Historically the post apocalyptic genre is a male driven testosterone frenzy. It’s possible that this is because the world for the last hundreds of million years has been a male driven testosterone frenzy. It’s possible that it’s been more philosophical in a Darwinian sense where authors are imagining men being the ones to come out on top when survival of the fittest finally has it’s place in society, or in the lack of society. It’s also possible that the authors are making a purposeful statement that, in a Darwinian sense, men are more fit to thrive in an apocalyptic setting ruled by violence and/or dog eat dog mentality.
However there are a few instances where the female form does take its place among the elite survivors of the fittest, where against the odds, female characters survive and in some cases survive in the most kick ass of fashions. This isn’t a complete collection of the femme fatal in the end times but it’s a good place to start. The following appear in no particular order.
1. The Last Survivors 2014
The Last Survivors is a film that takes places in Oregon in the near future; the drought-stricken land has changed the face of Oregon and the farmers who once called it home. Kendal, the main character, is a sword and axe wielding badass who takes on the water baron and all the goons he can muster up. She spends her days scavenging the Oregonian wasteland looking for food while siphoning water from right under the land of the most violent villain you could write. In addition to taking on men twice her size, Kendal cares for her sick boyfriend and a younger neighbor who you’d never imagine would’ve made it this far in the end of the days. Check out Kendal and her quest for survival in this flick with a total Mad Max feel to it.
2. Into the Forest by Jean Hegland 1996
Not all female bad-assery comes in the same form. Into the Forest gives us girl power in a different shape. Nell and Eva take on the apocalypse from their home in Northern California far away from the unraveling of society. Living in such a remote location, our characters don’t face the apocalypse in the typical ways many characters encounter the end of the world as we know it. Slowly but surely the comforts of modern society are stripped from these sisters but they rarely face the typical dangers of the apocalypse like sickness, natural disasters, foreign attacks, full on violence or wide spread starvation. Often characters in the post apocalyptic genre face their problems with violence or brute force. Eva and Nell take on their problems with intelligence and good old-fashioned ingenuity. The sisters survive by foraging, growing and canning their food before they eventually begin hunting for wild game using primitive tactics. The sisters are quickly forced into adulthood as they become one with the land and become the most unlikely of survivors. The book has recently been made into a full-length film starring Ellen Page and Evan Rachel Wood.
3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood 1985
The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in the near future in the area formerly known as the United States. After a terrorist attack kills the President and most of Congress a totalitarian Christian theocracy takes control and so begins “The Republic of Gilead”. The Republic of Gilead is a hierarchal society based on militarism and old testiment inspired religious fanaticism where women have little to no rights. The man character is named “Offred”, because she belongs to one of the commanders named Fred. She is a handmaid meant to produce offspring for the Commander’s family. The handmaids are necessary due to rampant infertility caused by pollution and sexually transmited diseases. Offred is basically living in a prison with the sole purpose of committing “the ceremony” with the Commander to try and create children for him and his wife. Offred begins seeing the Commander in off hours and having relations with him behind his wife’s back. The Commander’s wife Serena also has Offred seeing her driver Nick behind the back of the Commander in hopes they will create a child. As Offred begins to see both the Commander and Nick in secret she begins to receive benefits beyond the reach of the law that most other women aren’t afforded like magazines, cosmetics, clothing and trips outside the compound she is living in. While Offred doesn’t seem like your typical female hero she is very crafty and makes the best of the situation in front of her. While the Commander and Nick might believe they are using Offred it’s actually Offred who is using them to fulfill her own needs. While her cunning is understated it is her contriving that eventually may lead to her escaping captivity in a very ambiguous ending.
4. Z for Zachariah 2015
Z for Zachariah is the film adaptation of the novel by the same name. The story takes place after a nuclear event destroys almost all of North America. The main character Ann lives alone in a valley where she has been shielded from the nuclear fallout by the mountains and favorable weather conditions. Ann has created a pretty comfortable existence for herself in the middle of the end of days. She hunts for food and is surviving seemingly with no worries on her family’s farm in her hometown. Ann’s seemingly perfect existence is shook when she discovers a radiation suit wearing intruder taking a bath in a waterfall with poisoned water coming from outside of the valley. After becoming sick Ann is able to bring the newcomer, Loomis, back to life. Ann and Loomis begin a productive and somewhat awkward life together where Ann is benefitting from having such a strong, intelligent and capable partner around to help make the best of life in the valley. When things start turning up missing, and mysterious figures are seen around a man named Caleb appears. Being younger, more attractive and having more in common with Ann, tensions begin to arise between Ann, Loomis and Caleb. Ann begins to use this to her advantage to get the things she wants from both Loomis and Caleb. Ann allows Caleb and Loomis to tear down her father’s chapel to create a water wheel on the waterfall that made Loomis sick, which would create electricity for the valley. With electricity, working farm equipment, underground water sources and two men to do her bidding is Ann living quite comfortably after the end of the world as we know it?
5. Pandemic 2016
Pandemic is a unique film shot in first person point of view (POV) like first person shooter video games. The movie takes place in Los Angeles after a worldwide pandemic has decimated society. The pandemic has five phases ranging from basically the flu, which can be cured, to the fifth phase which turns the infected into violent zombie types. The story is based around a woman named Rebecca who is trying to find her daughter that she was separated from during the outbreak. Rebecca is posing as a Doctor Chase who’s credentials she acquired somewhere along the way. As Doctor Chase, Rebecca is working out of a facility where she is part of a strike team whose job it is to find survivors and phase one sufferers who can be cured. The story follows Rebecca and her team as they travel around Los Angeles looking for survivors. The entire time Rebecca is trying to contact her daughter and manipulating her rapidly diminishing team to help her get home to find her daughter. Rebecca uses her powers of deception to her own ends combined with some old fashioned ass kicking to survive the apocalypse in its grimmest form.