Dead Man Still Walking: A Critical Investigation into the Rise and Fall . . . and Rise of Zombie Cinema
AuthorBishop, Kyle William
Committee ChairWhite, Susan
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractHorror films act as a barometer for society's tensions and anxieties, and the early years of the twenty-first century have seen a notable increase in such movies, the zombie narrative in particular. This "Zombie Renaissance" demonstrates increased dread concerning violent death--via terrorist attacks or contagious infection--and establishes the currency of a critical investigation into this oft-maligned subgenre. The zombie narrative has particular value to American cultural studies as the creature was born on the shores of the New World, rather than being co-opted from the Old, and it functions as a symbolic reminder of the atrocities of colonialism and slavery. Drawing on ethnographic studies of Haitian folklore, the voodoo-based zombie films of the 1930s and '40s do crucial cultural work in their own right, revealing deep-seated racist attitudes and imperialist paranoia, but the zombie invasion narrative established by George A. Romero has even greater singularity. Having no established literary analogue, Romero borrowed instead from voodoo mythology, vampire tales, and science fiction invasion narratives to develop a new tradition with Night of the Living Dead in 1968. His conception of a contagious, cannibalistic zombie horde uniquely manifests modern apprehensions about the horrors of Vietnam, the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement, and, in the more recent films, the problems of excessive consumerism and the anxieties of both the Cold War and the current War on Terror. Essentially, zombies work as powerful metaphors for modern-day society and the prevailing cultural unease surrounding violent death and the loss of autonomous subjectivity, and, as recent production proves, the subgenre will continue to serve the viewing public as it grows, mutates, and evolves.