Gospel of the Living Dead

Originally posted to "Dickens of a Blog" (probably gone by the time you read this).

I am a zombie head. I could say dead head, but then I would start an argument and I am honestly trying to approach the 'Net as a great big happy love nest, as of late, and avoid things such as needless arguments. You don't have to agree with me, by no means, but a few too many long and idiotic "screaming" sessions about why I am some expletive or another is enough for me.

I digress. I am a zombie head. Not a necrophiliac. There is a difference. I just like zombies. More importantly, I just like movies inspired by (or aping) George Romero's Living Dead series. I also like some zombie lore of the written format, especially the ever fun (but not really) Walking Dead. I never have been able to say why, though there is something about the physical breakdown between sane and insane and living and the dead, where such boundaries do not work any longer, that fascinates me.

Being a fan of zombies and various zombie miscellany, I felt almost like a negative contrarion when it came to my response of Kim Paffenroth's Gospel of the Living Dead. Not because I despised it, mind you, but because I thought it was good but not superb.

It is good, I will attest to that. It manages to show quite a bit of thought that most people do not think to think about zombie films. Have you ever pondered, for instance, that Ben's strength in Night is actually his weakness as well. He does not stop to realize that must bend in order to get the group going. Or how about the abject boredom that descends over the characters of the 1970s' Dawn? How that boredom shows the very tiny difference between the living, with everything they want, and the dead who want nothing?

My issues with the book is that it seems to leave out important considerations while focusing too much on others. In every case, the race issue is discussed. Peter's name is mentioned in the context of a phallic name (though I do think that Paffenroth said "only possibly"). McDermott (this one from Day) is talked about being a lousy Christian because of his drinking, though Paffenroth overlooks the stereotype of a Irish Catholic.

The significance of Steve nearly shooting Peter is also overlooked. He focuses, instead, on Peter's nearly off the cuff abortion remark (and condemns him for it, though it seems the morality there is not quite so easy to jump at).

Also missing, to me, is the significance of Romero not really wanting an explanation in the original movie, wanting it to be all a huge mystery (at least according the sources I have read, which might apocryphal, no pun intended).

I know I sound like I am trashing it, but it really is worth reading. The Gospel is written in a fairly conversational tone, like you are reading the transcripts from some round table discussion (not literally, it is just the mood it carries). Even if you do not want to say that Romero intended all of these things, then it still fascinating to to think about underlying structures, the way that memes come out, or at least the way we think of the things we watch.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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