Throughout the course of 2017, after a disappointing bottom line during the 2016 holiday season, Macy’s department store closed 100 of its locations nationwide. Gap Inc. announced last year that it would close 200 underperforming Gap and Banana Republic locations, with an eye toward shifting greater focus to online sales. Shopping malls across the country resemble ghost towns—lined with the empty façades of the retail giants that once were.
Since the first atom bombs fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, pop culture has imagined and re-imagined apocalyptic narratives. From the “atomic pop” that proliferated on the radio in the 1940s and 50s, to the 2008 and 2016 releases of post-apocalyptic video games Fallout 3 and Fallout 4, this recurring theme exemplifies how ingrained the apocalyptic narrative is in Western culture. However, a shift can be seen from apocalyptic fears in the years after the bomb, to the post-apocalyptic heroic narratives told today in video games like Fallout. Although the apocalypse was once seen as the ultimate end, post-apocalyptic narratives make room for life afterwards, a life inherently fraught with ethical dilemmas about how to rebuild society. Where did apocalyptic narratives shift from ultimate annihilation to a heroic narrative about rebuilding society, and how does Fallout provide a moral compass for navigating the post-apocalypse?