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Zombieland and the inversion of the subaltern Zombie

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Who doesn’t love a good zombie splatter-fest? Appealing to commercial audiences and cultural theorists alike, the American zombie movie has been characterized as both a pariah of low art and a rich source of critical insight. In its earliest incarnations, along with much of the broader genre of horror film that preceded it, the zombie film was deemed unworthy of critical analysis. Pioneers such as George A. Romero, however, provided filmic fare that was imbued with political significance. As the zombie genre evolved and matured, it reflected increasingly sophisticated and radical interrogations against the hegemony of the patriarchal culture in which it was produced, carried through the metaphor of zombies who were subaltern in either their undead abjection or their disenfranchized social identities. Recently, however, Christopher Sharrett insisted that “[a]lthough the popularity of the zombie film today is enormous, its value as social/political commentary is not only almost totally gone, it has been transformed by neoconservative culture into its opposite.” This article seeks to elucidate the different interpretations of the somewhat nebulous term ‘subaltern’ and the way it has been co-opted by conservative factions through a thorough analysis of the 2009 reflexive zombie parody Zombieland.
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Keywords: American culture; Gramsci; Spivak; Zombieland; cinema; ideology; subaltern; zombie

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Victoria

Publication date: April 1, 2016

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  • Horror Studies intends to serve the international academic community in the humanities and specifically those scholars interested in horror. Exclusively examining horror, this journal will provide interested professionals with an opportunity to read outstanding scholarship from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, including work conceived as interdisciplinary. By expanding the conversation to include specialists concerned with diverse historical periods, varied geography, and a wide variety of expressive media, this journal will inform and stimulate anyone interested in a wider and deeper understanding of horror
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