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Mankini: We're all that's left of The Soup... Everyone in this building was infected except for us. You know what that means?

Daryl: Oh my God, Ryan Seacrest?

Mankini: Infected.

Glenn: Kendra?

Mankini: Infected.

Daryl: Hef?

Mankini: Eh, it's hard to tell.

It's a few years After the End, and Alice and Bob (no, not that Alice, or maybe it is) is Walking the Earth scraping out a meager existence for herself. One day, she runs into Bob. But wait, this isn't any Bob -- this is Bob Hoskins! How the hell did he make it through this? And Alice is dying to know: What was it like filming Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Hook?

This is when, in a work set in a post-apocalyptic world, a Disaster Movie, or a similar survival situation, the main characters meet a person who was a rich and famous celebrity before everything went to hell -- an actor, director, athlete, model, musician, or even a Reality TV star. Expect them to be asked about their work in better times -- or, if they're not recognized at first, "have I seen you before?". Often used to make a point about the fleeting nature of stardom or about our society's obsession with celebrities -- we'll have much more important things to care about when the world comes to an end, at which point we'll all be knocked down to the same level. There is, of course, a more obvious use for this trope, and that is to fulfill the audience's desire to see rich and haughty celebrities getting put through hell. Just because you're famous doesn't mean you're immune from disasters and apocalyptic scenarios. Indeed, if karma's feeling like you've been a bad role model or a plain old Jerkass, it's likely to come down harder on you for being the snooty celebrity.

Conversely, it can also be used to show that celebrities are as human as the rest of us. Showing that the apocalypse affects the rich and famous just like it affects the rest of us humanizes them as well as "pulling them down to our level." And the Celebrity Surivor is a survivor, after all. They prove that having the determination and wherewithall to weather the apocalypse isn't solely the province of blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth types.

For some reason, this is especially common in Zombie Apocalypse works. This may have something to do with the populist, Slobs Versus Snobs messages that are often read into zombie fiction -- the downtrodden rising up to feast on the privileged, etc.

Not to be confused with celebrity editions of Survivor, although such a show would presumably play this trope to the hilt (and indeed, there is a show that has just such a premise; see below).


Examples:


Comic Books

  • Something of a subversion in The Walking Dead -- Tyreese used to be a pro football player, but he was already washed-up by the time the Zombie Apocalypse started. It's also stated that he was a pretty crappy player, and retired after just a few years. Played straight with Douglas, a former congressman.
  • Not so much an After the End scenario as a Day of the Jackboot one, but Valerie in V for Vendetta, an acclaimed actress who was sent to a concentration camp for being a lesbian, possibly qualifies. She wasn't much of a survivor, though (although one fan theory holds that she became V).
  • A few examples from Y: The Last Man:
    • Epiphany is a Canadian Idol Singer who found herself stuck in Japan during the Gendercide. She uses her wealth, charisma and popularity with teenage girls to rebuild the Yakuza.
    • Waverly is a former supermodel who found that her job is now obsolete, with no men left to ogle her and with women no longer caring about dolling themselves up to impress said men. She now works as, essentially, a garbage lady, collecting and disposing of all the dead men left behind.
    • Fish & Bicycle Productions is a troupe of actresses who continue to work after the Gendercide, traveling from town to town. Some of them feel that the plague was karmic punishment for how older women would often find themselves pushed out of acting.

Film

  • Bill Murray in Zombieland.
  • Former pro basketball player Luther West in Resident Evil Afterlife. A faded billboard featuring him shilling fancy watches can be seen from his fortress. There's also Bennett and Crystal, who were, respectively, a movie producer and a struggling actress before the T-virus outbreak.
  • Goodbye Lenin has a very bittersweet example involving the fall of communism. In one scene, the protagonist gets a ride from a taxi driver who, as the first German cosmonaut, was his childhood hero.
  • The Player has this as the plot of a proposed Film Within A Film. Producer Griffin Mill hears a movie pitch from two writers with a story about a TV actress who is found and worshipped by an African tribe; the story is described in a nutshell as both "The Gods Must Be Crazy, but the Coke bottle is replaced with a TV actress" and "Out of Africa meets Pretty Woman." The drama would boil down to the actress having to choose between staying on the TV show or with the African tribe.
  • The Kevin Costner film The Postman (Inspired By the David Brin novel) had Tom Petty playing himself as the mayor of Bridge City.
  • Poseidon (the 2006 remake of The Poseidon Adventure) gives us former New York City Mayor Robert Ramsey as the leader of the survivors, and the ship's star singer Gloria as a disposable early victim.
  • In the Dawn of the Dead 2004 remake, the survivors play a game in which they look for people in the crowd of zombies outside that resemble pre-apocalypse celebrities (such as Jay Leno).
  • Piranha 3D has, among its cast of characters, a sleazy producer of Girls Gone Wild-esque videos, as well as a pair of porn stars who are shooting his latest video. None of them make it to the end of the film.
    • The sequel has David Hasselhoff as a Jerkass version of himself at the opening of a waterpark. When someone asks him for help during the piranha attack, he remarks that "that's what natural selection's all about".
  • Parodied in Hatchet. Doug pretends that he's a famous porn producer, but is actually a marketing manager who posed as one simply to build his own private porn collection. Jenna also imagines herself to be a legitimate actress, despite the fact that she's doing sleazy softcore porn for Doug.
  • Two of the survivors at the end of Mars Attacks! are a former World Heavyweight Champion boxer... and Tom Jones. The latter case is particularly ironic, since up to that point the film had gruesomely killed off its entire All-Star Cast.
  • In Scary Movie 4, rapper Chingy is one of the many people abducted by the aliens. Since this is Scary Movie 4, naturally he gets his own VIP section in the holding area, complete with alcohol and women.
  • To a certain extent, Robert Neville from I Am Legend. He is shown on the cover of TIME magazine in his home.
  • The indie film Ever Since the World Ended is portrayed as a documentary by survivors 12 years after a plague, who go around interviewing and filming various other survivors in San Francisco (the population of the city is reported to be 182). They go to visit a guy named Adam who knows a lot about engineering. They find him outside his house practicing with a bullwhip. That's right, it's Adam Savage.

Literature

  • World War Z has lots of fun with this. One of the soldiers that Todd Wainio served with was a former pro wrestler, and another one may or may not have been Michael Stipe. A pre-war film director also finds work shooting propaganda movies for the government. And then, of course, there's the celebrity fortress on Long Island...
  • In the beginning of Stephen King's The Stand, Larry Underwood is a musician who's just had his first big hit with the song "Baby, Can You Dig Your Man?". And then the Superflu hits before he can release his second single. Since he's such a new name, he's easily forgotten about in the ensuing chaos, and by the time he meets other people he doesn't care much about fame anyway and decides to return to obscurity (so much so that when someone starts singing a snatch of his song later in the book and asks him, "....say, wait, who was the guy who wrote this song? I can't remember," he claims he doesn't know).
  • In one short story, a woman and a man find each other in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The woman pulls out a fashion magazine, points at one of the models and tearfully tells him "that's me." The man nods, pulls out a newspaper, points to the headline and says proudly "That's me." The headline says "HATCHET KILLER STRIKES AGAIN."

Live Action TV

  • Dead Set is about a group of Big Brother castmates, along with some of the show's staff, fighting for survival against a Zombie Apocalypse and each other.
  • This is essentially the premise of the Reality Show I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here.
  • Charlie and Nikki on Lost were, respectively, a drugged-out rock star and an actress who got stranded on a desert island after a plane crash.
  • And while we're on the subject of desert islands, who could forget glamourous movie star Ginger Grant on Gilligan's Island?
  • Referenced in an episode of Jericho. As Skyler is flipping through some of the old tabloids at Dale's general store, she wonders aloud if Lindsay Lohan survived. Her friend chastises her for this, asking why she still cares about celebrities in a time like this.
  • In Supernatural's episode where Dean gets transported three years into the future after the Devil's Zombie Apocalypse destroys much of humanity, he arrives in a Crapsack World (yes, even more crapsack than the Supernatural world already is) where a drunken, depowered Castiel lives in a survivor camp, much of the United States (and the rest of the world) lies in ruins... and Sarah Palin is President. Also meant as a Take That against Palin, as she apparently decided to bomb Houston according to a newspaper Dean looks at in one scene.
  • Invoked in the Smallville episode "Apocalypse", where Clark goes to an alternate future where he never arrived on Earth and Lex Luthor became President. President Luthor plans to provoke a nuclear war, but before he does, he has the military secretly shuttle the country's best and brightest (which presumably includes a fair number of famous scientists and businessmen) to bunkers so that they will be the largest group of survivors, this planting the seeds for Lex's idea of a "perfect" world... led by Lex of course.
  • One Married... with Children has the Bundys and Darcys ending up on a liferaft after their cruise ship sinks. Their raftmates? A fat lady and Gilbert Gottfried, who was the comedian entertainment on the cruise.
  • Battlestar Galactica has Starbuck run into a band of survivors who used to be a professional sports team before the nuking of Caprica, who only escaped the initial blast because they were training up in the mountains.
    • Before the Cylon attacks, Gaius Baltar was also a well-known scientist and proponent of re-developing advanced computer technology.
  • Played for Laughs in The Soup's crossover with The Walking Dead, which features Daryl, Glenn, and cast members from The Soup (and Rich Sommer, who thought they were doing a Mad Men skit) battling zombie versions of Ryan Seacrest and the Kardashian sisters.

Video Games

  • The Midnight Riders in Left 4 Dead 2 are this trope taken to Crazy Awesome lengths. They're a Badass Southern rock band who, in the midst of a Zombie Apocalypse, refused to cancel their tour until they had to be evacuated from an overrun concert.

 "You might've heard about a lot of bands cancelling their tours this week because of all the airports shutting down and the government telling people to stay indoors. To that the Riders say: We'll stop touring when we stop breathing. What America needs most right now in its time of trial is MUSIC, and that is one thing the Riders are proud to provide."

    • There's also Jimmy Gibbs Jr., former stock car champ, writer and hero to the South, particularly Ellis and Coach. He doesn't do much surviving -- you (sometimes) face his zombified corpse at the end of Dead Center -- but the survivors' reaction to him goes along the lines of this trope.
  • Dead Rising 2, being set in a glitzy Las Vegas analogue, naturally features a bunch of these.
    • Chuck Greene, the protagonist, is a former motocross champ turned contestant on the zombie-killing reality game show Terror is Reality. In the Case: Zero prequel, one of the survivors recognizes Chuck and finds it awesome to be in his presence and getting rescued by him.
    • Tyrone "TK" King, the Don King-esque host of Terror is Reality and the Big Bad Dragon-in-Chief to the real villain, Sullivan. The show's two Lovely Assistants, sexy twin sisters Crystal and Amber Bailey, are his Dragons.
    • Bibi Love, a One-Hit Wonder pop star who was planning her big comeback tour, which was interrupted by zombies. She goes crazy and kidnaps a bunch of guests.
    • Luz Palmer, a professional golfer.
    • Reed and Roger, two stage magicians who are equal parts Penn & Teller and Siegfried & Roy.
    • Angel Lust, a rock band that throws a concert right in the middle of the zombie-infested Fortune City Strip, and wipes out a whole crowd of zombies with The Power of Rock.
  • Several characters in the Bioshock series, such as singer Grace Holloway, artist Sander Cohen, stage magician Suresh Sheti, football star Danny Wilkins, and actress Blanche de Glace. Some of them were famous before coming to Rapture, while others became celebrities after moving there. Rapture was set up in part as a place of refuge from censorship of the arts, so it's not surprising why there are a whole bunch of celebrities living down there.
  • In Fallout 3, Vault 92 was populated with famous musicians, ostensibly to preserve artistic talent in the wake of World War III. In reality, the Vault's intention was far more sinister -- the people inside were being Brainwashed through Subliminal Seduction as an experiment in creating super soldiers. Naturally, it went horribly wrong, with about a third of the occupants being driven insane and killing everyone inside.
  • The zombie game Dead Island has a rap star named Sam B and a former football player named Logan as two of the playable characters.
  • Zombie-infested Vehicular Combat game Blood Drive has Punk Rock frontman Bedlam and wrestler Superstar, who've both found new careers in zombie-splattering TV entertainment.
  • The Call of Duty Black Ops map "Call of the Dead" has this as its setup. George Romero is shooting a zombie movie on location in Siberia starring Robert Englund, Danny Trejo, Michael Rooker and Sarah Michelle Gellar (all played by themselves). Life Imitates Art, a real Zombie Apocalypse happens, Romero is zombified (and becomes the "King of the Zombies"), and now the four aforementioned actors must fight off wave after wave of the undead.
  • Augustus Cole from Gears of War was a famous Thrashball[1] player before Emergence Day. Dom and Marcus gush about him a bit when they first meet.

Web Comics

Web Original

  • In the second season of the zombie web series Bite Me, news reporter Rod Putman makes reference to a zombified Kirstie Alley going "off her diet... way off."
    • The main group also runs into one Monte St. Clair, a Roger Corman-esque horror movie producer who turns out to be responsible for the Zombie Apocalypse. In order to give his new zombie movie Evilution a killer gimmick to draw in crowds, he hired someone to develop The Virus so that he could put real zombies into the movie.

Real Life

  • After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, supermodel Petra Nemcova spent eight hours stuck in a tree.
  • Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, carrying the Old Christians Club rugby team from Montevideo, crashed in the Andes in 1972 on their way to Chile. The survivors spent 72 days in the Andean wilderness, and eventually had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Their experience was adapted into the film Alive!.
  • The only two survivors of a 2008 Learjet crash in South Carolina were Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker and celebrity DJ Adam "DJ AM" Goldman.
  • Fats Domino was rescued by the Coast Guard after being stranded in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.

Notes

  1. which looks like Arena Football
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