Saturday, October 6, 2012

November 6, 2012: Night of the Living Dead Racist

"I'm a fringe candidate and I approved this racist message".
(MarshallDunn Press)—The last 4 years have seen the biggest deterioration in political and social civility since Homo sapiens started dating Neanderthal women.  Try as they may, the vast army of 24-hour news “celebrities” either cannot or refuse to explain this slide into civil oblivion.  It stands to reason: when you’re the ones greasing the slide, you just can’t enjoy the ride!

Anyone who doesn't know who George Romero is has either been living under a rock or else is one of the Undead this director used to create his…um…moderately successful "Zombie" franchise. After his release of the cult classic "Night of The Living Dead" in 1968, Romero became the blame for other blockbusters such as…."Dawn of the Dead" and….."Day of The Dead"….not to mention his most recent dead-on-arrival, "Land of The Dead".  2012's "Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection" by director James Plumb doesn't count. While it is theorized that Romero was the architect of a few other "dead-end" projects in the 90's, it is widely feared that even death itself won't stop this man from cranking out even more of these gore-oozing sequels. You write what you know.

Recently, some college-educated-yet-terminally-unemployed-liberal-20-somethings have rediscovered the original “Night of the Living Dead” and found some eerie metaphorical parallels between the main protagonist (starring Duane Jones, the "Jackie Robinson" of horror movies) and president Obama:

1)   The resourceful hero tries to help a victim of runaway consumerism.
2)      The tenacious hero fights an unsupported battle against an unstoppable enemy.
3)      The tragic hero gets shot in the head by the cavalry in the end.

Of course, on the other extreme…and less "extreme" than even I suspected…of the political spectrum, the movie is summed up as so:

1)      Some black guy thinks he’s in control.
2)      There weren’t any Zombies until this black dude showed up.
3)      There won’t be any more Zombies once that black guy is dead.

Fortunately, most of America is somewhere in between. Given the lukewarm reception to Obama’s first debate performance by the independents, it wasn't unrealistic to assume that maybe both Obama as well as Romero had finally reached a dead spot in their respective franchises. But, a few weeks later that became a moot point. While Obama was winning re-election, rabid racism, pronounced dead long ago by talking heads, arose and apparently voted republican. They probably didn't vote democrat since happy people usually aren't sending angry, racist Tweets.

With spectacles like 400 white college students flipping out and rioting at Ole Miss on election night, nothing can make Zombies look that scary anymore. The brain devouring denizens of the horror movie have been eclipsed by the brain-dead demographics still clinging to outdated modes of expression. The racial epithets flow like lava from the lips of those who proclaim political disappointment while demonstrating something much more pervasive. Something dead....that still walks: bigotry.

The reason is probably because the fictional flesh-eating dead no longer frighten us as a society with hordes of undead, unreasoning creatures tearing apart any hint of  social progress.  The Alan Wests and Ann Coulters of this current society can rip the guts out of the best of intentions. A Zombie Rush Limbaugh could probably really chow down on some entrails between tirades demonizing the living. But is that scary or just another post-apocalyptic reality in the making? What one says in innuendo doesn't reflect restraint, it's merely shorthand for a ravenous Zombie fan base.

There are rumors of deep social implications in these "Living Dead" movies, but the clammy hands of time have made a cynical mess of Romero's once easily frightened core audience. What was once an "ironic twist" at the end of  "Night of The Living Dead" is now openly suggested as a Second Amendment solution by the likes of Ted Nugent and thousands of faceless others in the security of their all-white Zombie worlds. These days the only emotion a scene of entrails-eating Zombies induces is a desire to visit the snack bar, thanks in part to the Pavlovian conditioning the movie concession industry has been using on audiences for the past three decades. The insidious past few years of demagogic dialog has created a similar Pavlovian response in the bigoted underbelly of society, disemboweling the very concept that a non-Zombie should EVER be the leader of the free world.

Sorry, George, but it looks like "reality television" finally made your audience as lifeless as your primary movie antagonist. You need to bring your shock element into the 21st century.  Want to REALLY scare people? Try running a Zombie like Romney for public office and watch him actually get votes. Other Zombies will vote for him, of course, but that's democracy at work. However, when they collectively start lurching your way with archaic racist chants and signs, acting like that's the norm, that tightening in your throat is called harsh realization. But here's the real question: which ones are just the Zombies and which ones are the racists? Hard to tell until they open their mouths. You don't have to wait too long to see if it's to eat your brains or spew racist vitriol.

Maybe it's just the times, but Zombies tearing through human flesh just isn't as funny as it used to be. Plus, you don't have to pay actors as much to do the Zombie Shuffle for 120 minutes when in reality, the  politicians have been doing it for years now. That gimmick is getting a little worn and given Romero's restricted thematic span and an increasingly limited number of plots featuring walking corpses, Zombie politics is the only logical extension.

It is possible that this latest serving of ghoulish political chowder was enough to push the “bottom” button on bigotry's Express Elevator to Oblivion. It's a long way there, but the Muzak composition of Ted Nugent's  "Cat Scratch Fever" and a word processor should keep the hordes of single-minded political pundits entertained long enough to stay the course. Maybe in the interim one of them can produce a script about a brain-deadened population that fraudulently succeeds in electing a Zombie for president…who promptly disenfranchises 53% of the population and urges the rest to stagger down the primrose path to Hell. That’s certainly a scary horror story, but where's the entertainment value in that? A better story would be how 47% of the population looked in the mirror one day and either saw a Zombie staring back....or a bigot. Based on the denial we've been living in for decades, most of them...would rather be a Zombie. The real horror of the story would be finally discovering the ugly truth one way or another.