It's the Halloween
before Tuesday’s election, so the big question is -- how is the political situation reflected in horror
movies? And, specifically, those that deal with that fundamental source of
horror, the Undead.
There are basically two types of undead, zombies and
vampires (Frankenstein fits in uneasily somewhere), and I think it’s safe to
say that up until recently the zombie contingent has dominated the genre. Being
the socialist film critic that I am, I would interpret zombies as representing
the lumpen proletariat. Thay have been so exploited by the capitalist system that
they’re not just downtrodden — they’re dead. But they rise again — the return
of the repressed — to destroy and devour those who subjugated them.
In other words, they represent that “redistribution of
wealth” that the Republicans are scaring everybody with.
On the other hand, they also embody the Joe the Plumber
fantasy that the right wing is trying to sell to the working stiffs of America. The
working stiffs, so to speak. Those real Americans that their fellow real
Americans John McCain and Sarah Palin want to defend against the “liberal
In other words, the Republicans are trying to co-opt genuine
working class discontent, as they have so successfully done so in previous elections, pretending to
be the supporters of the common people when in fact they are those who have
victimized them. And movies like “28 Weeks Later” and “I Am Legend” and "Diary of the Dead" are
expressions of the masses’ ambivalent fear of and attraction to their potential
But those are the old undead. The trend now seems to be in the direction of vampire,
a trend spearheaded by the expected success of
the upcoming adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s YA bestseller “Twilight” in
which a teenage girl falls for a gorgeous, demi-godlike vampire boy. The trend
should gain momentum as we reach 2011 and the scheduled release of Tim Burton’s
adaptation of “Dark Shadows” starring
Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins.
And why not? Vampires are sexy. No one wants to have sex
with a zombie. If a zombie comes snuggling up to you, you don't want to have sex with it, you want to blow its goddamn head off.
Why is that, political subtext speaking? What do vampires represent
beyond confused adolescent hormonal agitation? To find out, I consulted one of
my socialist criticism guidebooks, “Signs Taken for Wonders” by Franco Moretti,
and his essay “Dialectic of Fear” in which he quotes Marx’s observation: “Capital
is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and
lives the more, the more labour it sucks.”
Well, that kind of sounds like the zombies described above.
Or maybe it describes the Wall Street parasites responsible for the collapse of
the economy. And nobody likes them anymore. There must be another explanation.
So, so much for Marx and Moretti. Could these sexy new vampires be representing neither capital or Wall Street CEOs or the aristocracy but the “liberal
elite” that the Republicans have tried to demonize? Could this mean that
instead of hating and fearing this elite, regular people might actually be
drawn to those who are smart, beautiful, educated and talented? Even if they
want to suck their blood?
Beats me. Maybe we’ll know by next Wednesday. Or better yet,
on the opening weekend of “Twilight” on November 21.