In the new NBC series Revolution—the product of an all-star team that includes Lost co-creator J.J. Abrams—the power has been turned off for 15 years. In effect, society has been set back more than a century, leaving people to grow their own food, make their own clothes (except for the occasional resilient AC/DC T-shirt), and travel by horse.
But luckily for humankind, it appears that a few specific vestiges of modern life somehow survived: hair styling tools. And running water. And hair care products.
Revolution falls into a trap that has plagued many a post-apocalyptic TV show and movie. Though the men may sport scraggly beards and 5 o’clock shadows, the women remain offensively well-coiffed.
The daughter of Revolution, Charlie (played by Tracy Spiridakos), wears carefully tousled waves with a hint of highlights. (OK, her character spends time in the sun, but come on.) Her Revolution hair doesn’t seem all that different from the glamour shot on her IMDB profile. And in the pilot, it is always loose, falling prettily over her shoulders, in the go-to style for post-apocalyptic TV shows and films. But if you’re hunting with a bow (or fighting with a sword), would you really want to risk the wind blowing strands in front of your eyes or getting tangled up in your equipment? At least Katniss kept her locks secured in that trademark braid.
Another Revolution character, Maggie, boasts the kind of springy curls that, in the wild, are usually found only on young children. Most of us with curly hair have to engage in lengthy morning rituals to look so presentable. Maggie, who apparently disappears from the show after a couple of episodes, certainly doesn’t have a diffuser. She probably doesn’t have a good deep conditioner, gel, or a microfiber towel, either. Just one female character we’re introduced to in the pilot—Grace, played by Maria Howell—wears her hair very short, close to the scalp. So where’s the frizz? The Road-style grime?
The same thing happened in Jericho, a show in which electricity was available only sporadically, but curling irons always seemed to work. In Falling Skies, not even alien invaders can keep a woman from getting highlights. (Admittedly, sometimes Falling Skies is a little more realistic.) In The Walking Dead, a zombie invasion is no reason not to give your hair a little Snookie-like bump—and yes, there are more too-perfect tousles, the kind of “effortless” look that actually requires a lot of effort and, again, a curling iron. I bet that the female characters of Revolution shave their legs, too.
Let me be clear: This is an utterly petty complaint. Of course women styled their hair before electricity—but even for those who could afford maids to do their hair, it probably didn’t look so glossy and split-end-free. Of course Hollywood execs don’t want their starlets to walk around with the stringy, greasy, frizzy messes that the Walking Dead zombies sport. But at the risk of reading too much into things, I believe that the insistence on perfect hair for female characters—as the guys, though a little too clean-looking, at least appear more rugged—demonstrates the persistent dominance of men in sci-fi.
Any sci-fi film or TV show about technology inevitably raises the question, Is this realistic? Could we really travel through time? Could the power go out for good? Could robots take over the world? Part of the fun of post-apocalyptic tales is thinking about how a cataclysmic event would change our lives in ways large and small. The occasional perfect smudge on a character’s cheek doesn’t cut it. Come a real apocalypse, I bet that pony-tail holders would be up there with alcohol and ammunition among among survivors’ most sought-after items. But I, for one, would probably just pull a Britney and shave it all off. With a non-electric razor, of course.