, atomic, poisoning the earth, the sea, the air… What a piece of work is man! No other animal would be so stupid.”

  5. Thanks for writing Louisa. Indeed you point up one of the issues I find most fascinating with our end-times apocalyptic irrationality. Human beings have always been interested in the end, but now, especially, as we actually see scientific proof of our destructive abilities as a species (one that not only wipes out other species but is destroying the earth); instead of changing our behavior, we actually turn apocalypse into entertainment, or what I call apoco-tainment.

    As you say, we deny the evidence we can see in our front yards and somehow turn it into escapism and other consumable products of the imagination under late stage capitalism. It amazes me that we can turn the most ghastly and depraved things about human nature into products of entertainment. Human beings can colonize and merchandise anything; even our own insanity as a species. It is well worth further analysis.

  6. Perhaps the doomsday subculture is the result of a post-9/11 mentality? I’m looking forward to picking up a copy of “Hoarders, Doomsday Preppers, and the Culture of Apocalypse”. This is a book whose time has come, and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster is the right person to write it.

  7. I would not say that our doomsday culture is a result of post 9/11 mentality, but the post 9/11 mentality has certainly turned up the dial to FAST FORWARD with the ridiculously heightened pananoia (we are constantly on red alert), our wildly inappropriate xenophobia, our nationalism that borders of fascism, the manner in which we so easily give up our civil rights and our rights to privacy, the way 9/11 is used as an excuse for torture, abuse, murder, droning, endless warring and chest thumping. 9/11 is but one facet of our apoco-tained, empathy-lacking culture of forced consensus, and irrational thinking.

    We can’t blame it all on 9/11 but our response to 9/11 is directly related to gun culture, prepping, hoarding, and apocotaining ourselves to death. Meanwhile the polar ice caps melt.

  8. Thanks. I hope you enjoy the book. One of the things I am centrally concerned about in my book is the growing lack of empathy, and the rise of bullying in our society. While I think there are very many complex reasons why human beings appear to be losing empathy under late stage capitalism, scientists have been paying close attention to the relationship between loss of empathy and social media.

    I find this new science to be remarkable and worth checking out. It explains why people tend to leave vile and nasty remarks in the comments sections of so many websites and why discourse is so frequently taken over by bullies, known for trolling websites to make vicious remarks that are not even on the topic at hand.

    The science demonstrates that the longer people are at a screen, the more empathy they appear to lose. I think this is probably true of both the individual and society as a whole. But any kind of social movement or any mass changes to stop the destruction of the planet seem dependent on basic empathy, so this trend toward a lack of basic empathy is worrisome at the very least.

  9. Few recognize that Luis Buñuel was very very perceptive about the destruction of the environment and the Earth. He frequently made statements on the subject, both in his writings and in his films, especially in his later work, such as PHANTOM OF LIBERTY.

    Buñuel had quite a lot to say about the idiocy of mankind as a species. He was talking about massive human waste and the casual destruction of the earth way before it was “trendy” and “green.”

    Interstingly, Buñuel also had quite a lot to say about the insanity of guns and, in particular, the televised celebrity of mass shooters, well before anyone else recognized a problem that is central in our society now. Fifty years ago he said that he would make it illegal to make mass shooters celebrities on TV, if he had his way. I guess it is the Surrealists who have any sense of “reason” after all!

  10. In my book, I am centrally preoccupied with the illogic and lack of reason of our apocalyptic mindset—a cultural mindset that embraces apocalypse and apoco-tainment — a culture that is lacking in empathy. I locate a lack of empathy in TV shows such as Hoarders, Doomsday Preppers, and I Was Impaled, but it informs our stubborn avoidance of the wholesale destruction of the planet and the destructive nature of late-stage capitalism. For example, few even understand the destructive ramifications of the pollution of our water supply: we are too busy running from phantoms.

    We are taught to fear “the terrorists” and we allow corporations to spy on us, and we allow our government to torture and kill in our name. We allow ourselves to be manhandled as potential terrorists in airports and public place. We are afraid of the government and afraid of one another. But who are the real terrorists? I argue that “the terrorists” are really the heads of multinational corporations who are responsible for the wholesale destruction of the Earth through malicious and never-ending crimes against nature–from fracking to dumping toxins. Americans find comfort in the fairy tale that we are constantly under attack from outside forces; but it is corporations who are really the most lethal terrorist organizations; they operate without empathy for workers, consumers, and the very earth and its inhabitants. Corporations get enormous tax breaks and government handouts for “growing jobs” and “monetizing” the casual destruction of the Earth. Corporations are given a license to kill. Our lack of reason is such that we pay corporations to terrorize us, spy on us, commodify us and destroy the Earth. I hope, in my slim volume, to wake people out of their apoco-tained stupor.

  11. View “The Gaia Triptych,” an punk feminist eco-horror film altar installation – inspired by Silent Spring, Gyn/Ecology and my own work in apoco-tainment….


    The Earth is not a pastoral idyll or passive image to be consumed. Nature looks directly at us and breaks our destructive gaze in “Waste,” “Not,” and “Want Not” – a study of hyper-consumption and humans as an invasive and short lived species.

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