Friday, July 5, 2013

Zombies on the march

So here are your zombies: an unstoppable human wave, climbing walls, sweeping over firing soldiers, overturning cars, smashing everything in its path. Blind, deaf, pitiless, faceless - and all powerful.

Saint Petersburg 1917. Paris 1968. Cairo 2013.

And Brad Pitt saving his sniveling family from the horror of the masses and presumably bringing it back to the suburban paradise, complete with pancake breakfasts and picket fences.

"World War Z" is a bad movie: not just because it is incoherent but because it is false in its message. It is telling its viewers that the huge crowds and flash mobs they are seeing daily on their screens can be contained by individual heroism and stockpiling of guns: a Tea Party ideology in the age of global movements. Max Brooks' "World War Z" tried to revive the spirit of communal action by looking back to World War 2. The form of the book, with its many individual voices telling a common story, is a pastiche of Stud Terkel's "The Good War". It may be preposterous in its premise and naive in its depiction of individual countries' politics (Israel's going to bring all the Palestinians into its shelter? Really?) but it is responding to the real challenges of       globalism. "World War Z" the movie is hiding its head in the sand and hoping the revolution will pass it by.

The zombie, like all pop-culture monsters, is a metaphor for our fears. Like all such monsters, it is polysemic. It may represent the fear of the body, the fear of death, even, as I argued in my recent article, the fear of language.

But the movie is quite clear in what fears in invokes. The opening (and visually most impressive) shots are of huge crowds, multitudes, people-choked giant cities. Small-town America looking at the world and seeing zombies on the march. And small-town America is right: the zombies are coming. I, for one, hope they'll get here soon.


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