Saturday, November 10, 2012


It is an axiom that monsters are a representation of the things we fear about ourselves or the fears we carry about others. One way we wrestle with our fears is through literature and film about monsters. Monster movies tend to reflect--in veiled form--what is causing anxiety in our culture (in that sense they are very similiar to the ancient Jewish genre of writing known as Apocalyptic, of which the Biblical Book of Revelation is an example).

Some sociologists have postulated that the popularization of zombies as the "monster de jour" (beginning with Richard Matheson's amazing 1954 book I Am Legend--which bears little resemblance to the crappy Will Smith movie of the same name) can be directly correlated to American consumerism (zombies have an insatiable need to consume the living, and think of the absurd scenes in George Romero's Dawn of the Dead in which zombies wander aimlessly through a shopping mall as muzak plays in the background). Zombie apocalypses also depict our fear of societal collapse as the "others" threaten to take over. And, of course, there is the basic human terror of death (as well as aging--which is feared by some as a form degeneration or living decay). In recent years there have been been a spate of zombie films that have a decidedly satirical political subtext; where mindless zombie hordes represent conservatives. I wonder if this will be the subtext of Brad Pitt's new zombie movie, World War Z (or perhaps it will be immigration--another example of the "other" that we fear will overrun us).

I rarely watch horror/monster/zombie movies anymore--I can't take the voyeurism and violence and gore, which have become extreme--but I am intrigued about the subtext of a film called Cold Body, Warm Heart in which zombies--motivated by love--begin to "cure" themselves and come back to life. I can't help but think that there is an underlying commentary here about the dissatisfaction with consumerism; an awareness of the isolation and alienation our entertainment culture has led us to; and our cultural movement towards accepting others who are different from us and who perhaps we previously thought of as monsters. Instead of people becoming zombies, the zombies are becoming people--no longer to be feared.


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