Saturday, November 14, 2009

More Thoughts on China and the Zombie Apocalypse

That quintessential (and rare) day of horror, Friday the 13th passed beyond the barren western borders of China just a few short hours ago. In the spirit of the day, I watched the excellent new film, 'Zombieland'. Having heard a few details on the movie, I had dismissed it. Surely any new parody of the 'zombie apocalypse' genre couldn't out do 'Shaun of the Dead'? Well, I have to say that at least in some respects, this movie took a shotgun to Shaun's place in the pantheon of zombie parody and gibbed it. The key, of course, is that (like Shaun), Zombieland takes the genre seriously, creating an interesting storyline, sympathetic characters, and finding some hilarious new perspective on life after the big Z. Bill Murray's minor role was the cherry on the putrescent, rabid cupcake.

What I was left with, however, was a burning desire to see the zombie apocalypse in China. Hollywood being so Ameri-centric (and everyone knows its Cali-centric, since it's often cheaper and more convenient to shoot there), no one--with the exception of one or two sections in the novel, World War Z--has taken on the setting. If you thought Zombie America was bad, think about how things would play out in a country with more than four times the population, living in much denser communities. Although (in this case) the authoritarian government's massive army would count in China's favor, you do have to deduct the fact that very few private citizens own a gun or other proper anti-zombie weapon. Most Chinese (i.e. everyone except the spoiled middle-class youth) also haven't even heard of Bruce Campbell, so it does make one wonder what instinctive defenses would come to their minds as they watched a rabid corpse run their way... probably they'd get gobbled up, but there's plenty of room for innovation away from the hackneyed (but satisfying ) chainsaw.

The other point in favor of a movie about the Chinese version of the zombie apocalypse is the usual comparisons made (by such movies) between modern society and zombies. This sort of parody-rhyme on real life has become popular in zombie fiction--perhaps since 'Dawn of the Dead' and its comparison to mindless consumerism--and surely could be used symbolically to good effect. Granted, the western perception of the Chinese as a culture of brain-washed conformists is definitely overplayed. Every society has its share of brain-washing (think TV advertisement and Fox News) as well as conformist sheep to be herded by political, idealist, or religious symbols. My experience of China (perhaps not that of others) suggests to me that the relatively enhanced conformity of the education and political systems just brings into greater contrast (and sometimes greater extremity) those people in society who exhibit a strong character of some sort... and of course it's easy to miss the sometimes subtle signs of the individual amid such a vast, insular population when you are new to it and don't know the language. In any case, there are interesting themes to be played with... if done with the right understanding and subtleties.

In some sense (and I've said this before), Z-Day is a state that has--from time to time--already existed in China. The competition for survival can be brutal, particularly in the times of anarchy or famine which occur cyclically in China. The environment already seems to mirror a world of zombies--the wild animals stay hidden from ravenous humans, or end up eaten.

Hmm... maybe I need to write this script?

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