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Zombies as Wild Western Frontier

July 19, 2013

From the American Conservative: “Zombie Shows Are the New Westerns” by Daniel McCarthy:

Paul Cantor makes a persuasive argument in the Hedgehog Review, pointing to the failure of civic institutions and need for armed self-reliance as hallmarks of both the traditional Western and post-apocalyptic television programs like “The Walking Dead.”

Paul Cantor‘s article “The Apocalyptic Strain in Popular Culture: The American Nightmare Becomes the American Dream“:

We seem to have survived the Mayan apocalypse predicted for December 21, 2012, but maybe we should not get too cocky. American popular culture is overflowing with doomsday prophecies and end-of-the-world scenarios. According to film and television, vampires, werewolves, and zombies are storming across our landscape, and alien invaders, asteroids, and airborne toxic events threaten us from the skies. … Where are the happy households—the Andersons, the Nelsons, the Cleavers, the Petries—when we need them? … Has the American nightmare paradoxically become the new American dream? … To explore these questions, we need to examine one standard notion of the American dream. … This vision of the American dream was bound up with trust in American institutions. … As if we were reading Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, or Jean-Jacques Rousseau, we get to see how people form a social contract. No longer locked into institutions already in place, the public gets to assess their value and see if it really needs them or might be better off under other arrangements or perhaps no government at all. … The zombies play the role traditionally assigned to Indians in Westerns—the barbarian hordes lurking on the borders of the civilized community and threatening to annihilate it. … The dream of material prosperity and security is shattered, but a different ideal comes back to life—the all-American ideal of rugged individualism, the spirit of freedom, independence, and self-reliance.

zombie paul cantor

Recall similar argument from zombie neuroscientist Dr. Steven Schlozman who wrote about the relationship of zombies to the wild west earlier this year in The Guardian. And again, this relationship to frontier-fiction reminds of the connections between zombies and Star Trek.

Is there ever a final frontier or is it all frontiers all the way down?

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From → Academics

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