Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Zombies Are Not The New Vampires

Time magazine no less has noticed that zombie movies sometimes do big business.

Time thinks zombies are the new vampires. Time treats the topic tongue-in-cheek—“It was the beginning of the end for vampires when Lehman Brothers went under, those bloodsucking parasites. Down with vampires. Long live (or is it die?) the zombie: the official monster of the recession”—but it’s very intriguing that they even noticed a difference between zombies and vampires.

The difference between zombies and vampires may be an opportunity for some cheap laughs at Time, but for Goblin Universe fans, the difference is something like a comment on the whole modern world.

The real difference between zombies and vampires—the conceptual, defining difference—is that zombies are blunt, visible and obvious monsters while vampires are subtle, hidden and masked monsters. Zombies don’t attempt to disguise their monstrous nature. Vampires mask their true, monstrous nature behind a human image.

Pop culture is interesting in that more often than not it glorifies vampires by focusing on the human mask and ignoring the hidden evil. So, for instance in the movie “Innocent Blood” the beautiful vampire is a good vampire because she only bites bad gangsters and she always destroys them so they don’t become undead themselves.

Pop culture typically presents the mask as the reality.

Pop culture adds to this odd desensitization by presenting images of zombies, creatures which have nothing at all hidden.

Monster hunting, then, becomes not a process of trying to see beneath the surface, not a complex process of observation and discernment, but simply a matter of looking.

The ugly creatures engaging in cannibalistic behavior are bad because they’re ugly and we see them doing bad things. The attractive, human-looking creatures who do some good things are good because they are attractive and do some good things.

I strongly suspect this aspect of pop culture is bad, bad, bad.

I strongly suspect that over the centuries the, so to speak, evolutionary benefits of the horror genre have been that it provided a powerful and entertaining metaphor for life’s complexities—sometimes attractive people who seem to be doing some good are, in a larger reality, awful people doing awful things: monsters.

In fact, I strongly suspect that our awareness of falsity, our awareness of base duplicity, our awareness of the business of masking a true self, of posturing, of presenting an image rather than a reality, is at the heart of our natural human response of fear, in the sense of horrified terror.

I’m going to post more about this in the future because it’s fun to speculate about where the difference becomes real between the natural desire to present oneself in the best light possible, to put one’s best foot forward, and, to use Hervey Cleckley’s wonderful phrase, the mask of sanity rises up as a diverting facade for the horrifying monster, the psychopathic true self raging in someone’s deepest secret soul.

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“…We Hadn’t Gathered Them From Aliens…”

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