Unusual Traffic Levels

For over a week now my sight has been receiving much higher than usual traffic. Apparently, many people have been drawn to one of my older posts that I made poking fun at the movie ,”Home Alone” due to fake a death report for Macaulay Culkin making the rounds on Facebook and similar sights. Right now, I am enjoying the extra exposure, and I am hoping to pick up a new reader or two as a result. Also, I was wondering, is anyone else has  enjoyed a surprising uptick in their page views in the past? If so, how long did it last, and did you notice any more readers in the long run?

And while you are reading this, if you want to shamelessly capitalize on the higher traffic go ahead and post something about Macaulay Culkin before people loose interest.

R.I.P Carrie Fisher *Spoilers* Star Wars: The Force Awakens *Spoilers*

star wars tfa

Before you read my post, you should read this post by Nerdlingstale. My post is a response to this one: http://www.nerdlingstale.com/2015/12/22/star-wars-theories/

 

I loved the movie. I was so afraid that it was going to be another stinker like the prequels. Episode VII gave me all the right emotions in all the right places, And I agree that Kylo Ren is exactly what I wish Anakin had been. I was able to thoroughly enjoy this movie even with its issues.

Finn’s crisis of conscience happened too early. He turned away from the ‘dark side’ before we knew enough about his character to even care. If we had followed him through half the movie before he turned, we would have felt the enormity of his choice to run away, but instead, it was one of those scenes where you know you are supposed to feel joy for him doing the right thing and sorrow for the pain he feels yet you don’t care.

Han and Lea’s reactions were wrong. Han was afraid to see Lea but when they met they acted like it was just some happy family reunion instead of two former lovers that have a shared tragedy. And when they spoke of their son they spoke like he was just away at camp. I know that parents can often see beyond their children’s wrong doings, but their son was complicit in killing billions of people with his ‘not-death star’ uh… (What should I call it?)… Death Star.

And probably the biggest problem with the movie is that the plot is driven by a search for Luke Skywalker. This is a plot with no stakes. If the good guys find him. we get a cameo of Mark Hamel being a teacher, and If the bad guys find him we get a cameo of Mark Hamel as a captive. Either way, it is a win for the fans of the original trilogy that like being pandered to, but the fate of the universe does not hang on who finds him. so when Rea found Luke at the end all I thought was: “Now what?” But just the same, I loved every moment of the movie and I am dying to see the next one.

And for fan theories, Finn is force sensitive and will be training as a Jedi before the trilogy is over. The reason he was able to defy his storm trooper programing was because he had ‘force strengthened’ willpower. And the reason that Kylo Ren noticed him, knew his, serial number, and knew he was the one to run away was because he felt the force flowing in him. Also, with absolutely no light saber training Finn was able to hold his own with Kylo Ren who had years of training. Finn did eventually lose the fight but he was not cut down like a normal nobody would have been.

Rey will turn out to be Darth Plagueis. In The Knights of the Old Republic game from 2003, a young adult with no memory of his or her past was left alone on a planet, and as the story goes on the person starts to get force powers without having to train for them. This person eventually finds out that he or she had been the leader of the Sith until the Jedi council caught him or her and erased his or her mind and blocked him or her from the force. After the force block breaks down he or she gets a second chance to choose the light or dark side of the force.

Rey’s force abilities seem to jump out of her fully formed without any training when Anikin and Luke both had to learn to use their powers a little at a time. So over the next two movies we will learn that Luke and young Ben Solo (Kylo Ren) worked together to defeat Darth Plagueis and worked together to wipe her mind, and this is why Kylo Ren seemed so worried when he heard that a girl was seen with Finn and BB-8.

We will, then, find out that it was Darth Plagueis’s (Rey’s) supreme control of the dark side of the force that first tempted Kylo to the dark side. By the time he met Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo was easy pickings. And Kylo will tempt Rey to join forces with him to kill Snoke and rule the galaxy together as father and son… ahem… I mean partners. In the end, Kylo will sacrifice himself to kill Snoke and save Rey’s life, the rebels will destroy the new Death star before it becomes fully operational, and the Ewoks will have a dance party in their treehouses while the ghosts of Anikin, Obiwan, and Yoda look on.

I think I forgot to mention that this trilogy is just another retelling of the original trilogy just with different characters. It is directed by J. J. Abrams, and that is what he does. I mean just look at Star Trek II: The Not-Wrath-of -Kahn Wrath of Kahn.

Controlling the Zombie

30 June 2014

The character of Murder Legendre looms large over the image of Haiti that is portrayed in the film, White Zombie. He is a well-known person on the island, and he is conspicuously European. Legendre owns a large estate and runs a large sugar plantation. But what makes this character the most dangerous to the Haitian people is that he is a zombie master (White Zombie 1932.) In the article “The Zombie Media Monster’s Evolution to Empty Undead signifier” Ryan Lizardi states, “Thematically, [zombies] exhibit … the importance and preoccupation with concepts of control, loss of control, and fear of being controlled” (Lizardi 92.) As a former slave colony, the people of Haiti have a particular fear of losing control or being controlled by others. The character Murder Legendre of White Zombie shows up as a symbol of their colonial past, and the only way for them to regain their own control is to remove him as a symbol of the former colonial regime.

In a movie set in Haiti dealing with Haitian myths, one might expect the welfare of the Haitian people would be one of the main themes.  In fact, in the article, “Thinking Dead: Our Obsession with the Undead and Its Implications” Murali Balaji said, “Race is another element of zombie texts, seen both overtly and subtextually, as zombies are seen as stand-ins for racial and ethnic others” (Balaji xii.) Most of the film only deals with race in a subtextual way. The narrative of White Zombie revolves around the conversion of a white woman into a zombie for the sole pleasure of one of the rich white plantation owners of the island (White Zombie 1932.) while at first this story line seems to be missing the point of setting a film in an exploited land by leaving the Haitians out of the main story, this decision may have been made consciously to avoid offending the sensibilities of a 1930’s audience. Due to the prejudices of the day, the viewing public who may be convinced to help the exploited of other countries would likely have been chased off by a film that revolved completely around the problems of a foreign people.

Black characters are used in very few places throughout the film, and when they are used they are part of a crowd of extras with only three exceptions. The carriage driver, Pierre the witchdoctor that Dr. Bruner asks about the death of Madeline, and the former witchdoctor that Legendre has turned into a zombie are the only black characters that have any extended screen time and both of the witchdoctors were played by white actors in black face. By keeping the screen time of black characters to a minimum the film makes a statement about the second class status of the black people living in Haiti.

The roles played by the black characters also play a part in showing the disparity between the races on the Island of Haiti. In the beginning of the film, the group of people mourning at a funeral consists of black actors (White Zombie 1932.) While the group does fill the role of exposition giving the carriage drive the opportunity to inform Madeline, Neil and the film’s audience about the cultural and religious practices of the Haitian people, the group of mourners also works as an obstacle for the white characters. Therefore, the black carriage driver and the group of black mourners exemplify the way that the white characters think about the Haitians: while alone Haitians can make perfectly fine servants, such as carriage drivers, taken as a group they are a strange and unknowable hindrance and must be avoided as much as possible.

All of the white characters in the film live in opulent mansions far removed from the Haitian people. Neil and Madeline have come to the island to get married in the opulence of Beaumont Manor. Charles Beaumont lives in luxury with large rooms and expensive furniture. He has the means to throw a feast for people that he barely knows, and he is constantly attended by his butler named Silver. Even Doctor Bruner, the preacher lives in a large house with expensive furniture and decorations (White Zombie 1932.)  The only reason that they can afford these things is because of the plantation economy that takes advantage of the low labor cost afforded by the poor Haitian people.

While all of the white characters in the film are making their livings on the backs of the black Haitians, only Murder Legendre is honest about his exploitation of the Haitian people. In only one scene does the film ever explicitly deal with the subject of race in any overt way, and this scene takes place in Legendre’s sugar processing plant. The sugar plant is being run exclusively by zombies. The zombies that are doing the all of the labor are black Haitians, but the white zombies are seen in the background standing around and watching, and the camera zooms in to show the pained faraway look on the faces of the zombies that are stooped over the cranks that they are pushing to turn the sugarcane grinder (White Zombie 1932.)

The white zombies that line the edges of the plant floor resemble foreman inspecting the work being done and keeping their workers in line. However, in the article, “Race, colonialism and the evolution of the Zombie,” Cory Rushton and Christopher Moreman state, “Aside from being scary monsters, what [zombies] share in common is an idea of subjugated agency” (Moreman and Rushton 3.) Since the zombies working in Legendre’s sugar plant have no agency, the reason that the white zombies are standing around watching the black zombies work is to bring the plight of the Haitian people forced to work under deplorable conditions to the viewing public. But this is where the politics of the film get complicated. While the narrative of the film has taken time to ask the viewers to feel for the exploited Haitian people the casting of the film takes advantage of prejudices of the day and hires two white actors to play black characters.

Difficulties in making sense of the film’s complicated politics aside, the film concludes when Legendre loses control of his crew of zombies and they throw him off a cliff into the surging waves of the ocean below (White Zombie 1932.) While the tossing of Legendre into the ocean symbolizes Haiti’s removal of exploitative interests from overseas. But Neil Madeline and Doctor Bruner remain showing that even with the removal of the biggest hindrance to the Haitian people removed there will still be a very long road before Haiti is able to recover from the damage it received at the hands of colonial oppressors. In their article, Rushton and Moreman state, “Zombies, for their part, represent in the African tradition not simply the walking corpse of Western imagination but are synonymous with a wide range of monsters” (Moreman and Rushton 3.) Using Rushton and Moreman’s knowledge of zombies, one can see that the zombie problem that the film White Zombie is trying to eradicate is the outside interference in Haiti’s affairs.

Work Cited

Balaji, Murali,. Thinking Dead: What the Zombie Apocalypse Means. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2013.

Lizardi, Ryan. “The Zombie Media Monster’s Evolution to Empty Undead signifier.” Thinking Dead: What the Zombie Apocalypse Means. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2013. Print.

Moreman, Christopher M. “Race, colonialism and the evolution of the Zombie.” Race, Oppression and the Zombie: Essays on Cross-cultural Appropriations of the Caribbean Tradition. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2011. Print.

White Zombie. Halpern V. United Artists, 1932. Film.

Romero’s and Bakhtin’s Apocalyptic Carnival

25 June 2014

George Romero’s movie, Dawn of the Dead celebrates the violent excess and grotesque spectacle that Mikhail Bakhtin would be likely to term a world turned upside down. The film is filled with zombies invading the public spaces, wandering the streets all hours of the day and night like the revelers of carnival. According to “Mikhail Bakhtin: Carnival and Carnivalesque – Summary and Review” from the website The Cultural Studies Reader, “But the town square and its adjacent streets were the central site of the carnival, for they embodied and symbolized the carnivalesque idea of being universal and belonging to all people” (The Cultural Studies Reader 2014.)  The zombies thrive on the basest of urges, the urge to eat. The zombies of Dawn of the Dead are male, female, rich, poor, powerful, and lowly. The zombies in this film are diverse with examples of nun zombies and Hari Krishna zombies as well as a zombie in a nurse’s outfit and one fat zombie in swim trunks. There are zombies dressed for every profession and every recreational activity. In fact, the zombies have the look of individuals in costume. And when you include thick white makeup that the actors must wear to look like they are dead, the zombies in this film begin to resemble clowns on parade. As clowns, the zombies of Dawn of the Dead fit perfectly into Bakhtin’s of carnival. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead fits perfectly into the literary tradition of the carnivalesque; horror movies in general and especially zombie movies supply the cultural transgression that audiences need to continue to live within the strictly controlled structure of today’s society.

Dawn of the Dead begins by showing the chaos going on inside the newsroom of a television broadcasting network. While the people inside the newsroom are safe from the riot and death in the streets, their job as purveyors of mass media make them especially aware of the danger that is brewing in the streets. The awareness of the danger in the streets causes then to act erratically and panic. The fear and panic that the newscasters feel is spread to the individual residences through television programing. This radiating of fear, panic, and bad decisions from the streets to the media and then out to the people’s private residences parallels the way that carnivalesque is able to penetrate into all facets of society. The web article says, “[The carnival] penetrated the house […] and did not exist just in the public sphere or town square” (The Cultural Studies Reader 2014.) And the fear and panic that spreads to everyone in immediate danger or just informed of it is given license to do things that would have been unthinkable before the beginning of the zombie outbreak. The web article states, “…Behavior that was otherwise unacceptable is legitimate in carnival, and human nature’s hidden sides are revealed” (The Cultural Studies Reader 2014.) Peter, Francine, Roger, and Stephen all show no remorse when stealing gas to refuel their helicopter or looting the stores in the mall for the items that they need (Dawn of the Dead 1979.) But they did not just stop at the necessities; they looted high end clothing, electronic devices, and other luxury items that they definitely did not need. And all of this was deemed acceptable because of the extreme circumstances of the zombie outbreak. In fact, there is even a news cast within the film that directs the survivors to “remove the head or destroy the brain” of the zombie (Dawn of the Dead 1979.) The idea that a news authority would authorize the general public to murder other people on sight indicates the extent to which the laws have been loosened during this time of zombie carnival.

According to the web article, “The central ritualistic act of the carnival is the false coronation and deposition of the carnival king” (The Cultural Studies Reader 2014.) The initiating act of all zombie films, not just Dawn of the Dead, is the rise of the zombie to a position of power, and the main conflict in Dawn of the Dead is the deposition of the zombie usually by inflicting some sort of violent trauma to the head of the zombie. In Dawn of the Dead, the supplanting of normal society by zombies acts as a de facto coronation of the king of the carnival. The carnival king is chosen from someone that is the exact opposite of a king (The Cultural Studies Reader 2014.) The zombies of this film are far from regal kingly material. While a king is an exalted example of what a human can become, a zombie is the most degraded example of what a human become. A king is stately and impeccably dressed while a zombie is hunched over, decomposing, and dressed in the tattered remnants of clothing. The web article states, “The carnival unites the two poles of change and crisis, birth and death, old and young, down and up, wisdom and stupidity etc. the dualistic imagery is characteristic of the carnival for their contradiction” (The Cultural Studies Reader 2014.) Carnival’s dualism is also apparent within the desiccating corpse of the zombie. Birth and death unites in the zombie. The moment of a zombie’s birth is the death of the human that had once inhabited the body. The zombie is effectively immortal combining young and old in an eternally ambulatory corpse. While the zombie has lost its ability to think for itself, it is still motivated to eat and create more zombies by an instinctual drive. Instinct is a form of wisdom passed down through the genes, and therefore wisdom and stupidity are united in the zombie as well.

The final scene of Dawn of the Dead shows Peter and Francine flying off in the helicopter into the noon day sky, into the pristine pastoral paradise of forest and blue sky accented with big puffs of white clouds. Francine’s departure in the late stages pregnancy leaves the film with a sense of hope for rebirth and renewal of the Earth. And Peter and Francine serve as an Adam and Eve analogue, and their escape into the untouched wilderness resembles a return to Eden.  But this act of renewal and rebirth would mean very little without the death and destruction caused by the zombies. The degradation of normal society to its basest animal instincts is what allows the escape of Peter and Francine to have any significance. Bakhtin believes that the cycle of change and renewal, death and rebirth that is represented in carnival is what allows people to continue to function within the strict structure of society (The Cultural Studies Reader 2014.) The web article states, “The carnival for Bakhtin is a festival of time which exterminates all and renews all” (The Cultural Studies Reader 2014.)

As a festival of time Dawn of the Dead is displayed to the general public within the confines of a 128 minute movie. The public’s consumption of this movie also follows within the confines of Bakhtin’s theory of carnivalesque. The movie audiences share in the enjoyment of this bloody carnival. The feelings of being a coconspirator in the cultural transgressions and sacrilegious debate allow the viewers of Dawn of the Dead and movies like it to have the feeling of change and renewal that allow them to go on with the rest of their boring daily lives and stay in lockstep with the constricting rules of society.

Work Cited

Romero, G. Dawn of the Dead. United Film Distribution Company, 1979. Film.

“The Cultural Studies Reader.” Mikhail Bakhtin: “Carnival and Carnivalesque” – Summary and Review. Web. 26 June 2014. <http://culturalstudiesnow.blogspot.com/2011/07/mikhail-bakhtin-carnival-and.html&gt;.