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Five European writer-theme-influences of Zombies

March 18, 2013

Zombies are a Hollywood amalgamation of Haitian/West-African voodoo mythology and other older European themes. Some of the other themes are from Western literature, particularly European literature. Here is an arbitrary list of five European themes that have merged with Zombies.

1) Death Monsters – Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Werewolves

Bela Lugosi’s prominence in the first American “zombie” movie, “White Zombie”, immediately situates the word in the character family of Lugosi and his contemporaries like Boris Karloff and Lon Cheney. These monster characters become part of a family of Hollywood monsters. The zombie evolved with George Romero’s influence but it remained withing the B-movie cult horror genre of Halloween monsters. While distinct from vampires and mere re-animated corpses (even Ancient Greece had those), zombie are the same fears related to death and blood and eating people and questioning the dualism of traditional norms regarding limits of definitions (animals, race, gender, sexuality, life itself, humanity writ large)

2) Community memory – Charles Dickens and Marcel Proust

Christmas Carol has zombies, ghosts that haunt Scrooge while Tiny Tim and his family huddle by the fire. Don’t be a zombie scrooge, give out turkeys to your employees for Christmas. And with Marcel Proust recall the slightest taste and rush back to childhood memory. The inescapable zombie of time’s disappearance interrupted by a cookie to bring at once the demons of a long forgotten pasts and future possibilities (humor at the parallel to an internet cookies and lost privacy).

3) Totalitarian Prague – The Golem and Franz Kafka’s paranoid delusions

No city better embodies because the castle remind of Romanian vampires and the city had minority persecution across history. The ancient myth of Golem, a mindless worker created from clay to protect, becomes a danger to the whole community (beware the cure). And Kafka’s character in “Metamorphosis” literally becomes a hideous giant cockroach monster creature – and in “The Trial” persecuted by an unknown governing authority. Reminiscent of the TV show “The Prisoner” and consider that the “number one” governing order is and always has been ourselves – Czechoslovakia isn’t far from Vienna where Freud will invent the super-ego – intended to protect it too becomes monster.

4) Horrors of War – “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Heart of Darkness”

No continent could be more instructive to the horror of war than Europe and the trenches of WW1 – fought by European nations in Colonial Africa and experienced by natives occupied by colonial forces, earlier sold into slavery – and thus we’ve come full circle to the same sugar workers from Haiti mentioned above. I digress; War, that horror of swarms of men covered in mustard gas, their skin melting off. The sheer carnage of that war created a lost generation. Devastation in towns across Europe, WW1 was an apocalypse as war always is; “War is Hell”… the horror! the horror! – now we use drones, but the simulated horror isn’t any better.

5) Dialectics of psychoanalytic-history: Marx and Hegel with Derrida, Lacan and Deleuze

History repeats itself. Hegel showed Science of Logic in cyclical Becoming. Systematic bootstrapping of something from nothing and purification to absolute knowledge. Marx untied the shoes and demonstrated alternative knotting with reversed Logic. Irony gives perspective repeating tragedy until it becomes farce and back again. The zombies, the fear itself, becomes almost cute. As FDR knew we have nothing to fear but the fear. So don’t fear it, play with it and the becoming becomes and life reconstructs and death reveals itself a spurious illusion. Deconstructed fears becomes fears of something else in a progression of unfulfilled desire; zombies that just want to want to want to want.

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