Updated: Mar 15
At the start of this week, I needed to present my question and path to be submitted for review. I also needed to read the universities ethics code and submit a report as well as a consent form.
In terms of the question and plan, I have concerns over if I can get this right. I pointed out on week one that this is my weakest area, and have already cashed in two of my six tutorials in the hope of getting this right. Both have been very helpful and I hope I have a strong enough question to push forward and make a compelling project.
With ethics, I do intend to speak to people and I have for now got two categories of questioning. One is on peoples ideas of zombies, which is an easy exploration into the pop culture of the subject. The other is on social and political issues, which I do have more concerns about. The concerns are that I want to hear as many different takes and attitudes on these matters, however, I am aware that people may not want their opinions to link to them in the public domain. The counter this I believe it is fair to give these candidates pseudonyms and manipulate voices and images on audio-video recordings.
I further have looked into where I should store the records and decided to keep any records on a secure local hard drive, so they can not be accessed remotely on a cloud service. I will further make sure the drive is password protected in the unlikely event it is stolen. I did look at pin protected drives but have a contact who said they can install the security onto a standard unit. This likely seems overkill but I do not want to ruin lives over a fun project. I do believe overall that the participation is extremely low risk.
In terms of the question and plan, I decided to design the document, I do not think at this stage that was necessary, But I also found it a good distraction from trying to think up design ideas for the project itself, and as an exercise will likely do small design projects, even if it's a silly illustration throughout this project just to help my focus on the big picture. For the document I created it in the form of a horror comic, to set the tone of the project.
Night of the living dead has to be one of the most iconic films within the zombie genre. It is regarded that the whole zombie genre, truly started off the back of George Romero’s classic. A movie full of suspense and mostly set in one room. The fear of what is coming over the idea of a constant rampage of the undead during the majority of the first and second acts.
Before we go forward in the analysis of issues portrayed in the film, Romero always said he hadn’t intended to make the film about race — insisting that Jones simply gave the best audition (Wilkinson, 2017). Which, like my intention to discuss race within the film, is frustrating. However, although Romero claims that race is not an issue within the film, the film does display issues of race and xenophobia, even if only coincidental.
The film was made in 1968, mere months after the assignation of Dr Martin Luther King, an advocate for black equality. The matter of racial equality was a big issue during this period of North American history, and to cast a black lead for a film, was likely, somewhat controversial. The portrayal of a black lead in a film at this time was almost certainly going to be under scrutiny.
Duane Jones, who plays Ben seems like a person in this crisis to have the best ideal of handling this outbreak. However, to suggest he is virtuous would be a stretch. Judith O’Dea, who plays Barbara, winds up in the same house after running from a zombie who attacked her brother. Barbara wants to go out to look for her brother, however, Ben is adamant he is dead and that they need to stay put. Ben is being smart and logical in comparison to Barbara, who is borderline hysterical. In her frustration she slaps Ben, who returns a punch (closed fist), knocking Barbara out. Although a reaction to what would be a tense situation, and with me viewing this with a 21st-century outlook, physical violence towards women is wrong, moreover, the issue that a woman’s slap would have a little impact on a man’s punch, based on those men are inherently stronger furthers an idea of an explosive and violent nature of our protagonist. Although domestic violence around this time may have been seen as more acceptable, I would question that Ben was more than capable of restraining Barbara at this moment and that you could possibly observe that this portrayed a black man to have an unreasonable violent temper.
As Barbara comes around, we are introduced to Mr Cooper, who has been hiding in the cellar throughout. Mr Cooper's first thought is to acknowledge the radio. When Ben points out that he could have come up sooner to investigate the banging and screaming, he was quick to point out it was not his concern. Ben and Mr Cooper exchanged in a debate over if it is safer to stay on the ground and the first floor of the house or to hide in the basement. Mr Cooper does initially offer the basement to all, but Ben is quick to point out that they, in his opinion are safer in the house. Mr Cooper is quick to draw the lines between the two areas of the house and demands the radio, to take to the basement. This I think is interesting as previously he was not concerned with the welfare of any survivors in the house, as not his problem, but now upset he cannot take a valuable resource with him as he creates apartheid within the house. His return to the basement is met with Mrs Cooper sarcastically informing Mr Cooper “he has to be right” and later saying “these people are not our enemies”.
The third act is the one, that from my post-movie research suggests where racism sit within this film. This I believe is trickier to justify from other points, in that the outbreak has died down in the house. All the occupants, except Ben, have died and the ordeal for Ben seems over. It’s the twist when the local sheriff and his team, are out despatching the zombies in somewhat of a cool manner. They are relaxed with a shoot on sight mindset. When seeing Ben in the house moving, a quick shot to the head finishes his ordeal in a somewhat more unceremonious manner. It is easy to suggest that he was shot for being black. However, I would argue that this is less about his race and more about an American attitude of shooting first ask questions later.
Overall, I can see the points of the issues raised about the making of this film and its message. The message of racism and xenophobia I believe is seen much earlier than the final act. The portrayal of Ben and Mr Cooper especially show one of violent temper and demand for a resource with no reasoning other than ‘I want it which possibly could have indicated, the white Mr Cooper should be allowed the resources over Ben via white privilege. In the final act, we can also associate through modern uses of Police abusing power, with a shoot first and asking questions later. Cases like Brianna Taylor or George Floyd as more recent examples of this attitude.
The zombie survival guide, on a personal level, is one the book that peaked my interest in the idea of zombies. Like Dr Dales, Zombie dictionary, this is mostly a guide book on what you need to do in the event of an outbreak. Covered into catagories, such as transport, it points out the pros and cons of different options. As an example, the transport page breaks down the advantages of having a dirt bike over a car, due to manoverability, however, claiming that you might likely sucumb to non-zombie related accidents. Brooks lists straight after that a list of additional equiptment you should carry, which on the motorcycle would be untenable due to its weight and size. Brooks does fail to mention this in his critique of the motorcycle.
This survivalist guide pushes the readers imagination, as when absorbing the advise, you start to consider how prepared you are in the event of an outbreak. The last quarter of the book focuses in on case studies. How these studies are written, pushes you to consider if these were real accounts of outbreaks in history.
Like the zombie dictionary, this likely may become useful during the developement phase of this project. It is exactly a survial manual, which is a fun take on the genre away from the story telling side, and an essential for anyone with interest in the genre.