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Master slave dialectic and the Zombie as colonial metaphor @TheLMagazine

October 4, 2012

Aaron Cutler at The L Magazine writes “Serve the Servants: White Zombie” a review of the classic 1932 movie White Zombie (the first American movie to use the word).

Cutler explains:

There’s a history of the zombie film as colonial metaphor.

Citing both Bela Lugosi’s White Zombie and “Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie (1942) and its Portuguese remake, Pedro Costa’s Casa de Lava (1994)”:

the black undead serve as living reminders of crumbling white patriarchal control. They hulk through areas full of workers and servants, and though they, too, seem to be serving their masters, that same appearance of mindlessness makes you wonder whether they would hesitate to revolt.

whereas in contrast,

on Haiti, the zombies are mainly former high society members. The local witch doctor Murder Legendre (a grinning, word-savoring Béla Lugosi) introduces each of his workers: the wealthy doctor, the Minister of the Interior, and the High Executioner, each of whom once posed a threat to this mystery man, all of whom now follow his lead. They’ve been robbed of their souls, then taken from their graves and put to labor in the local sugarcane mill; we watch them bent over as they push the wheels forward and hear the floorboards creak from the sounds of their heavy feet. “They work gratefully,” says Legendre. “They are not worried about long hours.” He has made them slaves by removing their free wills.

concluding, dialectically:

even a master is only a man, and can be enslaved like any other. In time, Legendre stares at his former foe, now a zombie, and just another mindless worker. “So I see that you refuse to shake hands,” he says to the rich man. “We understand each other better now.”

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From → Academics

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