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Contemplating the End
Processing my climate anxiety through this little-watched Australian show on Amazon Prime
In an episode towards the end of Amazon Prime’s Class of 07’, a group of Australian women living through the climate apocalypse on an island that was once their all-girl’s boarding school finally decide, after six months of surviving together against all odds, to throw in the towel. They mark their surrender with an end-of-days blowout in which they plan to cook their final chicken and get drunk on moonshine. There’s a boxing ring, a trampoline, and most importantly, an infectious aura of disassociation. The girls are intoxicated by the relief of giving up, but not yet processing the reality of what it means to waste away until it’s finally a wrap on Planet Earth.
In other words, the party felt a lot like being alive in 2023. With wildfires raging, heat waves, hurricanes in California and soaring rents stacked against inflation, watching a group of women accept that their survival is ultimately meaningless really struck a chord with my current ignoring-my-credit-card-debt-and-going-on-a-European-vacation-because-who-cares-it’ll-all-be-over-soon mentality.
But when the sun came up on the “party to end all parties,” I felt a lurch in my stomach knowing there were still two episodes left. The wasting hadn’t even begun.
The show, starring Caitlin Stasey (Smile, Reign) and Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, A Series of Unfortunate Events) came out this year and, anecdotally, it appears very few people have watched it, which is a shame. One could describe it as a sillier, Australian version of Yellowjackets, but somehow with an even more uncomfortable undercurrent than a show about a teenage soccer team eating one another. Where Yellowjackets is propped up on supernatural elements, Class of 07’ is all too plausible. And while its corny millennial zingers and Barenaked Ladies dance montages mimic the cognitive dissonance many of us are feeling right now, the show also provides a lens to process our rapidly increasing proximity to the end of the world as we know it.
I’ve always allowed television to take me to dark places. In fact, I delight in those dark places sometimes to a concerning degree — like randomly deciding to watch Buffy’s “The Body” in the middle of a workday. As my therapist might tell you, TV and movies allow me to experience someone else’s feelings in place of my own. But it’s one thing to process, at arm's length, abstract things like grief, disappointment and heartbreak through a fictional character. It’s another for a show to force you to look at something you really don’t want to face, whether it’s an internal flaw or a harsh reality about your world. In Class of 07’s case, it’s both.
It took some convincingfor me to watch this series because I avoid apocalyptic movies and TV shows like the plague that prompted all those apocalyptic movies and TV shows. Conversations about the end disturb me because, probably like most people, I don’t like thinking about what it means to stop existing. I also don’t like thinking about what it means to never stop existing. I am Sally Draper unsettled by the Land O’ Lakes butter box. I am simply not the girl who wants to stay up all night talking about the stars and infinity. Space freaks me out. The ocean freaks me out. If Gwenyth Paltrow invites the aliens to her AirBnb guesthouse, or if the orcas successfully bargain for overtime or if a Jeff Goldbloom-coded googly-eyed black stick figure shimmies down his UFO stripper pole to collect an asteroid like in that Wes Anderson movie, maybe give me a call. But otherwise, I’m perfectly fine not knowing what’s out there or what lies ahead.
Yet for a contented agnostic, I speak almost daily, and with quite a bit of confidence, of the end of the world. Not in a doomsday prepper kind of way, but in a casual, resigned way. I say in a deadened tone that late stage capitalism is killing us all! We’re living in the final season of humanity! We live in a hellscape that is beyond saving! These statements aren’t factual. They’re a means to an end. I’m being selfishly nihilistic to cope with my inability to either process or completely tune out a constant newsflow about the escalating climate crisis and a scary political landscape.
Haley Nahman wrote a good essay on why this kind of rhetoric is hyperbolic, self-serving and complacent, offering a necessary reminder that most of us who love to brazenly claim we live in hell are not the ones living in hell. “That might be the most frustrating aspect of the doomsday posture: that it suggests we’re all equal victims of modern failures,” Nahman writes. “I think it’s useful to reckon with the difference between knowing bad things are happening to other people and experiencing those things first-hand.”
I started to feel guilty for my detached pessimism after reading Jia Tolentino’s essay on climate anxiety in The New Yorker, in which she described two sisters from Manila who became climate activists because of the worsening typhoons in the Philippines. “In the West, they’re just endlessly processing, going to therapy for their emotions, going to the urban parks that we don’t have and thinking about the earth, and journaling about it,” Isabella Tanjutco told Tolentino. “Good for you that you can do that, but we can’t.”
Her sister Natasha added, “People say this new generation has ‘eco-anxiety,’ that they’re worried about the future, and I’m, like, ‘Dude, we’re worried about today.’”
The reality is I spend most of my days looking away from people like the Tanjutco sisters. In part because I don’t want to imagine a world in which a climate disaster has reached my doorstep and is killing me and people I love, and in part because I don’t want to feel guilty about the fact that it’s already happening to someone else and I’m doing jack squat about it. I’m paralyzed between feeling guilty about experiencing any kind of joy and success in a world that is wreaking havoc on millions of people less privileged than I am, and also feeling completely helpless to do anything of value for those people. So I resign to acknowledge the world is ending and go about my day, making a very hollow peace with the fact that one day I’ll likely join those people who are getting sick and burning and drowning and starving and killing one another for resources. In fact, my selfish nihilism uses this sentiment to my benefit. Eventually, the crisis will get me, so I might as well enjoy what’s left and not worry too much about... anything.
All of this was weighing on my mind as I watched Class of 07’, a show which asks an important question: What happens if a climate disaster strikes a bunch of mostly rich women millennials at their high school reunion?
The answer is a lot of fun antics. The show, for the most part, doesn’t linger for too long on the bleak reality of what’s happening outside of the boarding school on a hill, which happened to be at a high enough altitude to survive the apocalyptic flooding that submerged the vast majority of Australia. You hardly see the characters mourn their partners or parents who have almost certainly perished. You see them mourn the lives they once had, but in silly ways, like one girl going absolutely feral over a lost designer handbag. Like most disaster/survival shows, Class of 07’ makes you wonder what you would do in that scenario. Would you be the lead bitch who got everyone in line? Would you blink an eye over sacrificing someone who’s proven to be dead weight? Would you be the dead weight? As someone who often gets voted first-to-die-in-a-horror-movie, these are questions I don’t love asking myself.
But if I were to really grapple with who I’d be in that type of situation, I know the answer. I’d be the one throwing the party and lacing the drinks with formaldehyde or something that would let me go softly into that good night, knowing full well my ass will not be living full-time in a canoe eating raw seagulls. So towards the end of the season, as I approached that “end of year formal,” I thought about the euphoria that can come from giving up.
But, interestingly, the girls’ plan (and apologies for the spoilers but trust me the show is still worth watching) wasn’t to kill themselves after they squandered all their resources in that rager. It was simply to give up and see what happens. Either their bodies would continue decaying as they had been doing or they’d decide to get back up and keep surviving in a barren and challenging world.
Something about this was much more unsettling to me than that one Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman episode of The Last of Us. Maybe because it felt akin to how I’m behaving now, like the future doesn’t exist, but I still can’t visualize the end, or I don’t want to. I watched those Aussie girls claim that their organs were failing, but thought, hmm, the actresses playing them look just fine to me. It echoed this disassociation I keep feeling, catching glimpses of a world that seems like it’s on the brink of collapse and being unable to deny that reality, but being unable to accept it either (not in small part because of my own privilege — the world isn’t really ending for me, but its inhospitality is growing too close for comfort). So I throw the party, sans the poison, and get a tummy ache when the sun comes up the next day knowing that until the world ends, we’re just going to have to keep living.
Question: What’s a TV show you’ve watched so much you’ve gotten sick of?
Mallika: This is hard because I unfortunately don’t get sick of TV I watch too much, and that’s a problem. I’ll go with The Office because I know some people watch it over and over again, but I did, at one point in my life, watch too much of it. I also binged it so fast the first time because I had to know if Jim and Pam were endgame. (I still suffer from this any time there is an on-screen couple I’m rooting for. Did I scavenge used book stores this week for the The Summer I Turned Pretty trilogy so I don’t have to wait until the third season to know exactly what happens despite already basically knowing what happens? I don’t want to talk about it. )
Rachel: Despite having a TV newsletter, I now have amnesia about 55% of the television I have ever watched, so while I might lose interest on my third rewatch of any show, give it a couple years and I’ll be back, baby! I will say there are some shows that lost the magic for me on revisit. I absolutely adored Big Little Lies (and don’t ask me why but I woke up this morning thinking about Reese Witherspoon’s real life run in with the cops, an iconic moment in history and an underrated mugshot) but on rewatch already knowing the big twist at the end, it just wasn’t as fun. Felt the same way about rewatching seasons two and three of Veronica Mars (one still holds up IMO). This is why I’m still so impressed with the special sauce Marti Noxon put into Sharp Objects. The way I was clutching my chest the last two episodes knowing full well what was in that dollhouse…
The Riverdale writers had no qualms writing about everything from the crucifixion of a high school student during the school musical to an alien corpse being hid in a maple syrup barrel for year, but when it came to deciding which couples ended up together, they put their foot down. In the finale of one of the most bananas TV shows to exist in recent years, it was revealed that the four main characters (Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead) had been in a quad relationship their entire senior year of high school. It’s absolutely hilarious how scared of the Barchie and Bughead stans those writers were.
Have you been missing Winston from New Girl? Steve from Stranger Things? Keeley from Ted Lasso? Don Draper? FX has you covered! The cast of season five of Fargo just dropped and it’s better than our wildest dreams.
This is news to no one but, Patricia Clarkson, who has no children and no husband, is mother.
Our loyal reader Fiona Evans bravely asked all of her friends to subscribe to Yes, We’re Still Watching and reached the first tier of our referral program (this could be you babes!) so here are her TV recommendations. She will not be providing reasons because she’s on summer break, so you’ll just have to trust her:
Fleabag (season two specifically!)
What We Do in the Shadows
Santa Clarita Diet (*Warning from Fiona: “This was cancelled after a cliffhanger — if I were a billionaire, I would use my money to fund another season of this show.”)
My mother would like me to clarify that she is the one who did the convincing. Everyone thank Samantha for this essay!