Carol and the End of the World is an adult animated Limited Netflix series with 10 episodes. It took me a while to decide watch it because I didn’t love the animation style but I am really glad that I did because I found it quite beautiful in it’s quiet message.
The end of the world is coming in a little other 7 months, when mysterious planet will hit the Earth. People have quit their jobs to work on their bucket lists and generally do whatever they want. Apparently, for a lot of people that means being nude.
Carol is a quiet lonely woman in her 40s struggling with the private shame of not knowing what is on her bucket list. She’s not excitement seeking “live life to the fullest” type of person, and she doesn’t dream of grand adventures and this makes her an outsider, even within her own family. She actually lies to her parents that she is learning to surf just to ease their anxiety.
One day she spots a lone woman dressed in a buses suit getting on the near empty morning train into the city. She follows her to a mysterious office accounting department, still full of people working and grinding through the old 9 to 5 routine. She joins them and finds comfort in the sense of purpose, even if nobody knows what exactly they are working on (some sort of vague numbers thing, which is very reminiscent of Severance!).
I can definitely empathise with Carol as a fellow soft voiced, reserved introvert who often feels invisible and struggles to be heard. I am also not thrill seeking (I’ve tried to enjoy rollercoasters, I’ve been on 3 or 4 and I just don’t like it!), and even as a student I wasn’t particularly into crazy partying! Often people can make you feel like a freak, or boring, if you all you want is a quiet stress free life.
I found this series strangely calming and meditative. It’s interesting, I never knew where it was going to go. It takes time to explore even the side characters to find the sadness and the joy in peoples lives.
I recommend giving it a shot.
Shame at the end of the world
I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s book I Thought it was Just Me about shame this week, and I started to recognise the role it played in Carol’s journey from isolation to finding small joys making new friends in the office.
The first obvious comparison is between Carol and her elderly parents, who are both so open and free from shame that they live in the nude in a throuple with her father’s male nurse. Towards the end it is mentioned they have been together for years so it may be either that the throuple predates the news about the end of the world or the end of the world has been coming for quite some time.
I also recognised a lot of shame in the office. They are all voluntarily going to this strange office doing work that nobody understand the purpose of, which to most people in this world is extremely weird. Their reasons for doing so – in most cases it seems loneliness and a rejection of the loud, crazy party everyone else is engaged in – probably make them feel ashamed.
The co-workers we eventually get to know are as isolated as Carol. Donna has a large family but she worked so much through their childhoods she doesn’t feel as connected to them as she wants to, and feels guilt and shame as a mother. Luis already spent his life travelling and partying and has found he has no real friends, something he lies to his mother about.
Shame (both a cause and symptom of loneliness) can be as painful to recognise in others as it is to experience ourselves, and so they had all been hiding at their silent desks. By acknowledging that they are people, by learning each others names, they can begin to see that they share something, and find connections and some comfort, and not have to face the end of the world alone.
What would I do at the end of the world?
I have felt lonely, isolated and invisible as Carol does. I’ve felt that nobody is paying attention or would miss me. I’ve craved a close friend that’s there to share things with. Maybe in those days I would have found comfort in the an office like Carol does. In fact one of my reasons for taking my new job was the opportunity for more social contact in a larger team and 1-2 days in an office, and that honestly has made a huge improvement to my life.
But, I am not a routine driven person (hence my struggles to form habits!) and if the end of the world was coming at this stage in my life I wouldn’t be looking to go into work! I like my job but it’s just work to pay the bills. If I could stop working I would, and I’d happily spend my time on all my creative endeavours.
If the world was ending in 7 months I’d spent time with my partner, my cats, my friends and family, and working on my embroidery, writing and art. I’d want to make as much as I could and try to deepen my connections.
I can’t take time off work to work on creative things, but I should (and am) trying to work on making better connections with people. I can recognise that side of Carol in myself.
What would you do if the world was going to end in 7 months?