Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

10Feb/07Off

Apparently I’m Not The Only One In The World Paying Attention..

I really ought to read more book reviews. They're one of the few forms of journalism that I actually find engaging even when they pay a little too much attention to press releases than the meat of what they aim to evaluate reviews are often more entertaining and seemingly free critics up to do absolutely insane things like pay close critical attention to the artifacts of pop culture. One of the nicest parts about reviews is the language they typically use (and I'm talking about newspaper and glossy magazine reviews here and not the stuff in peer-reviewed academic journals where fear of taking academically incorrect positions can blunt what would otherwise be insightful) which is simplified and avoids couching itself too deeply in theory jargon because, hey, we're all stupid products of media saturation and shouldn't be smothered with shop talk, right? I'm not even sure where the sarcasm is going there but nonetheless I'm much more likely to read a review that dumbs it down a little than something encapsulated in the assumption of shared fields of study. It makes me feel like I can stray into areas and topics that I'm not already on a first name basis with.

What is even more rewarding is the occasional serious consideration of a topic often relegated to the trash can of popular culture that I'm familiar and a little infatuated with. Using horror movies as the jumping off point for making points is something I am all too familiar with. That is probably why I enjoyed this article in Reason so much. It takes a topic that I'm completely geeky about (zombie movies in case you don't know me or have never visited here before) and they are also the mythological milieu that I most often use when trying to analogize group dynamics (yes, stupid, I know) and speculate about how human social structure holds up under human nature run amok. Believe it or not, this is pretty frequently because I'm not a big believer in the essential goodness of people.

The celluloid zombie outbreak just seems like a logical albeit unrealistic extrapolation of that cynicism. George Romero is the big gun when it comes to this sort of social criticism and often the least subtle. You would have to be an idiot not to notice the themes that all of his movies club you over the head with. Only his zombie movies really work in this sense because the backdrop is the most interesting. Bruiser (one of his most clumsy attempts at social criticism) sounds interesting in concept but it makes for a godawful train wreck of a movie that shambles aimlessly yet pointless but yields only shrugs and disappointment. I think this has to do the lack of realism shown in the portrayal of human characters (protagonists?) in the other movies while the Dead movies are all about human relationships, social structure and hierarchy, and how we might really interact with our peers if the world was really fucked.

The living dead are just the messengers in these movies which makes them frightening, pitiable, and really scary in concept even when they're played comically. Walking corpses are just the delivery mechanism of the sickness, hatred, and isolation that was always there but inhibited by social pressure. Duh. The small cast of characters and the claustrophobic environments they are necessarily confined to brings their interactions and failures into much sharper focus. I, being the obsessive idiot preoccupied with trashy stuff instead of vitamin-rich tedium, tend to overuse scenarios and stretch the interpretations possible in these scenarios out like taffy. It's good to know that I'm not alone in this. I'm going to order a copy of Pretend We’re Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture because although I might not be entirely sold on socialist criticism anymore than I am on libertarian ideas being dragged into areas where they probably don't belong (read: pretty much anywhere other than a small room in a student union filled with trust fund babies) the use of the horror movie as a basis for criticism of other aspects of life is always a potential wellspring of enthusiasm. Yes, I get excited about the things you chuckle absently about and I'm okay with that.

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