Shamble On: Rotting Renaissance

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Zombies.

They’re dead, they’re all messed up . . . as well as now completely in vogue.

Put it this way: when no less than the CDC is using the threat of a zombie apocalypse as a means to teach disaster awareness, you know it’s no longer a cult phenomenon.  Those labcoat wearing government bureaucrats just aren’t that hip.

We’re lucky not to see government-sponsored magazine ads from them trying to pimp us on being ready for any circumstance nature or man might throw our way by using Klaatu and Gort here as de facto spokesmen ‘that the kids can relate to on that Facebook-thing’.

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The success of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s The Walking Dead comic, and the AMC television series based upon it, now halfway through its third season, is perhaps the culmination of the living dead’s slow crawl to pop culture prominence, amidst the perfect storm of the overall nerd media takeover.

Are we reaching a saturation point where there’s too much of a good, decomposing thing?

Witch, please.

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My zombie fandom comes from something in the water, literally: I grew up and still live here in Western Pennsylvania, where George Romero conceived, co-wrote, directed, and filmed the granddaddy of all modern non-voodoo related zombie films, Night of the Living Dead, in 1968, and then a decade later, Dawn of the Dead, at the Monroeville Mall just outside of Pittsburgh.

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” In [a] mere 90 minutes this horror film (pun intended) casts serious aspersions on the integrity and social responsibility of its Pittsburgh-based makers, distributor Walter Reade, the film industry as a whole and [exhibitors] who book [the picture], as well as raising doubts about the future of the regional cinema movement and about the moral health of film goers who cheerfully opt for this unrelieved orgy of sadism…”

— editorial from Variety, just after the original release of the then-unrated Night of the Living Dead (because the MPAA didn’t exist yet), and probably the only time California has ever looked down its nose at Pennsylvania in matters of ‘ integrity and social responsibility’.  We might have a bit of a local fetish for the undead, but we’re not the ones who have mandatory workplace condoms, thankyouverymuch

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Without George and Pittsburgh, there’d be no Ricktatorship on the outskirts of Woodbury, Georgia.

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Fun Fact:  George Romero once filmed a segment of Pittsburgh-produced Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood prior to Night of the Living Dead.

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Why am I so enamored with zombies, aside from the geographic connection?

Zombie fiction combines two different grades of personal nightmare fuel for me.  The first is fear of the horde.

A monster, singular, doesn’t scare me that much.  One, maybe two, I can handle.  Pinhead, Freddy, Chucky, by themselves, feh.

But when they get to be an unstoppable, innumerable mob, that makes me want to fill my pants.  Ridley Scott’s Alien?  I can deal, even as a kid catching it on pay cable.  Pretty scary, sure, but there was just the one Big Bad.

Cameron’s Aliens, which my friends and I watched practically non-stop as teens because the Colonial Marines were so badass?

Waking up in a cold sweat EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

And that was before I discovered Romero’s work.

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The second is fear of the apocalypse in general.  The collapse of society fascinates me in a way I can’t quite put my finger on, and at the same time it makes me unnerved.  And as with the first, for whatever reason, I end up drawn to the stuff like a moth to a bug zapper.  It fries my brain at times, but I love the self-inflicted stress.

That’s the reason those of us who like horror stories or scary movies partake in our heady, bloody brew, I think.  We enjoy being scared.  For me, personally, it sort of cleanses the mental palate to some degree, in a way that other escape hatches to worlds of superheroes or other types of fantasy doesn’t.

Unless . . .

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Horror isn’t about a power fantasy where the good guys can match the bad guys blow for blow: often times, the protagonist is much weaker than his or her supernatural counterpart, and barely can claim victory.  Sometimes it’s less a hash mark in the win column than just mere survival.

Maybe there is a slight element of sadomasochism there, the need to inflict something on ourselves that makes us a little uncomfortable or uneasy . . . although I suppose we can get plenty of that in actual world-outside-the-window reality.

Speaking of which, I just glanced out mine since the motion detector light went off.  Excuse me for a second —

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Damn neighbors.  If they’re not stomping all over the yard with their big dead feet, they’re leaving their half-eaten entrails behind and I have to clean up.

Anyway, I’m pleased to see zombies get out of their cult ghetto and get mainstream recognition as a genre unto themselves.  Shamble On is going to be the basement here at Public Domain where we keep the living dead locked up (as not to unduly menace the other, more helpless ridiculousness and tomfoolery in these parts), but we’ll occassionally let the ghouls off the chain and have fun.

Initially, we’ll be focused, of course, on the last half of Season 3 of The Walking Dead, but we’ll eventually get around to playing with other dead things in various media — and a few that aren’t quite dead but close enough to count.

We’ll see you in a few days with a review of the midseason TWD premiere.  Until then, keep the machetes sharpened and Carl actually in the house, like he’s been told (for once).

— mal

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Er, SPOLIE — aw, screw it.  If you haven’t got this far, just smile and know every time she gets on your nerves and you want to shove her in front of a herd that eventually she gets what’s coming to her for not being able to keep her pants on less than a week or two after leaving her dead husband behind and sleeping with his best friend to boot.

Thanks for stopping by Public Domain!  I want to thank everyone who’s been jumping on board the past couple of weeks and just pushed PD past 100 follows and 2500 views.  You guys and gals are the shells to my shotgun.

And on the crazy off chance someone associated with TWD happens to be reading, I have a great idea for a ‘signature’ zombie for an upcoming season — you know, like Bicycle Girl?

Zombie Stage Magician.  I can even do my own make-up, Greg Nicotero. Daryl can shoot me in the eye with a crossbow bolt, then skin my rabbit and make some stew just like Granny Dixon used to make for him and Merle.

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2 Comments

  1. It is really interesting how zombies have really come into the mainstream over so much time: and how they have evolved as well. I actually wrote a story that was supposed to be for the Saving the Evans City Chapel Event. I didn’t end up sending it, but I did develop it further. If you want, I can send it to you: ask you what you think about it. It encompasses a lot of different things.

    Also, awesome The Day The Earth Stood Still poster. I love that movie.

    • Sorry about the day in response; was an incredibly crazy week. Would love to see the Evans City piece.

      Had kind of hoped this post would’ve been a little more academic than it ended up being, so I’ll have to remedy that in the future. Starting to see the need to focus on quality over quantity in terms of posts, as I can’t seem to hit both marks and still have time to work on other projects, so I’d much rather have less, but better and more interesting material.

      Although I do have to say since I stumbled across the trivia that there’s a cluster of neurons that is absolutely obsessed about the idea of a Mr. Rogers Neighborhood-like live broadcast during the 1968 Night of The Living Dead outbreak, so I may have to do something with that . . .


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