This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.
“It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.”
– R.E.M. song
Unless you’ve been hiding in a fallout shelter for the past few weeks, you’ve seen the ads for “2012,” an apocalyptic movie about how the world ends. That is, if you believe Hollywood’s take on an ancient Mayan prediction that doomsday will come on Dec. 21, 2012 – a prediction that modern Mayans say is a bunch of hooey.
“2012” is the No. 1 movie in America (at least until the box office figures for “New Moon” come in), and it’s got people talking about the latest in a long and rich vein of end-times scenarios.
Most people will watch “2012” and just enjoy it for its vicarious thrills, such as the Los Angeles real estate market going upside down – literally. But some folks, unfortunately, are taking this 2012 doomsday stuff a tad too seriously.
Take Richard Heene – aka, father of the “balloon boy.” It’s been reported that he and his wife hatched the hoax involving their son and a homemade balloon in order to make enough money so they could ride out the 2012 cataclysm. There are stories about people so scared that they wonder if they should kill themselves to avoid suffering when the big day comes.
Enough anxiety is out there about 2012 that NASA has felt compelled to try to talk people down from the ledge. “Nothing bad will happen to the Earth in 2012,” says an agency Web site posting. “Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012.”
Those scientists say not to worry about the Earth’s poles shifting on Dec. 21, 2012 – the scenario in “2012.” The world is much more likely to be destroyed by climate change, wayward asteroids and nuclear war.
Whew. That’s a relief.
For those of us who aren’t obsessing about alleged Mayan predictions, doomsday movies like “2012” provide the kind of escape that people tend to seek in challenging times. After all, how bad are unemployment, 401(k) losses and high health care costs compared to a supervolcano erupting in Yellowstone National Park, California plunging into the Pacific and tsunami waves wiping out most land masses?
When we walk out of the theater, still intact, we can feel like we’ve survived something – even if it’s just a movie that’s about half an hour too long. And the realities that we face in our everyday lives look just a little less harsh. In times such as these, that’s no small thing.