Research Paper: Dawn of the Dead

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  • Topic: Night of the Living Dead, Zombie apocalypse, Land of the Dead
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  • Published : February 20, 2013
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Caleb Turrentine
M. Hampton
EN 103-028
30 November 2012
Dawn of the (Evil & Symbolic) Dead
Over the past decade, interest in zombies in pop culture has sky rocketed. There have been over 100 games and movies featuring the living dead. George Romero’s 1978 film Dawn of the Dead, sequel to Night of the Living Dead, gives its audience insight into these evil symbolic structures known today as zombies. In this film, there are four survivors that take refuge in a huge shopping mall, sealing the doors and creating a zombie-free hideout. This movie is often referred to as one the best horror films of its time and a door way to today’s interest in zombies. Throughout the film, the four survivors deal with hundreds of zombies and at the climax are also having to deal with a biker gang. Although not all four of these characters survived, the mall was a perfect spot for the movie to take place according to a review done by the Spinning Image Company. “The mall is a brilliant location, not just for the satirical possibilities it offers Romero, but also for creating some clever, unsettling imagery,” said Daniel Auty in his review. Auty is speaking of the several times throughout the film where Romero would cut to a scene of just zombies roaming random parts of the mall. These zombies were different than what we see today however. “[The zombies] look silly, they fall over a lot, and Romero mostly shoots them in either broad daylight or the stark fluorescence of the mall” (Auty).

The zombies in Dawn of the Dead appeared from the first minute without Romero giving any sort of insight on how it happened. So in order to understand the body in its monstrous state, one must know the origins of the zombie. Many scholars agree that the term zombie originated from the voodoo religion in Haiti. In “Slaves, Cannibals, and Infected Hyper-Whites: The Race and Religion of Zombies”, writer Elizabeth McCalister discusses these origins in great detail. “The word zonbi appears in writing as far back as colonial Saint- Domingue, glossed by travel writer Moreau de Saint-Méry as the slaves’ belief in a returned soul, a revenant”(3). The Haitians still heavily believe that this is a part of the spiritual world. They say that these entities separate the body and the soul and compel one to work without the other, in this case the body without the soul. Over the years, however, these origins have begun to vanish due to new forms of the zombies. In the early 20th Century, films began to show Eurocentric ideas that created African-Americans to be viewed as these zombie creatures. Films such as White Zombie (1932) and I walked with a Zombie (1943) “invariably cast black sorcerers plotting for conquest of and control over white women, and blackness is unmistakably linked with primitive menace, superstition, and the diabolical” (5). These views began to change by the time Romero’s films came out. Now this monstrous creature is as simple as “a ghoul who lumbers around trying to eat people.”

Today’s society is used to seeing these ghouls in pop culture. Because of the more than 100 shows, movies and video games on the market now, people are more accepting of this idea of a “zombie apocalypse.” In many places, they have held events, such as 5K races and obstacle courses, that center around a zombie theme. In Muskegon, Michigan they held a zombie apocalypse day where civilians dressed as zombies and chased after those that were dressed as civilians. “Zombie participants got creative and tore up and stained their clothing. They also added scars and bloody makeup,” said an article in the Muskegon Chronicle. This goes to show how immune today’s society has become to the idea of these flesh-eating monsters. Not everyone is taking it lightly though as some have plans set in stone for when the apocalypse may happen. The CDC, Center of Disease Control, has its own website dedicated to a zombie outbreak. The blog includes a brief history of the creatures, a list of...
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