We’ve Created a Monster Feb07

We’ve Created a Monster...

Thankfully, most of us don’t literally mean it when we shout, “Oh, no! I’ve created a monster!” In the Toho movie franchises, however, when the Japanese say it, they mean it. The world of Kaiju, the “strange beasts” of Japanese cinema, include attacks on the world and are often the result of humanity making a very poor choice or unfortunate mistake. Godzilla: King of the Monsters introduces us to a highbred dinosaur born from the radiation of atomic weapons testing. Godzilla ravages Japan, bringing further devastation to the nation after the horror of what spawned him in the first place. The writers and producers of the Godzilla films knew firsthand the destruction of nuclear weapons. They had seen two of their cities leveled, their people burned and poisoned by the radiation, their land scarred and torn, and their country defeated and shamed by this unnatural power. When they started making Godzilla movies, their nation was still feeling the effects of the war. Godzilla is a physical representation of their experiences. Depending on the movie, Godzilla has been portrayed as a good guy saving the world from other monsters or aliens, or as a bad guy wreaking havoc on unsuspecting citizens. Regardless of his current relationship with humanity, his presence is a reminder of the nightmare, the monster, that we create when we assault and abuse the earth. Humankind’s Godzilla-sized carbon footprint should be enough to shake some sense into us. In the newly released anime movie, Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, Godzilla is such a threat to humanity that they have to leave the planet and look for a safe place to live. Even as they make their escape, he blows many of them out of the sky with his atomic ray. They come...

A Depraved Mind Dec11

A Depraved Mind

Foraging for food, seeking shelter, and facing hordes of undead is just another day in the life of the group of survivors from Atlanta, Georgia, in The Walking Dead. Something else that strikes me, though, is that there are several occurrences in The Walking Dead that are reminiscent of Christianity—from the group holing up in a church in episode 2.1, to Hershel’s daily Bible study, occasions of prayer and scripture quotation, mentions of Christ, and the character of Father Gabriel. Beyond these nods to the Christian milieu of the American South, the show’s portrayal of the human condition is of particular interest to me. Namely, The Walking Dead juxtaposes hope with the brutality of a savage, amoral world. The behaviour of the people in the world of The Walking Dead evidences the depraved disposition of humanity as described in the Bible. The Walking Dead, like other apocalyptic fiction, portrays humanity as self-serving. It is this selfishness that leads to the human-on-human thievery and violence that begins full-force in Season Three. As Rick and Shane’s factions threaten to split the group after they imprison a stranger who attempted to kill them, Dale’s plea for the group to remember its humanity by not executing the young man is a moral event horizon. When Dale dies and the walker herd descends on the farm, the characters lose their home as well as their hope that the world can ever go back to the way it was. Dale was a tangible symbol of that hope. Now, other survivors may be more of a threat than the walkers themselves. Without the promises hope provides, can altruism truly exist? Congruent to The Walking Dead, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight provides an apt ethical meditation on the implications of facing a merciless foe who...

Humanity and braaaaains Oct09

Humanity and braaaaains...

When Our Fearless Leader (my new nickname for our managing editor) announced the theme of plagues and health for this issue, I thought: “What a perfect time to write about zombies.” The more I thought about it though, the more I asked myself, what isn’t a perfect time to write about zombies? There are just so many possibilities with the undead. Part of what makes zombies such a rich subject is that they connect to fears about the darkest possibilities of humanity—humanity at its most base and inhumane, lacking compassion, reason or understanding. Zombies can represent the mindlessness of our cultural landscape and our unthinking response to that landscape. Over the past ten years—following an abundance of zombie movies, novels, comics, and video games—dozens of authors have connected the undead to topics such as philosophy, economics, and theology (the theologians especially love the scene in Matthew when the dead rise from their graves after Jesus’ resurrection). But for me, the most interesting connection to draw is still the link between the undead and disease, which has, since the 1970s, become a core aspect of the zombie mythos. Zombies are assumed to be the result of some sort of unknown (possibly engineered) and highly contagious virus. This pandemic aspect not only adds to the horror (now we’re not only at risk of being killed, possibly eaten, but also of being infected), but defining zombies as contagions creates room to explore questions about humanity and evil. Movies like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later… and shows like The Walking Dead and its recently aired prequel Fear the Walking Dead use zombie narratives to wrestle Zombies can reveal our helplessness in the face of global pandemics.with large ethical issues: if zombies are created by infection (as opposed to voodoo,...