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Derek Blanton Project 4-5

Page history last edited by Derek Blanton 12 years, 5 months ago

"When there is no more room in hell, the dead shall walk the earth" ~Dawn of the Dead






Take a moment to imagine this scenario: You wake up one morning and turn on your television. You see that the economy has a turn for the worse, war and disease has broken out in massive proportions, and the government has been lying to you about it all the entire time. Oh, and there is also one more detail, the dead has risen and started walking the Earth. Although this scenario seems a bit farfetched, do all of these problems seem completely unlikely? It seems as if the Pop culture zombie phenomenon of today has sociopolitical subject matter that is both significant and prominent in our culture in a couple of ways as its shaping people’s perspectives of society and making us subconsciously aware of the problems that our culture faces. This genre secretly appeals to our cerebral senses and depicts many of our fears, shortcomings, and problems as a society, yet we do not realize that is does so. Does this mean that this is a bad thing? Not necessarily, on the contrary, it seems as though this phenomena has taken a turn for the best. I will make an attempt to analyze the zombie pop-culture epidemic and discuss why it is an important vehicle for social discourse. My audience will consist of individuals who are fans of the zombie pop culture phenomenon and those who are unaware to the subliminal shots that the media takes at Americans. I will support my analysis through in-depth evaluations of zombie pop-culture such as film, with a specific focus on the works of George A. Romero, i.e. Dawn of The Dead.

Every time we watch a zombie film, what do we notice first and foremost? Large masses of brain-dead beings shambling around causing violence, spreading disease, igniting wars, and consuming everything in their paths. At a glance these images only seem like a terrifying prospect, but you know that all of these images that you are viewing are simply fictional and has never and can never happen, right? Well take a closer look; do you notice anything familiar in anything you see on that screen? If you do, then it’s possible that you recognize some of the things that these "zombies" are doing are quite similar to your habits. It seems as if every piece of zombie pop culture that comes out is loosely based on the world that we live in (mainly America) and all its problems. Zombie films have become the “go-to” guy when you want to say something in a subtle manner. These films house all sorts of problems in society both past, present and future such as disease, death, consumerism, militarism, distrust of government, dehumanization, social inequality, racism, and capitalism, and film directors such as one of the most renowned directors of the genre such as George A. Romero seem to take these political satires and create them into movies under the facade of horror. The zombies become more than they are, they are essentially based on us. All they are doing is consuming both in a metaphorical and literal sense. That has started to become all that we as Americans are known for. These mindless, undead, ravenous masses have become our undead counterparts, our dehumanized doppelgangers.


            The Zombie film has always been a one of a kind genre. While most horror films are simply mindless entertainment intent on scaring us, the zombie genre has been the one that has the ability to make its audience think and scream at the same time. One of the first filmmakers, who became truly successful in making audiences think as well as satirizing the American psyche, was George A. Romero with Night of The Living Dead in 1968. His groundbreaking film was shot during both the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and was later viewed as a metaphor for both the horrors of the Vietnam war and the civil inequality of the 1960s His film paved the rubric for almost every piece of zombie pop culture today. In Night of The Living Dead, 7 complete strangers are forced to work together when the dead rise again and prey on all living things with a mindless vigor. This movie was laces with themes of racial tension and consumerism. The hero of this entire movie was the sole black character, and at this time in the century (1960s) racial tension was a supreme factor in America, and having an intelligent, strong, black man being portrayed as the main hero AND the sole survivor was a concept that was unheard of at this time. Romero used this character to make social commentaries on the racial injustices of the decade, and this was a great symbolism at the time, especially since this movie was filmed around the time that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Along with this theme of race relations, Romero also alluded to the problems of consumerism taking over our society as well as socioeconomic statuses by having rich looking zombies as well as poor looking ones. Just a decade after filming Night of the Living Dead, which set the standards for zombie films, Romero released Dawn of the Dead. This movie will be the primary example that I will use to further support my analysis. In Dawn of the Dead, survivors of the zombie apocalypse take refuge in an indoor shopping mall. Romero successfully tackles a number of subject matters; consumerism, capitalism, greed, militarism, patriarchy, and distrust of the government. The militarism and distrust of government become evident in the opening scenes of the movie, where the new stations and government officials tell the masses that everything is going to be ok and everything is under control, when in reality that was entirely wrong. Along with that symbolism, Romero uses a shopping mall to symbolize consumerism and capitalism and greed. The zombies, although no longer alive, begin migrating to the shopping mall; as if some instinct is telling them that they need to be there. Scenes from the movie portrayed the zombies mindlessly shuffling through the mall while obnoxious mall music plays casually in the background. Images like these causes the audience to ask “How exactly is any of this different from what these people did when they were still living?” It is as if we can’t escape consumerism even after death. In later parts of the film, the zombies inside of it have been disposed of and all of the things that the survivors desired have been looted from the surrounding stores, they have nothing else to do. Their once safe escape from the terrifying reality has turned into a prison; the survivors cannot go outside without fear of being consumed. They have given into the consumerism so much that the capitalism aspect comes into play. They have given into capitalisms ideal that if they are not happy, then all they need are more material things.


            Why has the zombie become so significant in pop culture over the past decade?  It has become an important staple in films, but as the zombie phenomenon broadens, it has begun to incorporate many other arguments about society in ways that allow them to be relative to the time and keep people interested in them. The horror industry as a whole has always been used to criticize the problems of society and the world in films, but the zombie genre in has begun to make a more powerful imprint with it being ported to videogames, books, and televisions now. Zombies are no longer forced to remain on the silver screen; their symbolism has made it far past that. Books that were once classics have been revamped with zombie laced themes and have more political subtext of both the time that the books were released as well as the present. One example of such a feat would be Pride and Prejudice: Zombies, which is a parody of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The story generally follows the plot of the original, but it is taken place in an alternate universe, and the addition of the zombies only alters the original plot of the story in subtle ways. Although it may seem like a gimmick to cash in on the zombie craze, since Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was released, it has allowed for a younger generation of people as well as older ones to have a newfound and renewed appreciation of Jane Austen’s language, characters, and situations, which is a feat that is both unexpected and celebrated, and something that only this genre can accomplish.

            Zombies are becoming more prominent than ever before in pop culture, this goes especially in the gaming industry. Although the basic idea of a zombie in games isn’t new, with the advancement of technology and culture, they have more stories to tell and more ways to be portrayed than ever. Being the main character in a zombie game basically puts you directly in the moment. Although it is not actual reality, you, in a way, experience the event that play out throughout the game and in turn has a more profound effect on our psyches and reinforces our fears as well as truly making us think about what is going on in the game. Games like Left 4 Dead, the Resident Evil series, Dead Rising, and Dead Island all put people directly in the midst of a zombie apocalypse, and makes them think in order to act and react so they can progress in the games. Along with this critical thinking, players can start to realize some of the subtle things that are being said and done in the game that mimic real life culture and are a bit satirical. For example both the Resident Evil series and Left 4 Dead take shots at the government and the nations distrust of it; in Resident Evil a conglomerate government owned corporation start the zombie virus, make it worse, and attempt to lie and cover it for the media and Left 4 Dead hints that the government doesn’t care about our well-being, as long as all threats are somewhat contained.  Dead Rising takes a Romero-ish turn, and takes place in a mall, and throughout the entire game it takes shots at consumerist habits. The player cannot hope to beat the game unless he/she continues to use more and more items in the mall that is the only way of progression.




 What can be done to help increase knowledge of both the zombie phenomenon and the underlying problems that it presents? Well maybe there can be more high school, or even college courses that use this one of a kind genre as a vehicle to help young students get acquainted to critical thinking, analysis, rhetorical situations, and discussions of the problems that people face in society every day. Though the idea may seem ludicrous, would it necessary prove so? The answer is no. It was already proven that through Pride and Prejudice and Zombies that zombies can prove useful in introducing ideas to people. One English professor Arnold Blumberg has introduced courses at the University of Baltimore teaches classes on zombies. The courses main parts are to study zombie films in hopes of creating one, and the others are based on the critical analysis of the sociopolitical problems that lie in the subtext of most zombie movies. This could prove to be very useful in helping students make the transitions to their first year of college or even beyond it. In conclusion, zombies will always be an important staple in American society and should be celebrated and given more attention. They all show us our deepest rooted fears, which aren’t so deep at all



Works Cited

Works Cited projext 4.docx


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