Monday, October 09, 2006

Zombies Represent National Fear of Terrorism

From The Daily Athenaeum:
by Kevin Shap
The Pitt News (U. Pittsburgh)

Lousy, good-for-nothing terrorists. As if it isn't enough that al-Qaida do annoying stuff like blow up train stations and fly airplanes into buildings, they've now decided to hit us where it hurts: in our horror movies.
This was a hypothesis I read in The New York Times Sunday Styles section - their motto being, "Look at these rich, rich, socially connected people who are getting married. Envy them! Envy!" The argument was that horror movies are a sort of a Rorschach test for the national unconscious, and this test is coming up positive for terrorist influences.

Seriously, let's look at the evidence we have before us. Horror movies are a cyclical thing. Certain themes tend to dominate. What this theory suggests is that the monster that dominates the box office is the monster that represents the national fear.

The vampire, always my favorite, enjoyed a brief blood-soaked reign in the late '80s/early '90s. Perhaps there were other horror films at the time - probably dreary sequels with terrible one-liners and half-naked teenagers - but the undead were enjoying a moment in the pop culture spotlight.

Look at what Americans were afraid of and obsessed with in the late '80s/early '90s. AIDS, a blood-borne and incurable virus that was striking the young and turning sex into death, was raging uncontrolled in this time period, still stigmatized as a gay disea se and still viewed as a death sentence. Androgyny was falling off Calvin Klein billboards to appear in malls, transforming the hearts and minds of the American youth. And the combined 12 years of two Republican regimes had produced an angry alternative generation that demanded a different lifestyle than that of the noxious money- and cocaine-addled yuppies of the '80s.

The vampire boom had to happen because the vampire image - bloodsucking, overtly sexual, frequently homoerotic and decadent in a decidedly non-bourgeois manner - dovetailed perfectly with that period in time. It's just like the big werewolf movie boom of the '80s. Everyone then was obsessed with money - greed was legendarily good - and yet everyone felt bad about being greedy. The '80s were a time when no one felt comfortable with what they were doing, so a monster that lived in a constant state of duality was born, one part good human, one part raging id that did whatever it needed to, no matter what the circumstances.

Terrorism is what we worry about nowadays - the exterior threat instead of the interior. No one cares about AIDS - Bill Gates will come up with a vaccine, right? - so what do we worry about? We worry about terrorists. And that's why we have zombie movies.

Zombies, as the article pointed out, are the ultimate stand-in for terrorism because they do not signal that the system is under attack, they symbolize that the system has been destroyed. If you call the police, there is no response. The police can become the zombies. The ability to survive the zombie lies mostly in how many boards one can use to reinforce the doors of the house in which one is making a last, desperate stand. Zombies are fear and, as such, are a lovely stand-in for the forces that menace our society.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dr. Oogie Waterhouse said...

Interesting post. Sounds like a bunch of phony-baloney psycho-babble to me. What did the movies mean 10 years ago. 20? Oh all the sudden NOW they represent terrorists to the unconcious minds of the public!

-keep the posts coming!

10 October, 2006  
Blogger Zombie-A-GoGo said...

I don't think it's entirely phony-baloney psycho-babble. :) I don't know if zombie films had quite the popularity they do right now 10 or 20 years ago. Certainly not 10 years ago. 20 years ago is 'round about the tail-end of it's "Golden Age." Zombie movies have never been this big--not to my knowledge. They coincided with our War on Terror. It's kind of hard not to draw some conclusions based on that. I wouldn't say that terrorism started the trend, but I do think that continually generated fear and especially the nuclear threats as of late, do fuel the fire for zombie films (as apocalyptic films), just as horror trends in the past have reflected the world we were in.

11 October, 2006  
Anonymous dragonlady474 said...

I've always kind of seen zombies as a form of the spiritually dead. No chance for redemption, you know what I mean? That's part of what makes them scary to me, and the fact that you can't reason with them, and there is no compassion in their dead eyes. Kind of like politicians, only they smell better. lol

12 October, 2006  

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