It seems nowadays we cannot have a serious film come out without someone making a spoof of it. Not only spoofs either, but satires – witty takeovers of media to poke fun for the purpose to show us fundamentally wrong with it. We almost can’t escape them any more – our Saturday nights our filled with them, our TV shows mock other TV shows and coining new terms like Meta. Take a few minutes to watch Community and you’ll see what I mean.
So our culture is permeated by a double-edged sword. One – the drama. Two – the comedy. They go hand in hand. However, when the question is asked of which came first, the drama or the satire, we always know the answer. Satire relies on the media before it. Of course, you can’t make fun of something unless that something exists. Once you find a problem with it, countless attempts will be made to poke hours of fun at it. Satires rely on the folly of human and culture to give them an avenue to make us change. However, satires seem to be rarely used in horror films (successfully). The exception seems to be zombie films. Today I will focus on the some of the most popular zombie films, as well as a popular show based solely around reference, meta and satire of subculture.
Community is an interesting example of satire. Not does it have one episode satirizing the zombie culture in Epidemiology 206, it is also a satire, comic and spoof of everything else. The show relies heavily on reference comedy and sub-text. However, I think this provides a cool outlook on why Community even chose to do a zombie episode, considering they could have picked any number of things. Why did they jump on to the fad, and what does it mean?
Community uses reference to old horror films and jumps on the hype of the zombie fear. It also hammers home some serious ethical and societal themes of the zombie genre. The first is the killing. To survive the zombie apocalypse, you must be able to kill zombies.It is a cliché that has been driven into our skulls (no pun intended) since the beginning of the zombie fad. Also, get them in the head. However, people rarely stop to think that these things could still be human, and it becomes about killing these ‘monsters’ only.
In the episode, while locked in the group study room by the zombies, Chang throws his skate and yells, Get them in the head. The glass breaks the window, Annie gets bitten and changes theory is immediately disproved by someone shouting that the people were sick and they need to lower the thermostat or they could suffer serious brain damage. Even Jeff becomes a zombie when he suggests that they leave instead of staying to help every one. The story is less about survival of the ‘ heroes’ and more about survival of those infected.
This speaks to a good parallel to regular zombie films. We never see a total focus on fixing humans, let alone a successful one. We see them trying to stop the disease, yes, but we also see them trying to domesticate them, using them as weapons, killing them like no ones business. Even Hershel, who was saving his loved ones for a cure, ends up losing them to the hands of those who believe there is no cure. At that point, the focus is on the ‘ hero’ survival and nothing more.
So Community hopped on to a fad and showed us a change in cliché and started to put a different emphasis on this. What it does is broadens our spectrum. It has us thinking about new ideas and wiggle room in the zombie obsession, and maybe makes us think that it doesn’t always have to be the way pop culture tells us.
Shaun of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead is a Satire of the zombie genre inspired by Dawn of the Dead. It takes its themes and gives them a comedy spin.
Consumerism is a huge topic in Dawn of the Dead. In Shaun of the Dead, the comedy lies in not just the revamping of the consumerism theme, but the consumerism of life. The focus is lazy, deadbeat guys in the middle of a zombie outbreak, who lived their daily lives over and over and over again in the same manner. The emphasis is as well on the working class people at grocery stores and worked dead-end jobs, going to bars to drink their life away. The zombie outbreak occurs and Shaun finally steps up to the plate. They even go to the pub, the place to drink their life away, rather than seek military aid (classically done in zombie films). The characters are consuming, wasting, and gaming their way through life, as if they were zombies all ready.
What does this say to us? Well it says a lot of things about the state of our own zombie hood About our lack of attention and our lack of life. The people you see in the opening sequence almost help to foreshadow with their zombie movements. And in the end, when the zombies are controlled, what are they employed in? Literally dead end jobs. Everything goes back to normal, and the consumption of life continues. We are like this, people absorbed their own lives, people who literally end up being the proletariat, the masses, the hordes, the followers, the people where ‘Pepsi-or-Coke’ is our only decision in life. This is a threat to us. We don’t want to be like this – we are all striving for some kind of ruthless american dream. What Shaun of the DEad is saying is that it may not get more interesting than monotony. The little problems, the laziness, the dead-end jobs, never really go away. you just have to learn to live with them, like they do their previous zombie friends. Shaun keeps his best friend in the shed, and lives life the way he is happy, even though it’s not perfect. Find other ways to enjoy what you have.
Using the hilarity of the realistic along side of the change in cliché, Shaun of the Dead takes what Romero originally started (showing us we are zombies) and tells us that we are still zombies, and we always will be. But that’s okay.
Zombieland helps to hammer home the old anyone can be a zombie, anyone can be a hero theory. Zombieland is a spoof that uses the script of a zombie film to take it to the extreme. Extreme scenarios, extreme gore, extreme extremes, extreme outcomes. But also tonnes of laughs.
Anyone can be a hero in Zombieland Even the nerdiest kid eventually decided that he needs to be the hero. The fact that the nerdy kid survived is proof that anyone can survive. They take it to the extreme by not showing us the chiselled and calm hero of the zombie apocalypse. They show us who we are. College students, nerds, unfit, some with irritable bowel syndrome. He teams up with unlikely characters. He shoots Bill Murray. In the end, he ends up finding himself a family of ragtag people in unexpected ways.
What this shows us is that the storyboard of the zombie film is too constricted. Zombieland take things to such extremes that at points it is almost unnatural. Woody Harrelson somehow fights off thousands of zombie with a few guns. They believe the smartest way to get away from zombies is to get on the drop zone ride. They also believed the safest place to go is the theme park. They directly violate the rules of zombie script, while still following a classic path. And they directly display rules for everyone to see, different rules, rules that are usually ignored in the zombie film.
They also take the ‘anyone can be a zombie’ to extreme. There are stripper zombies, fat zombies, Charlie Chaplin zombies, clown zombies, Carney zombies — everyone is a zombie. There are no restrictions; only like the wheelchair zombie in Shaun of the Dead, they show the ones that are not noticed. The extremes.
Zombieland is helping to show us that the zombie cliché, the zombie path, needs some updating. It is exclusive It is outdated. Yet we are still following it as if one day, when the zombie apocalypse happens, we will know what to do. But we won’t –there will be no script. Zombieland seems to be telling us this by reviving the ‘everyone can be a zombie/hero’ theory.
What does this mean for us?
Satires are here for a reason. Not only are they fresh and comical, but they seem to make themselves fresh and comical for a reason; to make us listen. If you hear the same song over and over again, it loses its meaning. If someone remixes it, it comes back again. Red Hot Chili Peppers wrote Otherside, which talked about drug abuse. Macklemore used the same tune, and a similar message, but it grabs out attention with a formula. Use something familiar and add something new. The association from the past familiarizes us with it, and the new spin on it keeps us intrigued. Then, the message sticks.
It’s an interesting formula. Shaun of the Dead is using Romero’s film to hammer home a point of consumerism. Community is using the zombie cliché to change the stigma of zombies being evil. Zombieland uses the script of a zombie story to tell everything that the script is outdated; our world is full of so many more people than the standard survivors.
The best part, though, is they show us through comedy that zombies are taking over out lives. It is totally absorbed in our culture. It is probably the best media to reach us through because we are guaranteed to watch something so popular. We are so obsessed, worried, and take the films too seriously. We plan for our own apocalypse strategies. These films come into our obsession and make us laugh at it, realize things that were wrong to become so entrapped. By making us laugh, we fear less and can think clearly.
And then they make us look at ourselves. Look at our selves for jumping to conclusions, worrying, slacking, falling for the same story every time. Their message becomes a little bit clearer. We can see Jeff in community become a zombie and is still texting.
Shaun is telling us we are the zombies, droning on in a world of work and technology. We can see ourselves trying to save our friends. We can see ourselves as lazy. We see ourselves as the nerds. We begin to see zombies as not so scary, but just another fad we have become consumed by. They are clearly calling out to us underneath the clever jokes and quips. We just have to start listening.
Hopefully, if we start listening, we wont get too consumed in zombies, and learn to laugh at it and ourselves.
That’s all, folks!
Until next week
Next week – Zombies in Academia – its gonna be good…potentially.