Saturday, December 04, 2010

Zombie Popularity

Professor Kat isn't content to just watch zombie TV, no. She breaks down the cultural appeal from an academic standpoint.

When I was growing up, a lot of post-apocalyptic fiction had to do with what happened when the governments of the world finally nuked each other. Mad Max, War Games, Terminator, Red Dawn.

Fast forward to today. Anybody notice that post-apocalyptic fiction post-Cold War has a lot to do with the failure of systems to contain crises? From zombie fiction like World War Z and the Walking Dead, to macabe fiction like The Road, even to the entire Harry Potter series - disaster is coming and there is nothing we can do to stop it.

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4 comments:

Dante said...

"Anybody notice that post-apocalyptic fiction post-Cold War has a lot to do with the failure of systems to contain crises?"

I think nuclear apocalypse fits pretty firmly under the umbrella of "failure of systems to contain crises." The zombie fad is interesting but it really isn't changing the fundamentals of post-apocalyptic science fiction. Medicine is taking the focus over military but like all good science fiction, that is just a reflection of our culture. Seems to me that Professor Kat is for some reason surprised that science fiction at its best is still doing what it has been doing for over a hundred years now: setting up hyperbolic situations to explore culturally relevant topics. It's never really about the spaceships or the nuclear bombs or even the zombies. It's about us.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

This may be splitting hairs, but I always found the post-nuclear war apocalyptic fictions to be about our system being designed to kill us, and current post-apocalyptic fiction to be about our system being incapable of protecting us from being killed.

The subtext is subtle, I admit, but I find it a significant thematic change.

I didn't catch any surprise in the Professor's article. I read several explorations of the culturally relevant topics the science fiction is exploring (especially the breakdown of zombies defying our cultural meta-narratives). Which is what makes all this so interesting.

Dante said...

FTA: "To my pleasant surprise, the series appears to be driven by character development, and, while still maintaining a decent amount of gore, highlights many social and moral concerns."

I guess the "surprise" could only refer to the character development, but it seems to me that the surprise is spread out to all items in the sentence.

"This may be splitting hairs, but I always found the post-nuclear war apocalyptic fictions to be about our system being designed to kill us, and current post-apocalyptic fiction to be about our system being incapable of protecting us from being killed."

Even your own examples don't hold that to be entirely true. While I'll give you the other three, the Mad Max series is every bit as much about the descent of society as the current crop of zombie apocalypse fiction. That a nuclear war contributes to this descent is somewhat incidental to the plot (and not present at all in the first Mad Max film).

I think it really depends on the individual example. IIRC, the virus in 28 Days Later was intentionally created and got out of control. To me, that's not so different from nuclear weapons primarily designed to be deterrents getting launched in some erroneous fashion (a la War Games or Terminator but not Red Dawn or The Road Warrior).

The article itself is interesting but the surprise that good science fiction is doing what good science fiction has always done pisses me off.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I guess the "surprise" could only refer to the character development, but it seems to me that the surprise is spread out to all items in the sentence.

In an era where Saw is a movie franchise, and there are plenty of pop culture offerings that feature nothing more than senseless violence masquerading under the scifi or horror label, I took the "surprise" as relative to those factors. The last scifi I watched was Skyline, after all, which had about as much depth as your average urinal.