Sunday, June 15, 2014

After zombies and vampires, what's next?

For today's collapse-related entertainment-themed post, I tie in tonight's season finale of Game of Thrones to zombies and a prediction about what's next in horror with this excerpt of a press release from the College of Charleston that I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Fathers Day) on Daily Kos: Grade of Thrones: Monsters in Popular Culture and Academia with Scott Poole by Hannah Ashe, posted 12 June 2014.
Don’t spoil Game of Thrones season four for Associate Professor of History Scott Poole. He’s a few episodes behind, with perhaps na├»ve hopes for his favorite characters, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister.

“I absolutely love it,” Poole said. “I really like the combination of revenge, horror and a little bit of the supernatural thrown in. Daenerys is probably my favorite character and a lot of that has to do with the dragon association.”

But when Poole, who has tied his lifelong captivation with monsters into his scholarship, has to guess about the post-vampire-and-zombie phenomenon, dragons don’t make the cut.

“There’s actually been a notable uptick in interest in the horror genre since 9/11,” Poole observed. “That’s especially true of apocalyptic horror, which includes zombies in a way. I’ve noticed that films that deal with the idea of pandemics and disease have been gaining popularity, obviously by feeding on very real fears from the past decade – everything from terrorists using biological weapons to bird flu and other possibilities for pandemics.”

His other contending theory also involves fears based on current events, like invasion of digital privacy and security. “I could see something like ‘monsters of the digital frontier’ – films essentially about human beings losing themselves and becoming pure data. There’s so much about social media, for example, that seems perfect for horror films.”
I like that explanation for why zombies have become a major component of pop culture lately, although Poole's analysis misses the revenge fantasy aspects explored in The Archdruid and his readers on zombies and the fear of the other during collapse described in More from the Archdruid and his readers on zombies, part 1.  Add them all together and I think that one would get a more nearly complete picture of the phenomenon.

As for the "monsters of the digital frontier," we already have hackers, trolls, and kooks, who are quite real and who I've dealt with for more than 20 years.  Those belong in genres other than horror, such as action films, so they don't fit in the horror genre in their mundane forms.  Instead, I suspect Poole has something like The Lawnmower Man in mind.  That film was a financial success but a critical failure and was followed by a sequel starring Matt Frewer, who is known for the original human scanned into pure data and escaping into the Internet, Max Headroom.  That was appropriate casting, but the film was even worse.  My verdict is that the concept could definitely use an update and reboot for the 21st Century, but the Lawnmower Man franchise is a good example of leaving bad enough alone.

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