Updated: Sep 1
Three weeks in and I am still struggling with what my question is for the subject. A positive I have gained from peer review and lecturers is that I have a project of value, however, I need to be very cautious of direction. I had my second lecture on the project with Dan, who showed a positive attitude towards the concept. I shared my thoughts on tying in Covid as a base to the project, and we discussed how in popular culture political and social issues have been raised through the medium of zombies.
Suggested material from Dan, was Mark Kermode, it’s only a movie, as well as his podcasts, due to how he decodes films to your waking life. He also suggested, the last of video games, which I did not consider in my research material.
On reflection of the lecture, I decided that my question should be: How does peoples morbid fascination with zombiism help us to decode political and social issues. The ground work I did in weeks one and two is not lost, however, I am not closed off into one area. In terms of design output, there is scope to explore possible scenarios through my research, and I believe that having it more open at this stage means I am not locking into ideas too early.
For this week’s film, I choose White Zombie (1932). I believe the film and the book it is based on are first real documentation on the genre and have yet to discover any books previous to this.
In terms of this film been a classic horror with realistic undead tearing through Haiti, it is not, it was made in 1932! It does however give an insight into the folklore of Zombies and Voodoo in Haiti.
One of the first scenes, shows our protagonist, Neil Parker, travelling through a plantation on the island on a horse drawn carriage, with his fiancé Madeleine. The carriage stops and we see some figures approaching them. The driver calls out saying they are zombies, and they make haste to their destination. On their arrival they seem quite calm it is suggested they are now safe.
We later meet our villain, Murder Legendre, a voodoo master, who refers to his zombies as his slaves. In this exchange, Murder is plotting with the plantation owner Charles Beaumont, whom Neil and Madeline are staying with. Charles has fallen in love with Madeline and wants Murder to help him and making Madeline fall in love with him. Murder says the only way to achieve this is for Madeline to take a potion and become a zombie. Charles agrees and the potion is ingested by Madeline in the form of sniffing a rose, it worth noting that Murder had suggested a flower or a glass of wine, which holds a quite modern application in drugging women.
Madeline later dies in Neil’s arms and is later buried. Neil later gets drunk and sees Madeline rise from the dead, which starts his journey for answers. These all combinates in a stand-off at a castle with Neil, Murder and Charles, with Charles seeking redemption by pushing Murder off the cliff, although Charles loses his balance and follows. The death of Murder releases the spell and Madeline free.
One of the first points within this film is that zombiism is based upon a state in which the mind is controlled. Murder states that the zombies are his slaves and do his bidding, not of they are undead and process little brain activity and not much else. The film made me question the location and discovery that Haiti was rich with zombiism, embedded into its Voodoo culture.
Further research on the zombies in Haiti shows the undead corpses actually trace their roots to Haiti and Haitian Creole traditions that have their roots in African religious customs (Gandhi, 2013).
According to Haitian folklore, the book Race, Oppression and the Zombie recounts, zombies are the product of spells by a voodoo sorcerer called a bokor. The word is believed to be of West African origin and was brought to Haiti by slaves from that region. The concept of zombies would evolve further with the creation of the voodoo religion (Gandhi, 2013).
This demonstrates that the film, understood its origins and incorporated it into the story narrative.
Dr Dales Zombie dictionary is a A-Z guide of what to expect in the event of a zombie outbreak. It explains how electroconvolsive therapy would be a good methood of killing a zombie or that you probably should not take on the apocolypse without having a double expresso first.
Some parts of the book I would strongly disagree with. Early on into reading, Dr Dale expresses that he does not cover the concept of the zombies being anything but dead. He acknowledges that films like 28 days later and Left for dead cover the concept of a virus that reduces brain function and give the host a canibalistic behaviour, but he dismisses that as NOT a zombie. He later, in section C states there is no cure and thus the zombie must be extinquished.
With White Zombie being the first zombie book and film, I would argue that the concept of zombies does not have to be undead. In fact with it base sitting in the idea of a spell of control a zombie state would be move fitting of a person or animal thats brain function has being reduced to that of a basic instint or goal, regardless of any danger or outcome. For example, if a man that works a regular job, get a regular coffee in the morning and takes his dog out in the evening, contracts a virus that changes his primary function to source and eat brains, and has no regard for his own saftey or life in the basic need, i believe he, as Dr Dale puts it is not a cannibal. A cannibal, would still observe self-preservation. The man is a zombie, and in a zombie state.
This video, demostrates a concept of a paracitic wasp using hosts to incubate the lavae. The host, a catapillar, enters into a zombie state, where its only function is to protect the wasp lavae. This ultimateley ends the hosts life. As the science community states the catapilla enters a zombie state, due to infection and eventually dies through the process, this means that this concept is possible, in theory to happen to humans. This means that a human infected with a virus, but still be living could be refered to as a zombie.
This book potentially, however offers good advise on the protection of one-self in the event of an outbreak and I may potentially re-visit late in the project.