The Politics of the Undead

So, my last post was based on the premise that heroes in zombie movies make the bare act of survival extraordinary, displaying the virtue of subsistence. I associated the need for such heroes with recession. I had in mind the claim that economic growth is associated with ‘surging’ and economic recession with ‘dwelling,’ a distinction I stole from Grant McCracken, though Benjamin and Heidegger both wrote about it, and it also plays a big role in Michael Sandel’s work on democracy. My thought was that zombie movies help us savor our existence and the simple joys of non-economic relationships, rather than pursuing unending betterment and consumer novelty, because we see ordinary people lionized. Put another way, the zombie movie hero is a working-class hero.

However, I’ve recently discovered a chart that suggests that zombie movies have been in vogue in recent years, apparently correlating with the war in Iraq!

So apparently economic contraction is not the driver for zombie movies. It’s a little more complicated, you see. Zombie movies are associated with Republicans!

Penn State’s Dendle noted that the political-horror nexus has been strong since 1968. “Night of the Living Dead” opened a month before Republican Richard Nixon’s election, inspiring a zombie film boomlet that persisted until the mid-1970s.

Better yet, vampire movies correlate with Democrats. Of course, this kind of correlative work is like trying to predict the stock market based on skirt length, but it’s fun, anyway. And it raises a real question: in demanding art that elevates the mundane, am I looking to cope with the recession or seeking to perpetuate it? Apparently what we crave in hard times are smoldering beauties and hardbodies with dark, deadly desires and androgynous appeal. You know, to kickstart the economic ‘surge.’

2 thoughts on “The Politics of the Undead”

  1. "My thought was that zombie movies help us savor our existence and the simple joys of non-economic relationships, rather than pursuing unending betterment and consumer novelty, because we see ordinary people lionized."

    Remember, a constant theme of zombie movies is that "man is a wolf to man" – zombies aren't too big of a deal if people could get along.

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