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heavy metal and na(t)ive outsiders

July 26, 2013

io9: “What’s the connection between heavy metal music, horror and fantasy?” by Ed Grabianowski asks:

Why are horror and fantasy themes so influential and powerful in rock and metal music? Why do fans love performers who act like zombies, vampires and witches?

Of course Grabianowski references Rob Zombie and focuses his answer on two theories “theatricality”, and “escapism and catharsis”.

Recall from ZombieLaw earlier this year, LAWeekly: “Anthrax’s Scott Ian on Why Horror Movies and Metal Go Together” by Jason Roche.

Meanwhile, in The American Conservative: “Zombies And Indians” by Noah Millman considers Paul Cantor’s article that zombies are new form of wild west Indians:

I think he’s basically right that the craze represents a fantasy of individualism, in which the institutions of civilization fail and our native human (or, better, American) capacity for invention and self-reliance comes to the fore. But I want to point out that this represents a considerable impoverishment of the power of the zombie as a mythical antagonist. And I think comparisons to the classic western reveal how poorly we recall that genre… classically the zombie represents death itself, and as such the zombie hordes cannot be defeated … their current incarnation feels to me like evidence of a descent into solipsism.

what worries me about the argument that zombie movies are the “new westerns.” If we are uncomfortable with the traditional western because of the role it assigns to the aboriginal Americans, and this is because we recognize the massive injustices committed by our nation and our government in the course of our conquest and settlement of the continent, well and good. But it might be that we’re uncomfortable for the opposite reason – that we prefer to see our enemies as truly non-human.

Millman refers to Quentin Tarantino’s comments about John Ford but thinks Ford’s Indians were still people. Millman also mentions the great 1975 cult classic post-apocalyptic movie “A Boy and His Dog”. I don’t want to give away the ending but it’s one of my favorite movie endings ever (but for those in the know, consider this movie in light of Donna Haraway‘s cyborg theory and issues of companion animals and feminism).

If zombies are a way to make the enemy-Other less sympathetic, consider again that some Heavy Metal fans want to self-identify with that kind of non-human otherness. It’s not just theatricality and escapism, it’s an acceptable way for them to fetishize outsider status. Consider again the role of white privilege in zombie studies and adolescent white males increasing portrayal as angry potential terrorists.

Adolescents are sort of like native peoples being held in captivity by a modern society machine culture that demands humanity psychologically-castrate itself. Is it any wonder that we fantasize about a deadly solipsism? Consider also, claims about patriotism and immigration in regard to blood purity and native culture. The birthright of heavy metal is a right to make some noise! We were never human, never native – a naive group of walking dead, killing each other and singing songs for the history books.

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