World War III Themes In Contemporary Pop Culture Part I

The portrayal of World War III in contemporary works of fiction and movies is notably different from those works produced in the last decade of the Cold War. The fall of the Soviet Union 1991 ushered in a quiet period on the WWIII front that lasted through the next fifteen years with a handful of exceptions. In the last half of the 2000s a new generation of WWIII-themed books and movies gradually started to appear. These works were decidedly different from those of the Red Storm Rising/Red Dawn era of the 1980s. Back then, the look and feel of a Third World War had been clearly defined in the minds of readers and viewers. A conventional war would likely be centered on a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict in Europe with a considerable risk of escalation tossed in. A WWIII fought with nuclear weapons was expected to either come from either a conventional war in Europe or perhaps the Persian Gulf that escalated uncontrollably, or from a bolt-out-of-the-blue surprise first strike by the Soviet Union that escalated to the point where cities were being vaporized.

The Global War on Terror provided much of the fuel for techno-thrillers and action movies from 2001 through 2010 and beyond. Plots and narratives surrounding a global war, or the prospect of one faded, only to be replaced largely by the enemy at the time: Islamic terrorist groups. Novel and movie plots during this time period were centered on preventing terrorists from detonating a weapon of mass destruction inside a major US city. With Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden clones assuming the roles of antagonists, it was only natural for the heroes to be US special operations team members, CIA officers, or a hybrid combination of the two. Pop culture of the time followed the tenor of the times, it usually does as a rule. WWIII-themed works were few and far between in these years, and were generally lacking in many ways.

In Part II of this post, we’ll take a look at the progression of WWIII novels and movies from 2007 through the present day. A few of these works will be placed under the microscope to examine in order to determine what was done right and what areas were lacking. I had planned to do that this evening, but am being forced to cut this post a bit short. Apologies. My transition to the larger publishing house is underway and I was stuck in meetings all day.

As for the cover photo up above…..I was given this book as a gift a few months ago. Just started getting into it. Might be worth a review down the line. 😊

7 Replies to “World War III Themes In Contemporary Pop Culture Part I”

  1. So eager to hear more.

    My personal term for this kind of thriller is “shoot the terrorist”. Like all cheap thrillers, it can be good if handled well, but it’s not a “Big War Thriller” (my term for the classic-style WW3 novels) at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interested to see what you have to say on this front. The three most recent books I found on this subject: Fall of Night, Red Metal and War with Russia were all fairly disappointing to me. Like the attempted reboot of Twilight 2000 in 2013, they ended up making a mess of their story that begged credibility in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Red Metal I was planning to devote a couple paragraphs to. War With Russia was a disappointment. Kind of like a modern Third World War but written by a lazy author. 🙂

      I’ve read up on the 2013 reboot. They really did make a mess of the story. My Lord!

      Liked by 1 person

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