Idiot Box: Lifestyles Of The Paranoid And Well-Stocked On National Geographic’s “Doomsday Preppers”

“Doomsday Preppers” On National Geographic

Devin D. O'Leary
3 min read
The End?
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There’s a hierarchy of reality show participants who fill their houses with crap. On the low (read: “marginally sane”) end, we’ve got those “extreme” decorators who pop up this time of year, showing off their massive, computer-controlled Christmas light displays complete with Santa dancing “Gangnam Style” on the roof. Somewhere in the middle (read: “demonstrably kooky”), we see those coupon-crazed shoppers who fill every closet in their home with gallon jugs of Pert conditioner because they were on sale two-for-one. At the high (read: “certifiably nutso”) end are those hoarders whose houses are hazardous waste pits of stuffed animals and adult diapers. Located just above the coupon crazies but below the people with dead pets smashed under piles of old newspapers lie the survivalists.

National Geographic has dedicated an entire series to these special people, the entertainingly outré “
Doomsday Preppers.” Wedged as we are between the fall season finale of “The Walking Dead” and the impending Mayan Apocalypse, now seems like the perfect time to take a cautious look at the survival obsessed among us.

“Doomsday Preppers” is like a happy home tour of the weird neighbors you never want to meet. Some have bunkers stocked with canned food, bottled water and the occasional amenity (a big screen TV!). Others merely have a basement full of toilet paper. The most extreme among them run their broods of kids through elaborate end-of-the-world drills.

It’s interesting to get a look inside the fortress-like homes. They run the gamut from foxholes in the garage to abandoned missile silos to still-under-construction, 14-story condos embedded under nine feet of concrete. But it’s the people and their crackpot motivations that give the show its can’t-look-away appeal. Our own government advises us to keep fresh flashlight batteries and bottled water at the ready, so it’s no shame to be prepared for the worst. But my idea of the worst and these folks’ idea of the worst varies widely. The scenarios these preppers have concocted are amazing, and it’s fun just to watch the dueling end-of-the-world philosophies. Some believe fervently in the Rapture. Others are sure there will be a natural disaster or worldwide economic collapse. Some are afraid of a magnetic pole shift. A few still think the Russians are coming. A handful are weaponing up for the zombie outbreak. Regardless of the catalyst, all seem united in their excitement over the prospect of eating canned vegetables and popping looters in the head with a rifle.

Who knows—when the gawking is done, you may glean useful information from the show. On this week’s episode, for example, a New York-based doomsday prepper explains his plans for escaping from Brooklyn to New Jersey in the event of a meltdown at the Indian Point nuclear reactor. His plans include an inflatable raft and bear mace. That and a closet full of Pert might just get you through Dec. 21.

“Doomsday Preppers” airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on National Geographic.

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