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TV Tropes Monday: Apocalypse Cult


 

Tweet of the Day: From Dark to Dark: Yes, Women Have Always Written Space Opera 

The world as we know it will end, it always does. Don’t believe me, just ask the civilizations of the Hindus river valley, the eastern Mediterranean bronze cultures, or the Western Roman Empire. Wait, you can’t, because they are not around anymore.

Ooops!

Well since time immemorial humans noted the fragility of their works, the intricate interplay of culture, economics, religion, and their environment.  That led them to believe that either by the hand of Man or God, it would all come crashing down. And some believe this to be a good thing! So good in fact that they want to speed it along.

Enter the Apocalypse Cult.

Regardless of their exact beliefs, be they ideological, philosophical, religious, or any combination of the three, these cults make for great villains. Why? For two reasons. First an apocalypse tends to be a messy (read: deadly) thing with lots of murder, mayhem, and corpses. Most protagonists have enough sense of self-preservation to not want that. Second, their fanaticism means that arguing with a cultist is a tad hard to do, so stabbing their guts or shooting them in the head is usually the way to go.  It is a great set up for a combat heavy video game or an action movie. Other stories might lead a protagonist to infiltrate the group to destroy it from within or extract a person from it (usually a a teenager or young adult).

However, these cults often serve as political straw men for the writer. Any group that the writer believes is a dangerous philosophy can be transformed into a cult to show the end result of their thinking. The reality is that while cultist spout a jumble of conflicting ideas they tend to be centered around a charismatic leader. When their leadership collapses or their ego drives them to extremes the cults implode, with their victims consuming each other rather that kicking off the end of all humanity.

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