American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the by Kyle William Bishop

By Kyle William Bishop

Zombie tales are primarily American, because the creature was once born within the New international and capabilities as a reminder of the atrocities of colonialism and slavery. The voodoo-based zombie movies of the Nineteen Thirties and '40s demonstrate deep-seated racist attitudes and imperialist paranoia, however the contagious, cannibalistic zombie horde invasion narrative proven by way of George A. Romero has even larger singularity. This booklet offers a cultural and demanding research of the cinematic zombie culture, beginning with its origins in Haitian folklore and monitoring the improvement of the subgenre into the twenty-first century. heavily analyzing such influential works as Victor Halperin's White Zombie, Jacques Tourneur's I Walked with a Zombie, Lucio Fulci's Zombi 2, Dan O'Bannon's The go back of the residing Dead, Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, and, after all, Romero's whole "Dead" sequence, it establishes where of zombies within the Gothic culture.

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13 Ultimately, and of the most importance for their investigation, Ackermann 42 American Zombie Gothic and Gauthier conclude that the Haitian zombie is not an indigenous creation, but rather “an immigrant to the West Indies,”14 an observation that underscores the essential role played by imperial colonization and slavery in the creation of the modern-day zombie. Nevertheless, as I will detail later, the American popular perception and conceptualization of the zombie comes directly from Haiti, regardless of the creature’s more elaborate genealogy.

53 This widespread fear of infestation and other biohazards is hardly less significant today; it’s hard to view either film — or any zombie movie, for that matter — without thinking of recent threats from avian influenza, anthrax, tainted toys from China, or the H1N1 (swine) flu. This idea of a terminal, debilitating illness or infection even leads to the less obvious metaphor present in almost all recent zombie movies: euthanasia. As many films since the original Dawn of the Dead have asked, is it better to murder diseased loved ones or to allow them to become something Introduction 29 monstrous?

The zombie is thus a complex and relevant cultural artifact, a fusion of elements from the “civilized” New World and mystical ancient Africa. Indeed, it is a creature born of slavery, oppression, and capitalist hegemony and in that way a manifestation of collective unconscious fears and taboos. To begin to comprehend this much-misunderstood creature, I want first to establish a working theoretical framework with which to approach the zombie as a product of folkloristic mythology. I will then examine the historical and scientific environment that created such a monster, consider the ideological ramifications of its application in both traditional and popular culture, and trace the journey of the zombie from ethnography to cinematic narratives.

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