On Wednesday morning, millions of residents up the Western coast awoke to skies painted anywhere from burnt orange to blood red. The past weeks have seen an unprecedented, horrifying proliferation of wildfires, with California reporting a nearly 2000% increase in the acres burned year-to-date from last year. Details are scant on how all of these began, but we know that one California wildfire was caused by “a smoke generating pyrotechnic device, used during a gender reveal party.” By Wednesday, the El Dorado fire had burned more than 11,400 acres and was just 19% contained, per the San Bernardino National Forest.
These events have garnered something of a reputation, with two explosive reveal parties in recent years leading to devastating fires. Besides preserving the mythical gender binary and functioning as gaudy spectacles for the attention-starved young parents, these things are incredibly dangerous in a tangible way to their own communities. In 2017, an off-duty Border Patrol agent in Arizona set the land ablaze, when an explosive blue cloud gave way to $8 million in property damage.
Even if they don’t lead to the worst case scenario, a lo-fi gender reveal party is still a fairly strange and backwards thing to host. Whether it’s slicing through a cake or releasing balloons from a box, the primary function is to…tell friends and family which genre of gifts to buy the kid along extremely gendered lines? The explosive events take on a new grade of sociopathy, but it’s a mere extension of one of the century’s strangest new institutions. Those who’ve launched into mass panic over looting and property destruction to arise after a small minority of Black Lives Matter protests surprisingly haven’t taken the same urgency toward gender reveal parties which, when paired with the omnipresent aid of climate catastrophe, can lay wreckage to countless property and forestation.
So, when confronted with a non-theoretical apocalypse, the poster’s promise is to do nothing more than meme through it with levity. Now understood as a threat to civilization, gender reveal parties took on a reliable meme format into the week of fresh hells. You’d have your pop culture referencing shots, with pandemonium on the Star Trek’s Enterprise and Hereditary’s immolation chalked up to gender reveals. Stock art of atomic bombs, planet-engulfing fireballs, and even the dinosaurs’ extinction. (My personal favorite is also my favorite Succession scene, which finds Roman watching his rocket launch go up in flames, alone from the bathroom.)
However trite an observation at this point, the gender reveal memes add to the mountain of evidence that I am so much more desensitized to existential doom than the movies promised. The relative urgency and competency promised by pandemic films like Outbreak and Contagion certainly missed the mark in how our government would respond, and relegate the population to a too-unified spectator. Yes, bring on the big meteor culture wars, but also a disaffected public that just keeps working through the burning world. It has to be weirder that literally red skies are just one of like four major news stories clogging the airwaves and not something to stop the country dead in its tracks.