Reality Bites

Reality Bites: Doomsday Preppers

There are a million reality shows on the naked television. We're going watch them all, one at a time.

Confession time: Ever since Red Dawn, I've been intrigued by the idea of putting together a survivalist stockpile in the event of Commie invasion/global pandemic/"low level" nuclear conflict/"Obamacare"-related economic catastrophe. Like many people who came of age during the Cold War, I gave at least passing thought to taking to the hills and fending for myself should the proverbial shit hit the fan.

Then I remembered I live in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world and not, in fact, on the edge of the Rocky Mountains. But just because we Houstonians are doomed to be devoured by mutant cockroaches doesn't mean everyone is, and NatGeo's Doomsday Preppers offers a sometimes fascinating (and occasionally disturbing, or maybe it's the other way around) window into the lives of those preparing for the end of days.

The episode I saw was called "It's Gonna Get Worse." Each ep showcases three preppers, followed by an assessment by a panel of experts. These experts aren't named, but I like to believe the evaluations are conducted by Snake Plissken, Max Rockatansky and Tank Girl.

First up is Bruce Beach. Bruce is old school, and has been preparing for nuclear war for the last 50 years. He built a 10,000-square-foot shelter 27 years ago out of 42 retired school buses to "save the children." Dubbed "Ark 2," its primary function is to protect roughly 500 survivors from fallout (southern Ontario not considered a primary target...sorry, Toronto), with literally tons of food and a makeshift air filtration system designed to keep the occupants from suffocating.

And the whole family pitches in, including the grandkids. They clean the shelter, learn decontamination procedures and pack "go away" radiation detector kits for those who won't be allowed inside. Oh, did I forget to mention he's mostly only taking kids and "younger people?" Yeah, chances are pretty good if you show up at Ark 2 he'll be happy to unlimber you of your children, but you'll be left to fend for yourselves against zombie caribou and the Canadian equivalent of the Lord Humungus (Lord Gretzky?). "We have room for your children, but we don't have room for you."

Yeah, get bent, beardo. Better my kids die with me in the wasteland than end up in your Koresh compound in the Great White North. "We're not about survival, we're about reconstruction?" This is obviously survivalist-speak for "I am the natural choice to help propogate the next iteration of the human race."

Next up are Jeremy and Kelly No Last Name Given, who are prepping for life after "peak oil" with their one-year-old son. Jeremy predicts a 1970s-style oil crisis, times 1,000. He views their planning as a "precaution" against the eventual collapse of the utilities grid, part of which involves rationing water from their hot tub. Another is stockpiling pet store antibiotics (most human pharmaceuticals are produced overseas and wouldn't be available in a fuel crisis). I hate to admit it, but that's actually a pretty good idea.

Though it seems to me if you were that certain of the collapse of society, you wouldn't have kids in the first place.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar