The zombie invasion is here. Our bookshops, cinemas and TVs are dripping with the pustulating debris of their relentless shuffle to cultural domination.
A search for “zombie fiction” on Amazon currently provides you with more than 25,000 options. Barely a week goes by without another onslaught from the living dead on our screens. We’ve just seen the return of one of the most successful of these, The Walking Dead, starring Andrew Lincoln as small-town sheriff, Rick Grimes. The show follows the adventures of Rick and fellow survivors as they kill lots of zombies and increasingly, other survivors, as they desperately seek safety.
Since at least the late 19th century each generation has created fictional enemies that reflect a broader unease with cultural or scientific developments. The “Yellow Peril” villains such as Fu Manchu were a response to the massive increase in Chinese migration to the US and Europe from the 1870s, for example.
As the industrial revolution steamed ahead, speculative fiction of authors such as H G Wells began to consider where scientific innovation would take mankind. This trend reached its height in the Cold War during the 1950s and 1960s. Radiation-mutated monsters and invasions from space seen through the paranoid lens of communism all postulated the imminent demise of mankind.
By the 1970s, in films such as The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor, the enemy evolved into government institutions and powerful corporations. This reflected public disenchantment following years of increasing social conflict, Vietnam and the Watergate scandal.
In the 1980s and 1990s it was the threat of AIDS that was embodied in the monsters of the era, such as “bunny boiling” stalker Alex in Fatal Attraction. Alex’s obsessive pursuit of the man with whom she shared a one night stand, Susanne Leonard argues, represented “the new cultural alignment between risk and sexual contact”, a theme continued with Anne Rices’s vampire Lestat in her series The Vampire Chronicles.
Risk and anxiety
Zombies, the flesh eating undead, have been mentioned in stories for more than 4,000 years. But the genre really developed with the work of H G Wells, Poe and particularly H P Lovecraft in the early 20th century. Yet these ponderous adversaries, descendants of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, have little in common with the vast hordes that threaten mankind’s existence in the modern versions.
M Keith Booker argued that in the 1950s, “the golden age of nuclear fear”, radiation and its fictional consequences were the flip side to a growing faith that science would solve the world’s problems. In many respects we are now living with the collapse of this faith. Today we live in societies dominated by an overarching anxiety reflecting the risk associated with each unpredictable scientific development.
Now we know that we are part of the problem, not necessarily the solution.
The “breakthroughs” that were welcomed in the last century now represent some of our most pressing concerns. People have lost faith in assumptions of social and scientific “progress”.
Central to this is globalisation. While generating enormous benefits, globalisation is also tearing communities apart. The political landscape is rapidly changing as established political institutions seem unable to meet the challenges presented by the social and economic dislocation.
However, although destructive, globalisation is also forging new links between people, through what Anthony Giddens calls the “emptying of time and space”. Modern digital media has built new transnational alliances, and, particularly in the West, confronted people with stark moral questions about the consequences of their own lifestyles.
As the faith in inexorable scientific “progress” recedes, politics is transformed. The groups emerging from outside the political mainstream engage in much older battles of faith and identity. Whether right-wing nationalists or Islamic fundamentalists, they seek to build “imagined communities” through race, religion or culture and “fear” is their currency.
Modern zombies are the product of this globalised, risk conscious world. No longer the work of a single “mad” scientist re-animating the dead, they now appear as the result of secret government programmes creating untreatable viruses. The zombies indiscriminately overwhelm states irrespective of wealth, technology and military strength, turning all order to chaos.
Meanwhile, the zombies themselves are evolving into much more tenacious adversaries. In Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later it takes only 20 days for society to be devastated. Charlie Higson’s Enemy series of novels have the zombies getting leadership and using tools. In the film of Max Brooks’ novel, World War Z, the seemingly superhuman athleticism of the zombies reflects the devastating springboard that vast urban populations would provide for such a disease. The film, starring Brad Pitt, had a reported budget of US$190m, demonstrating what a big business zombies have become.
Why zombies, why now?
This is a relentless enemy, seeking to cause death and destruction with little or no regard to their own safety. They may be your neighbour, a friend or teacher – but now they want you dead. Sound familiar?
Today, at home and abroad the primary weapon is terror, aimed at local populations but also, thanks to globalisation, world audiences. The terrorists ramp up the atrocities to provoke violent overreactions or attacks on civil liberties. These acts slowly turn the people against the established authority.
In these conflicts, the strategic target is no longer the opposing army but the hearts and minds of the people, both at home and abroad. It is in this context that the popularity of the zombie genre has grown. A cursory look through zombie entertainment reveals that the vast majority of it has been produced in the last ten years.
Like those of previous generations, our fictional nemesis reflects deep-seated concerns. The shock of the Paris Charlie Hebdo attack, the Copenhagen shootings and the Sydney siege are still fresh in our memory.
As the survivors in the Walking Dead have found, such relentless enemies may force even the most upright citizen to confront their moral codes. Rick’s struggle to hold onto his old values is one of the most fascinating aspects of the programme. In the battle for TV ratings, survival, no matter what it takes, may be enough, but, in the real world, holding on to our moral compass may be the greatest weapon we possess.
Fans will be thrilled after knowing that Fox announced the renewals of new shows Empire, Gotham and Brooklyn Nine-Nine this year!
DC comic Batman origin series Gotham will be back for a second season. Empire the show that dances around music, family, and power will come back for a second season as well. The successful sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine is also coming back with the third season, which Dana Walden, the CEO of Fox, called “true bright spots of comedy this year.”
Dax Shepard’s account of a C-section is everything you would expect and more. During an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on Thursday, Jan. 15, the funnyman retold his wife Kristen Bell’s “intense” 33-hour long labor with their second daughter, Delta, which ended up in a C-section.
“It was not [easier the second time around], it was more difficult,” Shepard, 40, admitted to DeGeneres of the arrival of his now 3-week-old daughter. “Kristen, god bless her, was in labor for 33 hours. It was intense.” (Read More)
Great news for the fans of Game of Thrones, Veep and Silicon Valley. They are coming back to HBO on April 12! HBO announced Thursday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.
The fifth season of Game of Thrones is set to air at 9 p.m., followed by the second season of Silicon Valley at 10 p.m. and the fourth season of Veep at 10:30. All three shows will span 10 episodes. (Read More)
Sure, YouTube is filled with videos of singers of all ages belting out Frozen’s signature tune, “Let It Go.” But none of those folks happen to be related (well… onscreen at least) to the first and best Elsa, Idina Menzel. Glee star Lea Michele, on the other hand, can boast about being the fictional ice queen’s fictional daughter, since her alter ego, Rachel Berry, long ago learned that Menzel’s Shelby Corcoran is the biological mother that gifted her to her two gay fathers. (Read More)
Out model and DJ Ruby Rose will join the halls of Litchfield this summer on the upcoming third season of Orange Is the New Black.
Netflix confirmed to BuzzFeed that the 28-year-old Australian will portray Stella Carlin, “an inmate at Litchfield Federal Correctional Institution whose sarcastic sense of humor and captivating looks quickly draw the attention of some of Litchfield’s inmates.” (Read More)
In nearly every industry, there’s that one person who comes along and turns the whole thing onto its head. When it comes to sportscasting, Stuart Scott was that man. But on Sunday morning, at 49 years old, he lost his battle to cancer, ESPN reported. Scott leaves behind a legacy. He became an anchor on ESPN’s… Continue reading →
Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, 29, who married husband Ryan Sweeting, 27, on New Year’s Eve last year, who is currently pulling in $1 million per episode on The Big Bang Theory, recognizes the strides women have made toward equality.
But that doesn’t mean she considers herself a feminist.
“It’s not really something I think about,” she told Redbook magazine for its February issue, on newsstands Jan. 6. “Things are different now, and I know a lot of the work that paved the way for women happened before I was around … I was never that feminist girl demanding equality, but maybe that’s because I’ve never really faced inequality,” she said. (Read More)
We’ve gotten quite excited over this list of January 2015 Mid-Season Series Premieres & New Seasons. The beginning of the year is a big deal for television and this year it’s no wonder why. The first week opens up with a sixth season of Ridiculousness on MTV, a second adventurous season with Mysteries at the Castle on the Travel Channel; new seasons of The Mentalist, The Good Wife and Downtown Abbey kick off Sunday nights starting January 4th; The Bachelor and Antiques Roadshow making their 19th year premiere (who saw THAT correlation??); Marvel’s Agent Carter making it’s debut on ABC; Pretty Little Liars, Cougar Town and Real Husbands of Hollywood returning for sexy Tuesday nights; A&E’s Wahlburgers and Duck Dynasty gracing us with their presence on Wednesdays; Archer and Portlandia giving the laughs on Thursday nights, and Glee returning for a one-hour first episode on Friday the 9th.
The second Sunday of the month, January 11th, brings us the season premiere of Shameless on Showtime, along with the fourth seasons of House of Lies and Episodes. HBO reluctantly premieres a fourth season of Girls, as well as the series premiere of Togetherness from writer/actor Mark Duplass (Safety Not Guaranteed) and a new season of the out and open male singles dramedy Looking.
The rest of the month offers some great renewals and premieres such as the modern day wild mid-western Justified on FX, a TV adaptation of 12 Monkeys starring Aaron Stanford (CW’s Nikita) as James Cole, Netflix’s The Fall pulling us down and taking Gillian Anderson with it, espionage-driven The Americans also on FX, and Suits on USA finally back after a long hiatus. We also get a new installment of Black Sales, the thrilling Caribbean pirate story on STARZ, and Thursdays get scandalous with ABC’s How To Get Away With Murder and Scandal back to back starting January 29th.
Ridiculousness (MTV, Season 6 premiere)
Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory (MTV, Season 7 premiere)
Big Women, Big Love (Lifetime, series premiere)
Mysteries at the Castle (Travel Channel, Season 2 premiere)
Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta (TLC, Season 7 premiere)
Raising Whitley (OWN, Season 3 premiere)
Sag Harbor (OWN, series premiere)
Galavant (ABC, series premiere; back-to-back episodes)
The Mentalist (CBS, Season 7 regular time slot premiere)
The Good Wife (CBS, Season 6B premiere*)
The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC, Cycle 14 premiere)
Downton Abbey (PBS, Season 5 premiere)
Thicker Than Water (Bravo, Season 2 premiere)
Sister Wives (TLC, Season 5B premiere; two-hour episode*)
The Bachelor (ABC, Cycke 19 premiere)
Antiques Roadshow (PBS, Season 19 premiere)
Marvel’s Agent Carter (ABC, series premiere)
MasterChef Junior (Fox, Season 3 premiere)
Pretty Little Liars (ABC Family, Season 5B premiere*)
Switched at Birth (ABC Family, Season 4 premiere)
Cougar Town (TBS, Season 6 premiere)
Child Genius (Lifetime, series premiere)
Real Husbands of Hollywood (BET, Season 2B premiere*)
Wild Transport (A&E, series premiere)
60 Minutes Sports (Showtime, Season 3 premiere)
The Challenge (MTV, Cycle 26 premiere)
The Haves and Have Nots (OWN, Season 2 premiere)
American Idol (Fox, Season 14 premiere)
Empire (Fox, series premiere)
Love Thy Neighbor (OWN, Season 3 premiere)
Hindsight (VH1, series premiere)
My 600-lb. Life (TLC, Season 3 premiere)
My Strange Addiction (TLC, Season 6 premiere)
Duck Dynasty (A&E, Season 8 premiere)
Wahlburgers (A&E, Season 2 premiere)
Donnie Loves Jenny (A&E, series premiere)
Archer (FX, Season 6 premiere)
Expedition Unknown (Travel Channel, series premiere)
Babylon (SundanceTV, series premiere)
Portlandia (IFC, Season 5 premiere)
Love Thy Sister (WEtv, series premiere)
Banshee (Cinemax, Season 3 premiere)
Glee (Fox, Season 6 premiere; one hour)
Masters of Illusion (The CW, Season 2 premiere)
Cold Justice (TNT, Season 3 premiere)
Jessie (Disney Channel, Season 4 premiere)
Real Time With Bill Maher (Season 13 premiere)
Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars (WEtv, Season 2 premiere)
David Tutera’s CELEBrations (WEtv, Season 2 premiere)
Comedy Bang! Bang! (IFC, Season 4 premiere)
Ghost Adventures (Travel Channel, Season 10B premiere*)
Shameless (Showtime, Season 5 premiere)
House of Lies (Showtime, Season 4 premiere)
Episodes (Showtime, Season 4 premiere)
Girls (HBO, Season 4 premiere)
Togetherness (HBO, series premiere)
Looking (HBO, Season 2 premiere)
Eye Candy (MTV, series premiere)
Fashion Police (E!, Season 5 premiere)
Friends to Lovers (Bravo, series premiere)
Parks and Recreation (NBC, Season 7 premiere)
Face Off (Syfy, Season 8 premiere)
Troy Street Magic (Syfy, series premiere)
Kroll Show (Comedy Central, Season 3 premiere)
Genealogy Roadshow (PBS, Season 2 premiere)
Hotel Showdown (Travel Channel, series premiere)
Wrestling With Death (WGN America, series premiere)
Big Giant Swords (Discovery Channel, series premiere)
Married at First Sight: The First Year (FYI, series premiere)
Mikie Saves the Date (FYI, series premiere)
My Big Fat Fabulous Life (TLC, series premiere)
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FXX, Season 10 premiere)
Man Seeking Woman (FXX, series premiere)
Melissa & Joey (ABC Family, Season 4 premiere)
Baby Daddy (ABC Family, Season 4 premiere)
Broad City (Comedy Central, Season 2 premiere)
The Game (BET, Season 9 premiere)
Rock This Boat (Pop [formerly TVGN], series premiere)
The Story Behind (Pop [formerly TVGN], series premiere)
Snoop & Son: A Dad’s Dream (ESPN, limited series premiere)
Web Therapy (Showtime, Season 4B premiere*)
12 Monkeys (Syfy, series premiere)
World’s Funniest Fails (Fox, series premiere)
The Fall (Netflix, Season 2 premiere)
Helix (Syfy, Season 2 premiere)
The Musketeers (BBC America, Season 2 premiere)
Grantchester (PBS, series premiere)
Austin & Ally (Disney Channel, Season 4 premiere)
K.C. Undercover (Disney Channel, series premiere)
Star vs. The Forces of Evil (Disney Channel, series premiere)
The Fosters (ABC Family, Season 2B premiere*)
Chasing Life (ABC Family, Season 1B premiere*)
Brain Games (National Geographic Channel, Season 4 premiere)
The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore (Comedy Central, series premiere)
Justified (FX, Season 6 premiere)
Backstrom (Fox, series premiere)
Nightwatch (A&E, series premiere)
Love, Lust or Run (TLC, series premiere)
Preachers’ Daughters (Lifetime, Season 3 premiere)
King of the Nerds (TBS, Season 3 premiere)
Black Sails (Starz, Season 2 premiere)
Sons of Liberty (History, miniseries premiere)
Mud, Sweat and Gears (BBC America, series premiere)
Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations (Travel Channel, series premiere)
Sirens (USA, Season 2 premiere; back-to-back episodes)
The Americans (FX, Season 3 premiere)
Suits (USA, Season 4B premiere*)
Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, Season 11B premiere*)
Scandal (ABC, Season 4B premiere*)
How to Get Away With Murder (ABC, Season 1B premiere*)
Fortitude (Pivot, series premiere)