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The Political Economy of the Living Dead: The evolution of zombie consciousness by Antonio De La Garza

by Ethan Tussey

There are all kinds of Zombie movies. There are movies about slow zombies, movies about fast zombies, movies about monstrous mutated zombies, and even movies about zombies in love. Yet, one filmmaker, more than any other defines the genre. George A. Romero’s zombie movies have been lauded by critics for both his mastery of suspense and his commentary on society. The narrative arc of the franchise pits the continuously developing zombies against humans shackled by the specters of late capitalism in order to shine a light on humanities monstrous impulses. Romero’s critiques of capitalism and greed are most visible in Dawn of the Dead and Land of the Dead.

In Dawn, Romero sets the film inside a shopping mall allowing the protagonists not just anything they could need, but also anything they could want. Despite the excess, the humans begins to divide, the zombies break in, and the group must escape their sanctuary. The zombies, drawn to the mall through a mindless avarice make mockery of our own consumer culture. As the protagonists flee for their lives the zombies aimlessly ride the escalators, moving through the mall on an endless quest to satisfy a hunger that can never be sated.

In Land of the Dead the zombies have taken over the world. Humanity’s survivors have regrouped inside a walled city. The very rich live in luxury but everyone else must struggle to survive. During a supply raid the zombies attain a kind of consciousness and attack the walled city. As the zombies cooperatively move closer and closer towards something resembling class solidarity, humanity’s greed, selfishness, and paranoia continue to produce their own gravediggers. In the end, the zombies overrun the city’s defenses devouring rich and poor alike.

Romero’s work inspired a host of copycats, but Romero films are great because they recognize that even surround by a horde of undead, humanity is still its own worst enemy. The “Of the Dead” franchise is a blood-splattered reflection on the best and worst humanity has to offer. Thank you George, thank for making the world a more interesting and terrifying place.

Zombie Capitalism

Post made for In Media Res

from Night of the Living Dead (1968)
Creator: George Romero
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey