This episode: Doomsday Preppers, Season 3, Eps. 1-5, 9. Watch it on Hulu.
Next episode: Flavor of Love, Season 1. Watch it on Hulu.
This episode we hunker down in our cinder block fortresses, clutching our guns, gold, and MREs, for a good old discussion of the Nat Geo show Doomsday Preppers, which as the title suggests, focuses on mostly middle-aged and upper-middle-class white male Americans who are stockpiling food and water and devising gadgets and defenses to protect their families from ‘marauders’ and tyrannical government lockdowns.
We, of course, go into the usual stuff about the show’s concept and structure and go over our favorite moments from each of the episodes we watched, particularly expressing amusement at the ridiculous scenario in the season finale of a Russian invasion. We also break down the prepper worldview, the role of class, and common themes in the show, as well as analyzing the coherence (or lack thereof) of many of the posited doomsday scenarios. This leads into an article about the motivations behind the worldview and we have a lively discussion about whether the article’s critique of masculinity and prepping is right on the money or overly simplistic in its view of gender and culture.
Finally, we also have some HEATED DEBATE – OK, polite minor disagreements – about the authenticity of the show and discuss our differing reactions to the show and how we feel they relate to the show’s overall appeal to the larger general television-viewing audience.
Show Notes and Links
1:32 / Mike’s holiday gift for JS
2:20 / Introducing this month’s show
2:51 / The show’s concept and episode structure
5:59 / JS adds an important detail that Mike overlooked
12:36 / Episode 2 Highlights: Curt and Rodney – questionable parenting skills on display in Oregon and Alaska
15:23 / Mike’s distinction between rational disaster preparation and ‘doomsday prepping’
16:08 / JS’s theory of the case: ‘playing Army’ for ‘big boys’
17:22 / Episode 3 Highlights: Tracy and Dan – Mad Max school buses and DIY solar cookers
21:24 / Episode 4 Highlights: Rob and Greg – ‘booby traps’ and ‘invisible tree houses’
22:33 / JS thought the way the show portrayed Rob as vulnerable and emotional despite his hyper-machismo was interesting and a little bit strange
25:04 / Episode 5 Highlights: John, Bret and Shane – dubious judgement, all the way around, even for these guys (Wikipedia article on Hurricane Ike)
27:15 / Mike’s quick hits for Episodes 6-8: civil wars, underground shelters, ‘alternative’ medicine aka bullshit, drones and domes, and yes…lots more killing of marauders
33:48 / JS loved the ‘Trojan Horse’ plan to defeat the Russkies
34:32 / Mark, the protagonist, has his friends waterboard him, which was pretty amazing (Wikipedia helpfully points out that this is not to be confused with ‘wakeboarding’)
35:52 / If Mike watched this during the original airing, he would’ve thought it was an elaborate prank, but in a post-2016 world, he has to take crap like this seriously
36:40 / Debating how much the producers were egging on the protagonists and how authentic their beliefs were in the given scenarios
40:13 / Segueing into the worldview of prepping culture and the themes that cropped up in multiple episodes
42:37 / JS makes a comparison between the views of ‘extreme preppers’ and ‘conspiracy culture’
43:24 / Returning to the distinction between ‘normal’ disaster preparation and the ‘doomsday prepper’ identity depicted on this show
46:45 / JS thinks there’s a grain of truth to the ‘economic collapse’ scenarios and we debate a bit about the situation in Venezuela [A lengthy note from Mike on this section – just so we are clear: I didn’t do a good job foregrounding my argument – the claim on the show from many of these people who envision collapse scenarios is that it will basically be impossible to obtain any type of resources outside of what you grow and produce yourself and so the vast majority of people will have to resort to looting resources from others who kept stockpiles of food, etc – my argument was merely that no economic collapse could possibly be that bad, not that things were peachy keen in Venezuela or trying to minimize food shortages and production failings over there and say the govt was doing awesome]
48:04 / Mike thought the ‘Red Dawn’ scenario, even though it’s ridiculous, was actually one of the more plausible scenarios
49:42 / Mike was irritated by the show’s pandering – especially given that it was on National Geographic’s channel (He mentions scientific notation and Spike TV, which has apparently been ‘rebranded’)
50:42 / Segueing into the motivation behind the ‘doomsday prepper’ worldview – larger-than-life performance of traditional gender roles (Mike mentions our episode on Toddlers & Tiaras)
52:26 / These people are loaded with cash – which made Mike very unsympathetic (Mike compares this to Hurricane Katrina conspiracies)
53:44 / JS thinks that this is rooted in a ‘risk-averse’ psychology coupled with too much money
55:08 / Beginning our discussion of this month’s article: “The man-pocalypse: Doomsday Preppers and the rituals of apocalyptic manhood,” Casey Ryan Kelly, Text and Performance Quarterly, June 2016
56:18 / The thesis and themes of this article are similar to the one we discussed on our Highway Through Hell episode
56:53 / JS agrees with the main thrust of the argument, but disagrees with some of the specifics – thinks that perhaps these cultural qualities are not necessarily gendered in the way the author describes
57:59 / Mike’s defense and interpretation of the argument about gender this article (and cultural studies in general) makes and JS’s refinement of his counter-argument
59:21 / JS thinks that the prepper worldview is more rooted in economic conditions and the rise of the globalized economy, but Mike is skeptical of applying that argument to the people on this show
1:01:20 / Mike thought the article’s analysis of prepping as an expression of traditional fatherly authority was interesting
1:02:14 / JS picks up on an earlier thread about the centrality of self-reliance in the prepper worldview and we discuss whether self-reliance and dependence are gendered (Mike mentions the negative stereotype of the ‘welfare mother’)
1:04:12 / JS critiques the sub-argument about female preppers being ‘hysterical’ based on some counter-examples from the episodes we watched
1:08:54 / Ending on the show’s appeal – is there a sincere appeal or is it entirely based in irony?
1:11:08 / Is JS the typical appreciative viewer of this show? Is the typical viewer a prepper sympathizer or a rubbernecker? (Mike mentions Dual Survival)
1:12:28 / JS patiently listens while Mike goes on a rant about how living after the apocalypse would be pointless and how these preppers wouldn’t make it anyway
1:13:39 / JS announces next month’s episode