Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Zombies and Faeries

It's been rattling around in the back of my mind, to ask: Why zombies? Why now? I think the answer (or an answer) finally occurred to me tonight.

I'm not a watcher of horror, but I found this trailer for the remake of Dawn of the Dead sometime, and it's stuck with me. What disturbs me is the familiar (the neighbor kid) turning into a predatory monster. And unlike other movie monsters, zombies (and similar phenomena like the virus in 28 Days Later) are about us becoming monstrous.

To me, this seems entirely in keeping with a broader sense I was brought up with, that the most dangerous threats are not from foreigners or monsters from beyond, but from our own carelessness and rage. Zombieism, when it has a "scientific" explanation within a movie, usually has something to do with dangerous research... it's a dystopian pandemic story, like Contagion. When it simply is, without explanation, it's like a haunting.

"When there's no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth" is the line from the promotional poster for the original Dawn of the Dead. This makes zombies something alien, but the story itself is about reanimated corpses: in this sense vampires, but stupid, shambling vampires, out for something much less subtle that a vampire's neckbite.

Anyway, as a broad explanation, this makes sense to me. I don't know how much power is really left in foreign monsters, in this era of instant communication and global social networking.

And it makes me wonder about the construct of Faerie, as intelligence-apart-from-humanity. In the Scottish traditions I know best, Faerie is situated where humans are not: under the hill, under the sea, in the deep forest... In a world where none of these things seems that exotic, where James Cameron is about to dive the Marianas Trench to make a movie, the idea seems kind of quaint.

Perhaps an parallel of the zombie phenomenon is in order: where the seduction of Faerie in the ballad tradition comes from its alienness, perhaps a modern version is fully homo sapiens, but has made itself "other" by rejecting... what? The Faerie rejection of religiously-based morality doesn't really work as an alienating force any more. But something like that.

This requires further thought.

1 comment:

natcase said...

Two comments from Facebook (reposted with permission):

Gale says: "I'm not sure I would compare zombies with fairies, but it is an interesting thought. I've seen more comparisons between zombies and vampires because both are widely popular right now, but in different ways. While my observation may be a bit... limited and fluffy, I've noticed vampires are popular but only a small percentage of the population really identify with the vampire lifestyle. More people are willing to turn up as a zombie and party. I think it's more of a pop culture theme."

Mark says:
"To me it's not the creatures themselves that are the important theme, it's the breakdown of the routines, machines and complicated systems that we rely on. It's never a zombie or two that's causing problems, it's tens of thousands of what w...ere the people that used to be your community now senseless but threatening. So if Godzilla, represents an enemy from without (a single nuclear attack) Zomibes are the fragility of civilization in general and the feeling that things can't just keep on going as they are forever, and that when it stops, the reality we have believed in has vanished. It's almost Buddhist in that sense."