“It’s worth clarifying that I’m a British media studies academic, and not your Prime Minister. Then again, inviting him to discuss zombies might not be such a bad idea: world leaders aren’t exactly known for their humanity, but yours seems to have more in common with the living dead than most...”See, what happened was, for the zombie article I wrote for our decade-in-review issue, I tried to arrange an email interview with Professor Stephen Harper of the School of Creative Arts, Film and Media at Portsmouth University. He'd written a piece I enjoyed called "Zombies, Malls and the Consumerism Debate" for the journal Americana. And, considering his name, I figured he'd be a doubly perfect source for an article looking back on zombie film in the Zero Decade. But, due to holiday celebrating getting in the way, the interview didn’t come off until after the issue went to press.
Still, Harper’s insights into the zombie genre are pretty damn impressive so I’m running the whole interview here on the blog.
But first a few highlights....
“Humanity is living through apocalyptic times – war, famine and disease blight the planet and even the ability of the environment to support human life is being undermined at an alarming rate. Such developments aren’t natural or inevitable (in fact they are all more or less preventable); they are the excrescences of a mode of production that is in terminal decline – in fact, a system that can only be described as necrotic. Especially in the wake of the recent economic crisis, it’s become more and more apparent that capitalism is a rotting corpse. Although a dead system, it blindly staggers onwards. Having enjoyed a fruitful life, it has now exhausted its potential and is now no longer advancing the cause of human progress in any way, but cannibalising humanity. ”
“Perhaps more than any other type of monster, zombies condense ideas about power and its abuse. As you know, the zombie has origins in the Haitian voodoo tradition and insofar as they are seen as slaves, zombies invite a degree of sympathy, opening up a space in which we can see ourselves, as it were, in them.”
"More terrifyingly, of course, the undead can also represent the ‘return of the repressed’, resurrecting unpleasant histories or reviving reactionary values. In many films, zombies figure forth the ‘dead weight’ of archaic or conservative ideologies, recalling Marx’s famous observation in The Eighteenth Brumaire, that ‘the tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living’."Here is the complete interview with Dr Stephen Harper on the subject of zombies. It is a very good read.