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NY Editorial Columnist Zombies

May 13, 2013

Brent Staples editorial in NYTimes: “The Zombie Next Door May Be the Scariest of All“:

The term “zombie” has traditionally referred to a corpse that has been reanimated through supernatural means and rendered into an automaton that does its master’s will. Look it up in a dictionary and you will find the traditional definition firmly in place. But pop culture, of course, has its own definition.

The cannibalistic, free-agent zombies that come pouring out of comics, video games, novels, movies and television have little in common with their languid, sleepwalking predecessors. They come into being not through magic, but through a pernicious, fast-acting pathogen.

But Arthur C. Clarke’s third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Staples goes on to address George Romero’s “landmark movie” noting that:

the walking dead are used to mock human excess.

And particularly those excesses of your own family and neighbors:

When the zombies in “Night of the Living Dead” finally overrun the farmhouse, a hysterical young woman is seized and hauled into the horde by the living-dead version of her brother, who had been killed earlier in the film. This scene, played out in many ways in many movies, crystallizes what the novelist Colson Whitehead has described as the elementally terrifying moment when the familiar turns suddenly murderous and “your relatives and your friends, your neighbors and the friendly folks who run the dry cleaners reveal themselves as the monsters they’ve always been, beneath the lie of civilization, of affection.”

And Staples contrasts the scale of Godzilla movie disasters to a zombie apocalypse:

A cast of thousands fleeing through the streets of Tokyo is axiomatic while Godzilla is razing the city to the ground. But even when the zombie apocalypse rages around the globe and threatens to wipe out the human species, its effects are best shown with a Chekhovian closeness — say, around a specific breakfast table or in the back seat of a specific family station wagon, where a doting and affable Aunt Betty turns suddenly bad and chomps a huge glob of flesh out of the nearest relative’s face.

With Brad Pitt‘s new mega-blockbuster movie quickly approaching, this New York Times editorial is skeptical:

With zombies more popular than ever, Hollywood is, of course, looking for ways to cash in. .. Can the zombie trope flourish on the blockbuster scale? …. “World War Z” might bring a fresh vantage point to a vintage subject. But for those of us raised in the Romero tradition, the optimal setting for the zombie story will always be the isolated farmhouse where the living hunker down as the night and the dead come closing in.

It is intriguing and perhaps relevant to note that Staples wrote a book called “Parallel Time: Growing up In Black and White” and according to wikipedia often writes about race. His sentimentality for the Romero style zombie may be a distinction between older controversies and the newer digital-era zombies. The fears of local race fighting are changed by rapid information globalization.

zombie brent staples nytimes
zombie linda stasi nypost

Meanwhile, across town at the NYPost, Linda Stasi examines the British
version and also compares to vampires: “‘Flesh’ approach – Accent on life: Brit zombies vs. US cousins” about the BBC TV show “In the Flesh”:

those legions of thin white dukes have begun to lose the war to the fashionably undead — aka zombies

Stasis predicts:

TV zombie shows are on the rise while vampire series, like singing competitions will, I predict, soon begin to die off.

Suggesting a political metaphor:

think of zombies as the Tea Party of the undead. In the same way that the Teas rose from the ashes of GOP defeat, zombies began eating vampire dust

As Staples mentioned, it’s about scale. And is “vampire dust” like angel dust? Because it seems like maybe what the zombies are eating is turning them into hive mind godzilla monsters. I guess it kind of makes sense that ‘vampire dust’ could do that or maybe it’s all the SuperPAC money…

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