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Do we think too much?

I’ve finished another glorious book of essays about the meanings of zombies, movies and post-humanism. But I’ve stumbled across another book (apart from another one I want to buy) that questions all the research I’m reading and planning on doing.

In Combined and Uneven Apocalypse by Evan Calder Williams, the author questions critiques of zombie works for over-reading the text. Some of the analysis, he says, is not really in-depth but just pointing out what happens in the movie and only a surface interpretation. E.g. Dawn of the Dead being totally about consumerism because zombies are in the mall or an African-American dies by a redneck, therefore the text about race.

“Simply because a film seems to point out problems of social inequality does not mean that it is a radical film, or even one that is therefore ‘smarter’ and more aware than those films hell-bent on entertainment, social critique be damned.”

So I’m trying to think about this and my own work deeper, but I’m not sure how it’s going. Directors of some zombie movies had spoken in interviews about how the movie and zombies are very deliberately placed to examine 9/11 or consumerism or race or whatever. Dawn of the Dead is not just about consumerism because the zombies are in the mall, but about how the humans interact with being in the mall too. Maybe I’m not reading this bit properly.

I’ve seen the ‘reading too much into things’ directed at scholars and reviewers before. Is it always about the author’s intention? One of my favourites, I kissed a zombie and I liked it by Adam Selzer, has zombies reborn through the magic of a big supershop wanting free slave labour. Asking the author on twitter (ages ago) if it was relating to the original Haitian zombies as plantation slaves, he said he wanted a good reason to have zombies in our world. Does this mean that we shouldn’t read into the whole Walmart-like business wanting to use people (or zombies) for their benefit?

You can check out a review of this book here and a preview of the book here.

Vampire love can be nothing but tragic

We all know zombies are far superior boyfriends than vampires.  Vampires are pushing, demanding, patronising, cruel and have a very twisted idea of love. Zombies never want their loved one to lose their independence or give up their dreams because of them. Zombies don’t require the human to convert to zombiism, and don’t encourage it. Zombies love you for you!

And of all the terrible vampires to have as a boyfriend, Edward from Twilight takes the sparkle. He is straight out abusive, as is the other love interest in the series, “Shirts chafe” Jacob. There are so many academics who pick apart the Twilight series for its screwed-up-ness, and perhaps the scariest thing of all is that people see this cruel relationship rife with domestic violence and domination as a relationship to crave!

One of the things I love about the world and humanity is our insane curiosity and desire for meaning which leads us to such incredible in-depth analysis. A book is never just a book! Bordieu said something about art (which I got from an art class at uni, but can’t find the direct quote), that art styles do not develop independently but rather they develop out of particular social interests. Can anything created be separated completely from the context in which it was created (not meaning everything is a direct analogy)?

Anyway, the main thing I wanted to share was this awesome analytical piece of the Twilight series (ignoring all the horrors of the English language that take place within) about how it’s really a tragedy of the loss of who Bella is, her soul. It’s a very well done piece, and I not-so-secretly wish the author would write a whole thesis on it (I’m a geek, I know it, and I don’t care who knows it!)

Read it here on Reddit!

Beyond fear

Horror is way of confronting reality we are too freaked out by to see in realistic ways. A movie on 9/11 would be incredibly traumatising for viewers. A movie using zombies harassing humans is still scary but gives us the sense that the fear isn’t so close to home. This is talked about in many essays and books, about many genres of many types of media. Nothing new here! Same could be said for romance even!

Escapism is a cheap excuse for some people to explain away genres, such as fantasy. Who would want to escape into a ruined world under constant threat? Frankly, a perfect world would be boring. Why create or build or do anything when there is nothing to accomplish? It reminds me of 7 of 9’s speech in Voyager “May all her desires be fulfilled except for one, so she’ll always have something to strive for.”

(The only thing I don’t like about Cracked, their videos don’t embed in WordPress – but check out this video)
Why The Star Trek Universe is Secretly Horrifying — powered by Cracked.com

Pain and fear gives us the nudge to strive beyond ourselves. It is exemplified in wartime particularly, when radical new technologies are created that change the way we exist. From radars in the blitz, to the microwave. Threats to our survival force us to innovate. It is more than inspiration, it’s a need.

Different genres move into the fore or adapt as what we need or fear changes. Sometimes we don’t need zombies, maybe? They represent a tangible fear, something we can fight and survive even though the odds are terrible. Communism, terrorism, it is feared these hide in our society and will infect our friends, our families. We don’t always have a face for war or evil or fear, sometimes we do. Usually war doesn’t stop when that one face is gone. Zombies are the perfect expression. We fear so much in our tiny lives, from the global to the individual. When our loved ones fight us, is it them, or just a soulless corpse? How could we ever tell if they can or can’t be brought back to what they used to be?

Just a few thoughts, anyway.

The Uncanny

The Uncanny is a term very much used with zombie fiction, coming from Freud’s work. It’s about something so familiar and yet inherently wrong. Roboticist Masahiro Mori developed this further and designed the Uncanny Valley. We as humans can handle dolls or cartoons that emulate humans, but when we start getting to human-like robots, that’s the Uncanny Valley in which we are just straight grossed out and reject what we see. As the robots get more and more human with looks and reactions, we are more positive until a certain point and our reaction to it becomes complete revulsion.

I’ve only just started looking into the Uncanny and have more research to do, but that’s the basics of it.You can see zombies at the far bottom of the uncanny valley. You see a person you love, a person you know, but they are no longer who they once were. They are after your flesh. That screws with our perceptions. Some people have a similar reaction with mannequins (I have a mate who can hardly stand mannequins. They just freak him out.)

Here’s a video for funsies: