Expert answer:University of Missouri Consumer Culture Fear The W

  

Solved by verified expert:I’m going to give you some freedom with this one. Choose either Dawn of the Dead and the article by Olney or the Fear the Walking Dead clips and the article by Tenga and Bassett. Comment on the scholar’s argument and whether you agree with their assessment or not. (Note that if you choose Tenga and Bassett and you’ve never watched The Walking Dead, it mBay be helpful to look up a few additional clips on YouTube to get an idea of what the series is about.)MUST BE 1.5 PAGES.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czo24cU4dfAhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXTpw-U-eSs
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you_20kill_20or_20you_20die…_20_tenga_20and_20bassett_.pdf

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Copyright © 2017. Rutgers University Press. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, except fair uses
permitted under U.S. or applicable copyright law.
2
CONSUMER CULTURE
Night of the Living Dead (1968), George A. Romero’s
supremely bleak film about a small band of survivors
trapped in an isolated farmhouse when radiation from
space reanimates the dead and sends them shambling
through the countryside, occupies a pivotal place in the
history of zombie cinema. Shot in stark black and white
on a shoestring budget in the hinterlands of western
Pennsylvania, it met with little fanfare upon its initial
theatrical release but went on to become a cult sensation
that revolutionized the zombie film. On that much, critics
agree. But revolutionized how?
Night of the Living Dead is frequently cited as the
movie that modernized the zombie by severing its ties
to Afro-Caribbean folklore. A number of earlier films
had already jettisoned the zombie’s folkloric origins,
however, including Michael Curtiz’s The Walking Dead
(1936), which stars Boris Karloff as a wrongfully executed
man who returns from the dead to seek revenge on the
48
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CONSUMER CULTURE

49
gangsters who framed him; and Steve Sekely’s Revenge of
the Zombies (1943), Z-grade program filler from the “poverty row” studio Monogram Pictures about an army of
zombies created by a Nazi scientist to fight for the Third
Reich. Night of the Living Dead is also often cited as the
movie that introduced the idea of a zombie apocalypse.
Here too, though, it was preceded by films like Edward L.
Cahn’s Invisible Invaders (1959), which imagines the world
being invaded by invisible aliens who attack by inhabiting
the bodies of the recently deceased; and Ubaldo Ragona
and Sidney Salkow’s The Last Man on Earth (L’ultimo
uomo della Terra, 1964), an adaptation of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend featuring Vincent Price as
the only person left alive after a plague turns the rest of
humanity into a race of vampire-like zombies.
In fact, Romero’s real innovation in Night of the Living
Dead is his reinvention of the zombie as a flesh-eating
ghoul. From its famous opening scene, the movie hints
that its living dead are not the stolid, tractable monsters
audiences had come to expect from past zombie films.
The ghoul that goes after Barbra ( Judith O’Dea) and
her brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) in the cemetery
seems driven by desperate, predatory need, clawing at
Barbra when she crosses its path and braining Johnny
on a headstone when he intervenes. After Barbra finds
refuge in the farmhouse with Ben (Duane Jones) and
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50

ZOMBIE CINEMA
the other survivors, we learn that the young daughter of
the middle-aged couple Harry and Helen Cooper (Karl
Hardman and Marilyn Eastman) has been bitten by a
zombie. Finally, a TV news bulletin reveals the horrible
truth: the dead are killing and eating the living. They are
not soulless slaves of voodoo or robotic victims of alien
mind control but reanimated corpses with a voracious
appetite for human flesh—an appetite that the film goes
on to document in gruesome detail.
Following a disastrous escape attempt, teenagers Tom
(Keith Wayne) and Judy ( Judith Ridley) are greedily
devoured by the dead, who are shown gnawing on severed limbs, tearing meat from bones, and fighting over
ropes of intestine. And in the movie’s most iconic scene,
the Coopers’ little girl, Karen (Kyra Schon), having
succumbed to her bite, cannibalizes her parents as the
zombies outside mount their climactic assault on the
farmhouse. The shocking notion that the dead might
desire to feed on the living was unprecedented and
proved hugely influential. At a stroke, Romero’s film irrevocably altered the nature of the zombie as a monster.
But that wasn’t its only contribution to zombie cinema.
In redefining the dead—quite literally—as consumers, it
introduced what became one of the modern zombie movie’s dominant metaphors: living death as an analogue for
late-stage capitalism.
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CONSUMER CULTURE

51
Of course, the link between capitalism and living death
had been established in zombie cinema long before Night
of the Living Dead. Indeed, pointing to the fact that the
birth of the zombie film coincided with the Great Depression, critics have argued that the genre was inspired as
much by capitalism as it was by colonialism. The image of
the mindless zombie drone resonated with audiences suffering through the worst economic crisis of the twentieth
century. As David J. Skal writes, the “shuffling spectacle of
the walking dead in films like White Zombie (1932) was in
many ways a nightmare vision of a breadline” for viewers
who “knew that they were no longer completely in control of their lives; the economic strings were being pulled
by faceless, frightening forces” (168–169). The blank-eyed
zombie served as a potent metaphor for “an economic
zombification of terrifying proportions” (Russell 23).
A “dead worker resurrected as a slave into a hellish afterlife of endless toil,” the zombie also perfectly captured
life under industrial capitalism, laying bare the “dark side
of capitalist economics” that reduced human beings to
“expendable automatons” (Russell 23). It spoke to how the
factory assembly line, powered by the principles of standardization, mechanization, mass production, and scientific management, had transformed labor into a kind of
living death during the first half of the twentieth century.
Well after the Depression ended, the zombie continued
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ZOMBIE CINEMA
to operate as a cinematic stand-in for the exploited and
dehumanized wage slave in Western capitalist society.
For example, in John Gilling’s The Plague of the Zombies
(1966), a British picture from Hammer Films, the dead in
a nineteenth-century Cornish village are pressed into service by a local squire who runs his tin mine like a zombie
sweatshop. By the late 1960s, zombies had functioned in
film for some time as “capitalist monsters”: creatures who
“embody the contradictions of a culture where making a
living often feels like dying” (Newitz 2).
But in Night of the Living Dead, the zombie emerges as a
new breed of capitalist monster, one reflecting the nature
of late-stage capitalism. If earlier representations of the
dead capture the plight of the worker under industrial
capitalism, the flesh-eating ghouls of Romero’s film herald the rise of an economy rooted not in the manufacture
of goods but in the consumption of them. Its shocking,
unprecedented scenes of zombie cannibalism symbolically describe life under the postindustrial capitalism that
developed during the second half of the twentieth century, fueled by the emergence of globalized markets and
labor, multinational corporations, mass media, and the
service industry. As Christopher Sharrett notes, Night of
the Living Dead was the “first work to literalize the theme
of cannibalism . . . [as] the image of society feeding on
itself ” (311). In it, Romero returns to the “man-eating
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CONSUMER CULTURE

53
myth,” once used as a justification for Western imperialism and colonialism, and reveals it to be “a story about
ourselves, not others” (Kilgour 247)—the ideal metaphor
for the unbridled consumerism that defines the dominant culture in the West today. In doing so, he transformed zombie cinema into a space for us to contemplate
what Crystal Bartolovich, playfully repurposing Fredric
Jameson’s work on postmodernism and late capitalism,
calls the cultural logic of late cannibalism.
This chapter explores the ways in which zombie films
made since Night of the Living Dead depict contemporary capitalism as a kind of living death, framing cannibalism not only as a trope for a society propelled by the
“desire for infinite (capitalist) consumption” but also as
“one of the morbid symptoms of capitalist appetite in
crisis” (Bartolovich 232, 234)—a sign that, thanks to the
effects of both rampant overaccumulation and endemic
economic disparity, we are rapidly approaching capitalism’s apocalyptic limit. As Gwendolyn Audrey Foster
observes, we “consume recklessly in order to convince
ourselves that we are not alienated, and that late-stage
capitalism will provide for us, and fulfill our emotional
needs” (Hoarders 28). In the end, however, we are ourselves consumed by the capitalist appetite that drives us.
This, ultimately, is the message of the films I consider in
the pages that follow.
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ZOMBIE CINEMA
If Night of the Living Dead introduced the idea of the
flesh-eating ghoul as the quintessential late-capitalist
consumer, Romero’s sequel, Dawn of the Dead (1978),
memorably cemented the metaphor by turning its zombies into shoppers—and its shoppers into zombies.
Opening in the midst of a chaotic zombie outbreak in
Philadelphia, Dawn of the Dead follows the fortunes of
the television-station employees Fran (Gaylen Ross) and
Stephen (David Emge), who, along with the SWAT team
officers Peter (Ken Foree) and Roger (Scott H. Reiniger),
flee the city in a helicopter. They eventually find shelter
at the Monroeville Mall, a gigantic indoor shopping complex near Pittsburgh. From the moment of their arrival,
the movie establishes a connection between capitalism
and living death.
Romero, who shot the picture largely on location in
the Monroeville Mall, filming after hours over the holiday shopping season in 1977, frames the complex as a
capitalist mecca, a temple to consumerism complete
with department stores, restaurants, hair salons, video
game arcades, gun retailers, banks—even an ice-skating
rink. As the heroes notice when they land on its roof, it
is completely surrounded by the dead, who seem eager
to get in. “Why do they come here?” a bewildered Fran
asks. “Some kind of instinct. Memory. What they used to
do. This was an important place in their lives,” Stephen
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CONSUMER CULTURE

55
responds. The social commentary here, noted by many
critics over the years, is difficult to miss: the zombies
represent the kind of mindless consumers produced by
late-capitalist culture. The dead who have managed to
gain entry to the mall behave just like the living, wandering its polished floors, window shopping, and riding the
escalators as Muzak plays over the PA system. When Peter
and Roger raid the J. C. Penney’s for supplies, the dead
mob the locked glass doors like bargain hunters on Black
Friday waiting impatiently for the store to open. The zombie apocalypse may have occurred, but at the Monroeville
Mall, it’s business as usual.
Indeed, Romero suggests that the zombies aren’t the
only shoppers in the mall. Although survival is the priority
for Fran, Stephen, Peter, and Roger when they first arrive,
they are soon seduced by the possibilities the place offers
for mass consumption: “One-stop shopping,” as Roger
puts it. “Everything you need, right at your fingertips.”
Once they rid the mall of its roaming dead and barricade
its doors against intruders, they go on an extended spree,
withdrawing money from the bank, donning expensive
clothes and jewelry, gorging on gourmet cheeses and
coffee, and playing video games—all for free. Their shopper’s high doesn’t last long, however. As Tony Williams
notes, the mall, an “affluent symbol of capitalist consumption, . . . eventually contaminates them,” effectively
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ZOMBIE CINEMA
transforming them into zombies (151). Their gluttony
has an anesthetizing effect; they become increasingly
bored and prone to bickering. “What have we done to
ourselves?” Fran wonders plaintively. The answer is clear.
Uninhibited consumerism has made them something less
than human. Peter speaks to this in a key exchange with
Fran, as they idly watch the zombies massed outside the
mall, still clamoring to get in. “What the hell are they?”
she asks. He replies, “They’re us—that’s all.”
The extent of the heroes’ zombification is revealed at
the movie’s climax, when a violent biker gang invades the
shopping center. Despite the fact that the luxury goods
the mall houses have little use-value in a postapocalyptic
world, the heroes are determined to defend it. As Stephen
insists, “It’s ours. We took it. It’s ours!” The anarchy that
ensues ultimately serves only to deliver the mall back
into the hands of the dead, who actually prove to be less
materialistic than the living. To the tune of Herbert Chappell’s “The Gonk,” a sprightly polka number, the dead
shuffle obliviously through piles of paper money, knock
over shopping displays, and break expensive bottles of
perfume. Although Peter and Fran manage to escape in
the helicopter at the end, their survival is an open question—not just because they are low on fuel but because
they have been unable to break the hold that late capitalism has on them. Viewers today, taken aback by Romero’s
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CONSUMER CULTURE

57
Brechtian use of satirical humor and the special-effects
wizard Tom Savini’s cartoonish gore, often find the film
dated, but its message about the deadening effect of mass
consumption is more relevant now than ever.
The impact of Dawn of the Dead on zombie cinema has
been as lasting as that of Night of the Living Dead. While
Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake eschews social commentary in favor of high-octane action, Romero’s movie has
inspired a number of contemporary zombie films, from
Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead (2004), whose British
hero is so numbed by life under late capitalism that he
fails to notice at first that the dead are returning to life, to
Alejandro Brugués’s Juan of the Dead (Juan de los muertos,
2011), whose Cuban protagonist, bitten by the capitalist
bug, is as rapacious as the dead in his efforts to cash in on
the zombie apocalypse. But compulsive consumerism is
not the only type of capitalist consumption critiqued in
modern zombie cinema.
Cannibalism also figures as a metaphor for the West’s
relentless consumption of natural resources in movies
featuring what Sarah Juliet Lauro calls the “eco-zombie”:
a monster that “channels contemporary characterizations
of a planet angered by humanity’s long-term damage” by
embodying nature’s “retaliation for humanity’s abuse of
its environment” (“Eco-Zombie” 55). The eco-zombie
first emerged in Europe during the 1970s, a time when
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ZOMBIE CINEMA
new concerns about industrial capitalism’s impact on the
planet—in the form of acid rain, toxic waste, pollution,
and deforestation—gave birth to the modern environmentalist movement. Russ Hunter has written about how
Italian zombie pictures such as Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare City (Incubo sulla città contaminata, 1980) and Bruno
Mattei’s Hell of the Living Dead (Virus, 1980) engage “with
some of the concerns of the deeper ecological movement
that began to gain momentum in the latter half of the
1970s,” offering a “cautionary representation of the power
of man to change and (mis)manage the ecosystem” (114,
128). A similar engagement is evident in the French zombie films of Jean Rollin, whose The Grapes of Death (Les
raisins de la mort, 1978) and The Living Dead Girl (La morte
vivante, 1982) present living death as a symbol and symptom of environmental destruction under late capitalism.
This cycle of European eco-zombie cinema was
launched by Jorge Grau’s seminal Let Sleeping Corpses Lie
(Non si deve profanare il sonno dei morte, 1974). An Italian production shot largely on location in England by a
Spanish filmmaker, it concerns a young antiques dealer,
George (Ray Lovelock), who goes on holiday, leaving his
shop in Manchester to visit friends in the Lake District.
On the way, his motorcycle is damaged in a fender bender
with Edna (Cristina Galbó), who offers him the use of her
car if he’ll accompany her to her sister’s home in South
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