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Author Topic: "Gospel of the Living Dead" a Satisfying Mix of Social Criticism, Zombie Mayhem.  (Read 1167 times)

mattormeg

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Acknowledgements
Preface
Introduction: The Themes of the Current Zombie Movie Genre

Night of the Living Dead (1968): Romero's First Look at Hell, Sin, and Human Nature

Dawn of the Dead (1978: Consumerism, Materialism, and the Fourth Circle of Hell

Day of the Dead (1985): Violence, Perverted Reason, and the Lower Circles of Hell

Dawn of the Dead (2004): Limbo and the Partial Victory of Reason and Virtue

Land of the Dead (2005): The Deepest Abyss of Hell and the Final Hope

Conclusion: The Meaning and Future of Zombie Movies

Notes

Bibliography

Index

"Gospel of the Living Dead" is a new book written by by Dr. Kim Paffenroth, Ph.D, a professor of religious studies at Ionia College, New York.

It is a critical analysis of the social and moral messages behind the enormously popular "zombie" films of director George A. Romero, encompassing "Night of the Living Dead," "Dawn of the Dead," "Day of the Dead," and "Land of the Dead." In addition to these four films, Paffenroth also offers his analysis of the 2004 remake of "Dawn of the Dead," directed by Zack Snyder.

Although the idea of a religious scholar offering a case for the moral and spiritual value of zombie movies might seem a bit off-putting to some readers - both those holding secular and spiritual values - Paffenroth has written a highly accessible, entertaining and thought-provoking read that will be of immense value to both the ardent Romero fan and the casual student of popular culture.

Each of Romero's movies are individually examined, with Paffenroth offering a summary of the plot, followed by quality, thought-provoking analysis. Romero's movies, according to Paffenroth, offer scathing criticism of society's greatest ills, particularly in the context of the era that each movie was made.

The religious aspect of Paffenroth's book is subtle, and populist in nature; the sins he rails against are secular in nature, and regrettably universal in their manifestation: racism, sexism, hate, greed and violence.

In this context, Paffenroth's Romero is a kind of voice in the wilderness, damning a society that chooses to be vapid, selfish and violent, yet has the freedom to be so much more.

Paffenroth maintains that Romero's movies serve a role to society similar to that once served by the traveling passion plays of the Middle Ages. By providing a vivid example of damnation (manifested in Romero's zombies, who are now beyond the salvation of being able to choose to live differently), the living (both the characters in the movies and the movie's viewers) may be spurred toward actively choosing a more equitable way of life.

Paffenroth refrains from suggesting that a Christian way of life, or religious one at all, is the only way or correct way to address such social ills and individual perfidy. Largely, he leaves the reader to make those decisions him or herself.

In closing, I found "Gospel" to be a very satisfying, thought-provoking read. My only objections were (a) that the book itself was a bit too short, clocking in at less than 200 pages for a book that is almost $20.00, and (b) Paffenroth provided little in the way of quotes from Romero himself. This might have added a bit more substance to his analyses. For these reasons, I rated the book an 8/10.

 

Hastur T. Fannon

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Gospel of the Living Dead
« Reply #1 on: September 30, 2006, 04:17:57 AM »
Damn.  I wanted to write this.  Never mind, it's nice to see that I'm not just insane and someone else has spotted the "Gospel according to St. Romero"

Academic textbooks can be very expensive - even if they're written for the mass market.
 

fonkaygarry

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Gospel of the Living Dead
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2006, 10:30:19 PM »
Everyone seems to know that it's the hidden moral life of Romero's films that made them so timeless.  At the same time, no one's willing to try and use that morality to bring their own tepid zombiepocalypse movies to life.

Dead Rising tried to do this with the post-9/11 world, but its halfass finger pointing and utterly surreal last third (USDA Zombies!  Delta Force is the REAL villain!) derailed whatever it had going for itself.

I guess I should finally sit down and watch Shaun of the Dead.
teamchimp: I'm doing problem sets concerning inbreeding and effective population size.....I absolutely know this will get me the hot bitches.

My jiujitsu is no match for sharks, ninjas with uzis, and hot lava. Somehow I persist. -Fat Cat

"I do believe; help my unbelief!" -Mark 9:24

mattormeg

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Gospel of the Living Dead
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2006, 10:56:09 AM »
Quote from: fonkaygarry
Everyone seems to know that it's the hidden moral life of Romero's films that made them so timeless.  At the same time, no one's willing to try and use that morality to bring their own tepid zombiepocalypse movies to life.

Dead Rising tried to do this with the post-9/11 world, but its halfass finger pointing and utterly surreal last third (USDA Zombies!  Delta Force is the REAL villain!) derailed whatever it had going for itself.

I guess I should finally sit down and watch Shaun of the Dead.


Shaun is a great movie...by the way, are you talking about the video game "Dead Rising"? I've not played it, but if what you're saying is true, then I may end up avoiding it altogether.

fonkaygarry

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Gospel of the Living Dead
« Reply #4 on: October 01, 2006, 07:05:34 PM »
Rent, don't buy, Dead Rising.  Loads of people agree that there's one hell of a sandbox game in there (literally, there's an Infinite play mode you can unlock; )  you just have to survive a love-it-or-hate-it plot to get to it.

Something more open ended would have captured the genre perfectly, but they split the difference between Japanese plotwhoring and American sandboxing and  ended up pleasing no one (I mean it, too.  The Japanese sales of DR were grim enough to get the gameblogs up and barking.)

There was one sequence a friend of mine and I were playing through where we'd managed to wrangle up a group of about eight survivors and were taking turns cutting them a safe path through a horde of zombies (so big it had a fucking horizon) with a juggling chainsaw.  Limbs and goo were flying and we were laughing our asses off.  Then we realized we had four minutes of real time to get the survivors to safety and activate a Plot Quest before we lost the game.

That's the Dead Rising experience in a nutshell.  Annoying fun.

EDIT:  The plot, which centers around the Japanese waggling their fingers at the Big Bad US of A for its naughty, naughty gluttony, is a thing of beauty.  The only nation that still practices commercial whaling takes the moral high ground on American commodities trade.  Glorious.
teamchimp: I'm doing problem sets concerning inbreeding and effective population size.....I absolutely know this will get me the hot bitches.

My jiujitsu is no match for sharks, ninjas with uzis, and hot lava. Somehow I persist. -Fat Cat

"I do believe; help my unbelief!" -Mark 9:24