So two days ago I saw the movie, and I’m not going to write the logical continuation of my first post, complaining about how the movie could have been “so much better if only. . .”
What I’m going to write about how I wasn’t in the movie.
I drew this over two years ago for an all-comics weekly publication I used to run.
And no, I don’t mean why wasn’t there a zombified version of me in the movie, because seriously if you guys didn’t know I am deathly terrified of any sort of biting reanimated corpse. What I mean is why, when I watched this movie, weren’t there any dang Asians.
Not “frightening stuff,” mind you- horror. There’s a distinction, you see.
Fright is the simple biological jolt you get when something startles or surprises you- a door being slammed, a discordant note blaring out of nowhere, and so on. Tragically, the title of “horror” gets slapped on things (typically movies) that merely have “jump-scares.” Horror on the other hand, is anticipation and dread at the perception of something threatening on a fundamental level.
So why talk about this? Because despite the outcry of some, horror- especially horror movies- holds a special place in our culture. Indeed, horror holds a special place in all cultures, and has since the first Cro-Magnons huddled around some arctic fire and whispered about strange and terrible things lurking just outside the circle of light. What we’re afraid of tells just as much about us as what we admire; a perfect example being Evan’s post on the remake Red Dawn. Evan cites that one of the reasons the new version doesn’t work is because the concept of the US being invaded is today laughable (especially by North Korea, whose entire population could fit into LA county with room to spare), whereas in the 1980s, the fear was far more realistic, or at least, believable.
Now I’m not here to analyze the past decade’s better horror movies and tell you what it is that we seem to be afraid of (not right now, anyways). In this post I’ll just be breaking down the three basic kinds of horror we seem to be responding to.
Fear For Self
First, we have the fear that attacks our egos- not “egos” as in pride, but “egos” as in the psychological term for you. This fits into the greater psychological element of “external anxiety,” meaning the stress we feel as a result of outside factors, such as school, our jobs, hunger, pain, and so on. When we’re afraid for our safety, or empathizing with characters in a movie or TV series who are fearing for their physical safety, we’re looking at this “fear for self” kind of horror. A good example would be any serial killer or monster movie- Psycho or Jaws being the best examples. Now usually we tend to botch this kind of horror, because the protagonists in movies or stories do things we would never do (blonde female college camper running through the woods at night, I’m talking about you). However, when it’s pulled off well, it leaves a noticeable mark on us. It has been said that Jaws created a significant drop in beach-goers after it was released, and you are a dirty liar if you say you’ve never once looked behind the curtain when you go into the bathroom.
Fear Of Self
Just as we have anxieties that stem from external factors, we have stresses and fears that come from within us: “Internal anxiety.” It was theorized by early psychologists, Freud in particular, that our mental issues were a result of us denying or repressing elements within us, most notably the “id”- that part of our mind with all the bloody, vicious, sexual animalistic drives that typically didn’t mesh well with Victorian (or any) society. As with the ego, horror works on this pathway as well- our fear of ourselves. All that madness and evil that we, for the most part, pretend isn’t there. The most obvious examples of this would be werewolf movies and vampire movies (obligatory “**** you, Twilight“) and most any film depicting a change or evolution the protagonist- see Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Wolfman, Dorian Grey, etc.
Fear Of No Self
Lastly we have stress and anxiety attacking (or coming from, depending on how you look at it) the “superego”- that element of our mind consisting of our real or imagined nobility, propriety, decency, etc. Here we encounter “existential horror,” more often called “cosmic horror.” This particular form of horror can be found in movies where the protagonists are fighting a losing battle against some massive, all powerful being- typically otherworldly in nature. Alien invasions and zombie uprisings are both good examples. Here we’re confronted with the fear that we are, in spite of all of our strength, morality, charity; in spite of our humanity, we are actually inconceivably small and insignificant. Ants who have just become aware that there are beings in the universe of incomprehensible magnitude whose simple existence negates everything about them. That unique feeling of powerlessness is separated from “ego fear” in that this form has a distinct hopelessness, rather than helplessness, attached to it.
Of course, every horror story has all three of these elements in it, but what kind of horror story it winds up being depends entirely on what is emphasized. Take AMC’s The Walking Dead– you’ve got your physical fear of the zombies, your id-based fear at what this new world is bringing out in you, and the general horrific despair at the absolute hopelessness of your situation, both in the face of zombies and the truth of human nature. What you wind up being afraid of depends on which element really gets pushed (survival, rationality, hope) and of course, what you individually, and we as a society, find most terrifying.
So what do we fear as a society right now?
Well, with the rampant popularity of zombie stories, and “disaster” films such as Cloverfield, Skyline, and even the whole “Slenderman” craze; it seems to me that we’re torn between physical and existential horror. And perhaps in an economic depression, that’s understandable- after all, we’re confronted with the physical job of keeping afloat in a rough time, and as the crisis drags on and on, the general feeling of hopelessness with regards to our general situation. We respond to characters whose immediate needs are threatened and characters who are struggling to maintain themselves in the face of cosmic nothingness.
At least, that’s my take on it. Feel free to debate me in the comments, and stop by tomorrow for another Shame Day installment.
GORDON: Ladies and gentlemen devoted readers and people who found our blog by googling “dokata fanning playboy.” We’re were to have a frank and open discussion about “The Walking Dead,” both the critically acclaimed television series and Robert Kirkman comic books of the same name.
EVAN: I’d like to issue a fair warning to those who haven’t read the comic series or caught up on the show that there will be SPOILERS. You have been duly warned.
GORDON: Indeed. I’d like to kick things off by talking a bit about how the books and the television series differ, and whether or not that’s a good thing.
EVAN: I think there’s a firm answer there. The show differs a lot from the books, and that’s definitely a good thing.
GORDON: How so?
EVAN: Sticking to the book means that there aren’t any surprises for loyal fans of the series, and keeps them guessing. Furthermore, it allows AMC and others involved to play a little bit more loosely with the way the show is going, without feeling too tied down.
GORDON: I thought about that.
GORDON: At the same time, I feel there’s definitely a lot lacking from the series as a result of their pretty strong (and ever increasing) departure from the source material. Take some of the deaths, like Dale’s and Shane’s, for example. It’s like knowing you’re gonna go get Chinese food versus being surprised that you get some potato chips with your nasty sandwich.
EVAN: I agree. Both deaths were undeniably very well-written and powerful moments. I just think there’s something to be said for not being slavishly dedicated to one vision of the show.
And as far as Dale’s death is concerned, I can easily see his key line being spoken by some other character some ways down the road.
GORDON: I guess my point is that while the show does keep you on your toes, the changes it makes are typically just less impressive than the story itself. I think loyal fans of the series would be just as cool seeing a faithful show as one that goes its own way.
I mean, look at it this way: The books are dark. Really dark. I’m talking Laurie’s comic-book ending dark. It pushed the envelope in ways I just have yet to see the show do. That was a lot of the charm of the books- how unflinching it was. I’m just not getting that same power with the show’s spin.
EVAN: It’s obvious that fans are going to want a show that is as close to what they originally experienced in the comics as possible. I also agree that the comics are undeniably better than the show.
My point is that I think the deviation is good and realistic. Having the Governor both physically and sexually assault Michonne is probably not something we’re going to see. Neither did I think we were going to be witness to a woman and her baby being brutally gunned down.
The writing is weaker, but I don’t think that faults the direction to not stick to the book, it faults the current writers.
GORDON: Interesting, but it seems that the logical solution to that is to try to get closer to the hard-hitting story the books gave us. Here’s what I’m hearing from you:
“The books are objectively better, but the fault is with the show’s poor writing.”
Seems like you either just start trying to write a better zombie story while trying to stay within sight of the original material and characters (which kind of kills the point), or just stick to the material to begin with.
EVAN: I don’t think they’re not trying to write better stories. I’m saying they’re not succeeding. I don’t think they set out to do a bad job.
GORDON: Fair enough. So what needs to be done then?
EVAN: As with most forms of media taking into account constant feedback from fans and acknowledging their mistakes. Season 2 at the farm really dragged on, and was low on the zombie killing. At the very least, this season has given us plenty of “walker”-eviscerating action.
GORDON: No argument there . . . no complaint either. But I don’t think it’s a solution; just something to help ease the need for something more.
EVAN: You do get that not everything in the comics can make it on TV, though, right?
GORDON: Of course. And I wasn’t going to say that. I mean, ever since the season began, I’ve been like: “How the **** are they going to show a baby being shot on national television?”
The rest I could imagine, but not that.
EVAN: Okay, how about we move on to something most fans of the AMC show can relate to: How horrible Andrea is all the time always.
GORDON: That bugs me. I like Andrea. Andrea gets it.
EVAN: Andrea is horrible. Andrea almost shot Daryl in the face. Because she couldn’t listen to people telling her to hold the **** up.
GORDON: That was messed up. But otherwise, I think the criticism of her is all just BS.
I mean, everyone’s like, “Gah- I hate Andrea! Why can’t she see that the Governor is evil?”
And I’m like: “Please. If you had survived as long as she had, which you wouldn’t, you would be groveling at the man’s feet for a bowl of warm soup, let alone a flippin’ suburban paradise free from living corpses.”
EVAN: She only survived because of Michonne, who I don’t like all that much at the moment. And for the most part, I agree with you about the Governor not being a bad dude.
GORDON: Let’s not turn this into my twisted/completely reasonable sense of morality. What I think the show is really lacking is the eeriness. You got that in the first season, when Rick was on his own, that feeling of isolation. Upping the action doesn’t solve that problem, especially as more an more characters come in.
EVAN: What I really want to see is the whole idea, which has been communicated but could be better, that it’s not the zombies you’re afraid of, it’s the people. Two kids die, and everyone things it’s the huge black dude who did it. Turns out it’s the mild-mannered white guy who decapitated these two little girls.
GORDON: Very unexpected. Dang, there was so much good stuff there that we’ll never get to see. . .
EVAN: The theme of the books, if I could sum it up in three words, is “People Are Monsters.” I think that’s really what needs to come out of AMC’s Sunday evenings.
GORDON: I agree completely.
EVAN: We’ve got a little bit of time, do you want to share with the nice people why, barring slaughtering a few US Army men, the Governor’s not such a mustachio-twirling villain?
GORDON: In their defense, that version was pretty over-the-top; like a living Snidely Whiplash.
EVAN: In the books, you mean?
EVAN: What I meant, though, is that as you said people are yelling at their screens, crying “Andrea you dumb blonde, can’t you see you’re making out with the devil?”
GORDON: They are, and without cause (barring knowledge from the book). I mean, people suspect because they’re the audience and can see the big picture. But if we’re talking realistically, they would be more eager than Andrea. I’m just saying the criticism of Andrea as being blind is utter nonsense.
EVAN: And furthermore, what has he done to have anyone assume he’s a bad dude? Taken away their weapons in a peaceful town. Shown them tons of hospitality. If anything, we’d all be telling Michonne to chill the eff out and stop glaring at everyone/thing.
GORDON: Exactly. People need to chill out.
EVAN: And, even though I’m sure we could’ve gone on for another hour, that just about concludes our time. Any topics you have in mind for next week? Probably not something television-related, to avoid the hat trick.
GORDON: True. Let’s talk about food. Let’s hypothesize the greatest food show of all time.
I almost don’t feel like I should have to explain this post. Look at that image on the right, look at that wave of flesh and hunger, which I can only compare to the somewhat recently released World War Z trailer. They move like an organism, a living being that flows into each store, ravenously grabbing at whatever they can.
For the non-Americans among you, Black Friday is the day after American Thanksgiving, which sets off the Christmas shopping season. Last year at this time a few pretty significant events happened, none of which I can say are positive.
At another Walmart in the Tampa area, 73-year-old greeter Jan Sullivan was shoved by a shopper who was trying to exit through doors not available for this purpose. As she fell, she grabbed onto the woman to keep from falling. She was then fired, as Walmart employees are not permitted to touch customers.
If the trend continues this image won’t even make sense anymore.
As a Canadian I’ve celebrated American Thanksgiving only once. It was a time that I spent with a loving family, where copious amounts of food was served and the itis was experienced by many. It was a time of relaxation and enjoying each other’s company, not camping outside superstores in the freezing cold or trampling the meek and lowly [see: Walmart employees] underneath our feet.
All I can say is Happy Thanksgiving, Americans. If you care about at least one retailer [Target] respecting a national holiday, you can sign a petition here. Enjoy your turkey.
EVAN: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the first installment of E> where Gordon and I try to uncover the magic that was lost. The last post we did fell a little flat, so we’re here to casually discuss a subject we both know is awesome: DEADLIEST WARRIOR.
GORDON: That’s right- Deadliest Warrior, a show 90% about mutilating ballistic gel dummies, and it was STILL too intellectual for Spike. At least, that’s my version of why they cancelled it. You can probably tell we’re a little bit bitter about the whole thing.
EVAN: Ugh, Spike. Have you seen the little bits of footage they slot in between shows to fill up the space?
GORDON: I have not.
EVAN: It’s like . . . Here, let me find one.
Readers, the following is kinda PG-13. I kind of apologize for embedding this, but it’s just too ridiculous not to:
Who invented Rock-and-Roll? Who should be credited as the inventor of the video game? Who’s responsible for the Zoidberg meme? Who is responsible for the way we celebrate Halloween?
Simple truth of the matter is, we can trace plenty of elements of culture to the general time period or people group where they originated, but never just who first came up with the idea of shoelaces, or “push it somewhere else Patrick.”
There’s plenty of our culture that we just accept without being able to credit the inventor, however, this Fame Day we’ll be shining the spotlight on someone we can.
The one and only George Romero, whose influence on our culture arguable is on par with Rock-and-Roll.
Romero, for those few of you who might not recognize the name, is the creator of such films as Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead, and according to many the father of all zombies.
Now while that affectionate title has been attached to him, the fact of the matter is, Romero did not invent the concept of the living dead. What he did do, however, was bring the concept out of obscurity, and do it so well that his work has become the basis for all subsequent zombie-horror. Zombieland, The Walking Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Resident Evil, Left for Dead, World War Z, Plants Vs. Zombies, Stephen King’s Cell, “Thriller,” I am Legend, you name it. There’s hardly an aspect of our culture that hasn’t had some zombie influence or spin-off (even before our recent craze), and there’s hardly an aspect of the zombie mythos that hasn’t been cemented and popularized by Romero. The man has simply hit it out of the park.
Now I’m not saying you have to like zombies- you don’t. I’m not saying that you have to like the films of George Romero- I don’t. But you have got to respect a man who has had such a profound influence on not only American, but world culture over the past half century (that’s right, half-century).
So, George Romero, in this last minute before midnight on Halloween 2012, we here at Culture War Reporters are tipping our hats to you.