Zombies attack during a bleeding economy

by Alicia Rudnicki, Library Mix

Apocalypse yow! Hollywood’s latest Halloween treat of gore, Zombieland, is a surprisingly hilarious tale about a world gone mad from a horrible virus. Nearly everyone in this tragicomic tale has turned into a gut-ripping carnivore of the worst sort.

Coast-to-coast wreckage
In Zombieland, the few healthy (physically, that is) folk who wander the coast-to-coast wreckage of America find increasingly inventive ways to dispatch their plenitude of zombie attackers.

As anyone knows who has read a zombie novel or watched a zombie movie, these bullies from the great beyond may have strong jaws, but they perambulate poorly. Since they’re lousy at walking, let alone running, zombies are always on the lookout for easy prey. Right now, they love the smell of our bleeding economy.

With its “R” rating for plentiful gore and bad language and despite the presence of tween Abigail Breslin in a leading role, Zombieland isn’t intended for pre-teens and younger teenagers. At least, that is the optimistic assessment. It is, instead, a fantasy suitable for adults who are frustrated with our nation’s slower-than-a-zombie economic recovery. Who doesn’t want to beat this New Depression with a stick or something worse? There is something pleasing about watching Woody Harrelson and crew wiping out a big problem.

A cathartic experience
My husband and I left the movie theater in amazement at how all the evisceration, bludgeoning, and blasé jokes amid non-stop violence could add up to such a cathartic experience. We smiled all the way home at the absurdity of the situation. “Nut up or shut up,” we giggled, repeating the mantra of  Harrelson’s wacky redneck character, Tallahassee.

Just two hours before, we had sat in stone silence in the car as we drove to the theatre. I could tell that although he was being a good guy by going to the movie with me, my husband was really steaming about having to spend his evening with the undead.

Not long ago, I would never have imagined going to a zombie movie. But then I became interested in the question of why vampire novels are so abundant. Vampires led to werewolves, which led in turn to zombies.

Jane Austen zombified
Then, all of a sudden, it seemed like zombies were all around me from teen fiction to online zombie game arcades and from movies to cultural commentary. In mid-summer, while perusing Craigslist, I noticed that the online publisher for which I was writing had advertised for “zombie examiners” even though there were already a few writers with that job title. Here I was, the only “library examiner” out of thousands of writers and what they really needed were more  zombie reporters.

Not only that, but I decided that Jane Austen must be leaping out of her grave, because of publication of the  2009 novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I must admit that I’ve heard it is a romp.

It is difficult to be serious when writing about zombies. Witness Lev Grossman’s cheeky analysis of our current plague in his Time magazine article, “Zombies are the New Vampires.”

Zombies exemplify American values
Here’s how Grossman sums up the questionable charm of these shambling lowlifes: “If there’s a social hierarchy among monsters, zombies are not at the top of the list. They may not even be on the list. They’re not cool like werewolves. There’s no Warren Zevon song about them. They’re not classy like Dracula and Frankenstein, who can trace their lineage back to respectable 19th century novels.”

Then Grossman really hits unholy paydirt when he identifies the zombie as “the official monster of the recession” who exemplifies “real American values” such as tenacity. “You can cut off his limbs and he’ll keep on coming atcha,” he writes.

Grossman and other journalists also note that horror fiction blossoms in times of political stress, such as the Vietnam War, when George Romero popularized zombies in his movie, Night of the Living Dead. Based on the focus on infection in Zombieland, it may also be that vampire and zombie movies play to our fear of other  very real threats such as the H1N1 swine flu.

So as my husband and I drove home in a far more relaxed mood, and blythely discussed the pandemic of zombies in popular culture, I suggested, “Blame it on the economy. Blame it on the times.”

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