Zombie Apocalypse Now
People sometimes assume that one of the advantages of being a writer is that you can, if so inclined, go see a movie in the middle of the day. In principle, I guess that is true. But it is an option that, in more than a dozen years of writing full-time, I have exercised on no more than three or four occasions -- and then usually because there was some kind of work involved.
On Friday, I was fully ready to drop everything and go to the first screening, on opening day, of Diary of the Dead -- just out of George Romero fandom, and writerly superego be damned. But as the intention to do so crystallized, so did the feeling that, well, it would be easier to justify somehow if I could count going as necessary for work, somehow.
During the meeting of the Association of American University Presses last summer, a publicist from Baylor University Press mentioned that they had done a book about Romero's zombie films called Gospel of the Living Dead.
She seemed surprised that I was not surprised. The element of social satire in Romero's zombie films has always been pretty well marked -- even though it first came into the frame more or less by chance, when the hero of the first one, Night of the Living Dead (1968), was played by a black actor. Race wasn't explicitly addressed within the script, but the narrative line (especially the conclusion) wound itself around this almost accidental bit of casting in significant ways. And Romero's later zombie films were ever more explicit about using social collapse as a way to expose the habitual sins of American life. Not that the language of sin was clearly used, but I could see where a theologian would have an easy time of interpreting the films.
So just before heading off to the theater on Friday, I contacted Kim Paffenroth, the author of the book, to see if he would be willing to do an interview. And he was -- it runs in today's column -- which thus meant it was possible to go watch Diary of the Dead with an easier conscience.
Guilt and productivity: they go together like ham and swiss.
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