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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive » zombies

zombies

We the Living Dead – The convoluted politics of zombie cinema

Ever since George Romero’s genre-creating Night of the Living Dead in 1968, and especially since Romero’s overtly political 1978 masterpiece Dawn of the Dead, highbrow revolutionary theorizing has stalked this graveyard of lowbrow pleasures. In his 1979 study The American Nightmare: Essays on the Horror Film, the esteemed cineaste Robin Wood declared that the zombie’s cannibalism “represents the ultimate in possessiveness, hence the logical end of human relations under capitalism.” J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum’s 1983 study Midnight Movies called Night of the Living Dead “a remarkable vision of the late sixties, offering the most literal possible depiction of America devouring itself.” In a later reappraisal, a Village Voice critic explained that “the zombie carnage seemed a grotesque echo of the conflict then raging in Vietnam.”

The film historian Sumiko Higashi went completely around the bend in a 1990 essay, declaring, “There are no Vietnamese in Night of the Living Dead.…They constitute an absent presence whose significance can be understood if narrative is construed.” As subsequent genre pictures, trailing titles like Zombi 2 and Zombie Flesh Eaters 3, ate their way through America’s VCRs, Wood elaborated his original claims, averring in his 1986 book Hollywood From Vietnam to Reagan that the living dead “represent, on a metaphorical level, the whole dead weight of patriarchal consumer capitalism, from whose habits of behavior and desire not even Hare Krishnas and nuns…are exempt.” Take a bite out of that.

Fuck yeah. Yet another reason to read Reason.

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