Battle for Haiti (2011)

Rating: FR.Battle for HaitiBattle for Haiti is the first episode of the 29th season of the PBS documentary series Frontline, and it details the disintegration of Haitian society in the year since the Caribbean nation was hit by a massive earthquake on the 10th of January, 2010.

Only a few years before this event, Haiti underwent a revolution following decades of dictatorship. The political situation was entirely tenuous since then, and the earthquake undermined an already fragile, fledgling government. In short, the country has experienced a nearly complete breakdown of law and order.

The documentary is focused on events within the capitol city Port-au-Prince, in which much of the the infrastructure was destroyed outright. This forced the majority of its residents into to relocate, not to the countryside, but to improvised tent camps around the city itself.

battle_for_haiti_02The national penitentiary housed something in the neighborhood of 4500 criminals at the time of the quake, the majority of whom simply wandered back out into the street once the compound was structurally compromised. Many of these criminals were gangsters who were somewhat quicker in establishing a social order within the tent camps than were the police. These gangsters proceeded to rape women, beat or kill men, and generally exploit the comparatively peaceful inhabitants of the camps as a matter of course.

What remains of the Haitian police force makes occasional forays into the camps to retrieve what they perceive to be the very worst of the gangsters. They are mostly ineffectual, however, and more often than not are only distinguishable from the gangsters by their bedraggled and mismatched uniforms.

battle_for_haiti_03Local officials have collectively shrugged their shoulders in the face of corruption, poor organization, and a lack of resources, and seem to be entirely reliant to the blue-helmeted United Nations peacekeepers to maintain any substantial sense of order.

It might be easy for people sitting in the United States to dismiss the state of affairs in Haiti as symptomatic of the third world backwardness of the country. Under the right circumstances, in a crisis of sufficient magnitude, law and order can be suspended pretty much anywhere. Documentaries like After Armageddon have tried to construct an imagined post-apocalyptic world in the United States. Battle for Haiti is a thoughtfully presented examination of what actually does happen in the absence of the rule of law, and should be instructive to anyone preparing for a potential disaster.

Tremors (1990)

Rating: FR.

Burt and Heather Gummer

Burt and Heather Gummer

There is one reason to watch Tremors, and that reason is:

The Gummers!

Burt (Michael Gross) and Heather Gummer (Reba McEntire) are the quintessential, fringe-dwelling, paranoiac prepping couple. They’re a caricature of a couple designed for a B movie, but they’re also quite possibly the most entertaining version of the pair we may know, or even be a part of,  in real life.

When their podunk mining town in the desert is besieged by giant space slugs or something, the wisdom of their paranoia is suddenly obvious. As the other podunk townsfolk climb up telephone poles and engage in a string of Wile E. Coyote type schemes to outwit the slugs, Burt and Heather calmly retreat to their bomb shelter, arsenal and rec room and get ready to go slug hunting.

Broke into the wrong god damned rec room, didn't you, you bastard!

“Broke into the wrong god damned rec room, didn’t you, you bastard!”

In the end even the best laid plans can’t be perfect, and the couple’s castle in the sand more or less falls short. As Burt puts it:

Food for five years, a thousand gallons of gas, air filtration, water filtration, Geiger counter, bomb shelter… underground, god damned monsters.

You can’t be prepared for everything, folks, but you can damned well try!

In the general world of cult “horror” films, Tremors isn’t bad. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward head up a cast of fairly able second stringers as townspeople. The story line is decent, and the special effects are passable. The Gummers are a deal clincher for the survival-minded viewer, and should put this one on every prepper’s list.

The Walking Dead S3E3: Walk with Me

Rating: FFS.OK, I made it through Season 2 of The Walking Dead. The writing took a nose dive, the creative vision was blurry at best, and most of the characters were damaged in all the wrong ways. Still there were high points, and enough of the original show and premise remained intact to keep me hanging in there.

When I tuned in to Walking Dead, Season 3, I wasn’t sure whether I would see a show rehabilitated, or a confluence of unwatchable drivel that had backed up among the writing squad over the down months. I was pleasantly surprised. The first two episodes were not only watchable, but good. The new tack into the wind of unrepentant badassedness seemed to suit nearly all of the remaining characters. Order had been reestablished, and the apocalypse made sense again!


Then they (Them, They, the shot-callers for this goddamned thing) presented us with a complete departure from the little bit of coolness that got them the goodwill back. They built the entire third episode, “Walk with Me,” around Andrea and Michonne.

To be fair, I wanted nearly all of the characters to be eaten by zombies by the end of Season 2, but Andrea was pretty much at the top of that particular shit list. I didn’t want her to die the way I wanted Dale to die by the end of “Judge, Jury and Executioner.” Angela Kang wrote Dale to death far before the zombie got ahold of him, and he was a credible presence in the apocalypse until that point. In fact, the only thing that I could hold against Dale before that was that he prevented Andrea’s suicide.

Andrea needed to be gone because she’s irritating and implausible. She was irrational and inconsiderate, but not endearing in any way. She acted strong, in the way that weak people do to make themselves feel better. Set her alongside Shane for a moment. Did he ever once feel the need to tell everyone how tough he is?

Shane was tough. He only brought it up if he was desperate to justify some of his own, often unnecessary toughness to some less tough members of the group. Shane was all evil and whatnot, and he cracked up, and had to go… but everything about him indexed the strong, confident assholes that we all run into in real life.

Andrea, on the other hand, is at the center of a story arc that’s meant to empower women. Glen Mazzara himself has said so in interviews. It strikes me that the people responsible for her have very little experience of women in life who are actually empowered, because Andrea indexes every insecure woman I’ve met who’s trying her hardest not to be a victim. It could be that there are a lot of people who can relate to that, I suppose, but her story is fundamentally one of insecurity.

Michonne is standing right next to her throughout “Walk with Me,” by way of contrast. She’s stoic, stony, even zombie-like at times, and an equally inconceivable cartoon of a character (yes, I know the series is based on a comic book). She’s not irritating, but neither is she any sort of real. Of the other female characters in the show, Maggie stands out as having the most potential for a realistic empowerment arc.

Maggie acts like people who are walking around out there every day, and I can relate to her. She’s neither disempowered, nor is she particularly insecure, and she has room to grow. She’s with Glen who is at the center of his own unorthodox sort of empowerment story, and one that’s been quite convincing to this point. Sure, Maggie was rescued by Glen in the Malt Shoppe (or wherever), but Rick got rescued by Darryl like a dozen times in the two prison episodes without the mildest threat of being overshadowed by him. Nobody is any more independent in the zombie apocalypse than in real life, and real life is at the core of the zombie apocalypse… or else it’s just a cartoon.


Post Script:

There’s nothing inherently uncool about the Governor, Woodbury, or Merle 2.0 at this point. They’re all supposed to be our new friends, and “Walk with Me” was our introduction to them. It was like meeting a bunch of strangers on the recommendation of the most irritating and inscrutable people that you know. The episode did them no favors.