United States of the Living Dead

(Warning: the following essay contains a more than usual amount of revolting imagery, strained prose and amateurish Grand Guignol. Viewer discretion is discouraged.)

By all accounts George Romero's 1967 low-budget landmark Night of the Living Dead was never intended to graphically symbolize America's conversion to a culture of mindless, resource-consuming zombies. It was intended to scare acne-ridden drive-in theatre teens out of their bezitted wits.

And it did.

But it also gave the more philosophically inclined a chance to use the flick as a prescient dramatization of the plague of Western materialism. In later films, Romero seemed to take this interpretation to his juicy, finely marbled heart and placed hordes of the Undead in a large mall, where they shambled aimlessly looking for "stuff" to "consume", much in the way Americans do now (Although between their high protein diet and ambulatory nature, zombies are far leaner. Very few muffin-tops in the bunch.).

This transformed the allegory to the literal, making it no less effective an observation but possibly more effective as horror. In a later installment of the "...of the Living Dead" series, there is even an attempt to domesticate a zombie, who is pretty much chained from rotted head to foot (Can zombies suffer from cradle cap? Not really relevant. I just wanted to type that.) and is kept relatively quiescent by feeding him? it? a steady diet of fingers.

Severed fingers.

"Sit up. Roll over. Play life. Good Bob!"

This kept it? him? content, at least for a time. There were even moments when this literal hunk of man exhibited characteristics suggestive of a vestigial personality beyond gurgling and braying, hinting that if his most basic needs were met he could function in society and become a productive zombie and not just one who, given his? it? oh, fuck it insatiability, could not willingly reduce his carbon footprint. And slipping seamlessly once again into a tangent, has no one ever thought about if, or more importantly, where these legions of reanimated answer nature's call? Ever see a dedicated carnivore's dung? Will Romero ever film "Comfort Station of the Living Dead"? Have I digressed? Perhaps.

Or perhaps...not.

One could quibble with the puerile generality of such a comparison to American society. There are many people, places and things (or "nouns") which stand in stark contrast to the pessimistic assertion that the country has been led by unscrupulous plutocrats bent on feathering their own nests and feeding the population the equivalent of fingers while keeping them chained to increasingly unprofitable jobs, indebted to an increasingly unstable economy and blind to world outside their blinkered, shambling zombidom.

Zombidom-dom. Zombidom-dom-dommmm.

It's far fetched. I mean, the notion of keeping people in a state of perpetual consumerism being the sub rosa goal of a style of governance; that to wage, oh, a "war on terror", for example, as the equivalent of a weeping wound (yum!) that never entirely heals, and have the country's citizens perpetually feeding off of it to the distraction of all else. It's America as a massive, plasma-sucking palimpsest, shambling across the globe, bearing only the vaguest hints of what it once was, freaking out the rest of the world and possibly encouraging them to, in the interest of their own survival, blow the gobbling monster's brains out. It would be the stuff of a low-budget horror movie.

Or perhaps...not.