Archive for the ‘Zombie Posts’ Category

I know: with a title like that you are so excited to read this post. But this issue has come up a couple times for me in genre television lately and part of the reason I write this blog is to think critically about such questions, so I’m at least going to try to think my way through it.

Warning: Spoilers for recent episodes of Agents of SHIELDThe Walking Dead,  Captain America: Winter Soldier,  Alien, etc., and frank discussions of race. 

The last…30 minutes or so of Captain America: Winter Soldier, I was on the edge of my seat, completely anxious. Not because the hoverships were going to assassinate everyone in DC and New York or because Cap took a bullet to the gut.

I was worried–frantic–about Sam Wilson, AKA Falcon.

Now, I knew and understood intellectually that Falcon is not a one-time character in the Captain America canon. I knew he should be back. I just didn’t know if he would. In fact, part of me felt pretty sure that Sam Wilson was a dead man.

Not just because he’s a black character, mind you. We’ve gotten beyond the more simplistic days of slasher horror which dictated that the black man dies first. George Romero has allowed a bunch of black men to reach the finish line. Hell, even Parker makes it through the bulk of Alien.

No, what made me worry about Sam Wilson is that I liked him and Steve Rogers liked him. You see, it’s not a sacrifice to off a character we barely know. But a character with motivations and empathy and a moral sense who’s connected with your protagonist–that’s a character you can kill with serious dramatic effect.

(This is after they fake-killed Nick Fury earlier in the movie but that didn’t fool me for a minute. SLJ is friggin’ indestructible.)

Okay, obviously, Sam Wilson makes it through Winter Soldier. Praise Zombie Jesus.

Fast forward seven or so months to the midseason finale of Agents of SHIELD. Shit is going down. Skye and Raina are with the obelisk while the walls close around them. Coulson can’t get in. The others are distracted dealing with an alien-possessed Mac (after a gotcha moment in the previous episode when they may or may not have killed him). It seems like there’s no backup coming–and then Agent Tripp squeezes through the gap and into danger.

Of course, they do a double fake-out, pretending like Tripp is fine while Raina and Skye turn to stone. Of course, they’re fine and it’s really Tripp whom the alien technology destroys.

Tripp was a nice guy. A little underdeveloped as characters go in Agents of SHIELD, but we had been getting to know him better. His grandfather was a Howling Commando. He seemed like the genuine version of Grant Ward–and he had good chemistry with the group.

Given what almost happened to Mac in the previous episode, Tripp’s death felt like a cruel, deliberate yank on our heartstrings, as if to say: you like these characters? Well, too bad!

There has been similar activity on season five of The Walking Dead, a show which seems determined to have no more than three black men in the supporting cast at any given time. The showrunners seem especially fond of killing off whoever happens to be the group’s moral center at any given time, most recently Tyreese and Bob, both–you guessed it–black men. Both solid characters with individual issues and quirks when they appeared in previous seasons; Tyreese in particular saw a lot of development as a fan-favorite from the comics.

But both got a lot more screen time and nuance leading up to their deaths, which is no coincidence. It’s meant to be upsetting. And this is true when any character dies, of course. And naturally I wouldn’t suggest that such action heavy shows should never kill anyone off or even refrain from offing characters of color. I’ll be the first to admit that “What Happened and What’s Going On” from The Walking Dead was a beautifully acted and lovingly made episode. Chad Coleman was as wonderful as ever as Tyreese (which made hurt more, of course). In isolation, I wouldn’t have minded at all. As a larger pattern on the show, it bothers me.

What bothers me  is 1)  the notion that any of these characters (Mac and Tripp or Tyreese, T-Dog, and Bob) are interchangeable 2) that we’re only allowed a relatively brief time to empathize with sympathetic black male characters before they’re killed off–thus making their deaths a kind of cheat or gimmick to get an emotional reaction from the audience and 3) that these characters’ sacrifices end up being mere motivational fodder for the series’ or film’s protagonists, who are so often white.

Simple representation in media (and particularly genre media) is still a huge problem–the numbers are an issue, let alone the quality of the roles. But I think we also need to think about the kinds of stories these characters get to live–and whether they live. Because it does send a message.

Zombie walks and movies and books and TV series may be getting old (okay, not for me but maybe for you?). But there’s still nothing quite like a good zombie game.

Project: Zpocalypse: Survival Reanimated

End Date: November 25, 10:00pm EDT.

Rewards: Digital copies for Mac, PC, and Linux; exclusive backgrounds and early access; naming, designing,  and modeling for characters in the game; digital comic book and soundtrack; t-shirts, posters, and the game’s artbook; other games made by Greenbrier Games; and lots more!

Current Goal: $3500

Current Number of Backers: 118

Current Pledges: $5824

Why they deserve your support: They have an awesome plethora of awards–each level has something fun and different on offer. It’s also really nice to see a zombie game that focuses on tactics and group dynamics rather than just splatter. Bonus for awesome-looking environments and custom character creation. And not to mention some great stretch goals if they exceed the original $3500.

Did I give: $1 as promised!

Fall is upon us, friends! Which means the dreary television wasteland of July and August has passed. Here’s a small roundup of six of this fall’s speculative offerings on the small screen. (Goes without saying: some spoilers below.)

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Definitely still on the upswing from last season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has recovered admirably from its initial inertia to give us the engaging, action-packed story of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s attempt to resurrect itself in the wake of last season’s events. It shouldn’t surprise us either that our characters have become more complicated and tragic in the intervening months. But the classic Whedon-esque humor persists. I’m especially digging B.J. Britt’s continued presence as Agent Triplett and the addition of Henry Simmons as Mac. Dramatically, Clark Gregg continues to impress as Agent Coulson and Iain De Caestecker has been delivering some major chills as the mostly-recovered-but-still-pretty-damaged Fitz. By the way, FitzSimmons4life.

The Flash: Set in the Arrow universe (guess who makes a cameo at the end of episode one), The Flash seeks to give the CW Muppet Babies treatment to another one of our beloved Justice League heroes. They’ve certainly got the formula down: unrequited love affair, baddie created at the same time, gaggle of geek types to work support. As a result, what should be exciting and fun (I mean, it’s the Flash), ends up being pretty stale within the first 45 minutes.

The Walking Dead: Sweet Zombie Jesus, what a season premiere! Carol could spend the rest of the season at a spa and still win the show’s biggest badass award. I’m also a big fan of near-sociopathic Rick and dual-lightsaber Michonne. But seriously, it’s really exciting to see this show have some momentum. The last two seasons have shown vast improvements, but I think this year is going to leave them all behind. After all, they’ve finally answered the question of “is there any sanctuary?” will a resounding NO and an explosion. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to group as they venture north. Alas, there are so many of them now that you know somebody’s going to have die soon…

American Horror Story: I’m never sure what to think or feel about AHS and Freak Show is certainly no exception. This is a show that continually trips over itself in concerted efforts to one-up the previous seasons. As a result, previous seasons have hosted completely bonkers plots (see: aliens in Asylum) or see their narratives falter and fall apart completely (Coven). Freak Show at least seems to be looking for some cohesive storytelling and obviously the setting of a freak show is incredibly rich. But I’d like to see a season that didn’t begin with some sort of sexual assault. What they do have going for them? Jyote Amge as Ma Petite.

Gotham: Many of my feelings regarding The Flash also apply to Gotham. Maybe it’s because Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight deals so comprehensively with sinister, gritty Gotham. Maybe it’s because there are so many other superhero shows out there. Maybe I’m just tired of origin stories. (How about a superhero show dealing with the characters 10-20 years after their prime?) Thus far, Gotham just feels like a less interesting rehash of everything we’ve seen before in the Batman universe–without Batman and somehow still about Batman. I mean, even Carol Kane couldn’t make me like this.

Sleepy Hollow: I have to say, I was skeptical of Sleepy Hollow at the start. I thought it would completely tank like Grimm or descend into utter ridiculousness like Once Upon a Time. Which isn’t to say that Sleepy Hollow isn’t often silly. They love them some naked Ben Franklin. They play the “man out of time” jokes hard with Ichabod. But these are the marks of a show having fun with its casts and concepts and the mythos of American history. Season 2 is definitely off to a promising beginning. The first episode played a somewhat expected alternate reality plot twist. The weird connections between the horsemen of the apocalypse and Ichabod’s family persist. But whatever plot kinks there are tend not to bother me because this show rises and sets on Nicole Beharie. Abbie is the source of the show’s greatest pathos. She’s also a helluva heroine and tough customer, with believable personal, non-dude-related issues. Which is all to good, because Abbie is contemporary America. Ichabod may be our idealistic, storied past, but Abbie is our present and future. And we’re rooting for her to win.

Now, obviously as someone who names her blog The Girl Who Loved Zombies, you might imagine I have an unreserved loved for AMC’s television adaptation of The Walking Dead. Not untrue. However, like many, I have complicated feelings about the show. I’ve never had a problem rooting for the zombies in any undead entertainment, but The Walking Dead has often taken my frustrations with survivors to new, never-before-experienced levels of hair-tearing. And the show is problematic in many other respects, not in the least from a racial and feminist perspective.

That all said, I think season 3 is a marked improvement from its predecessor and may, depending on its second half, surpass even the first season. I was glad to see the show improved after the novelty of zombies on  television wore off and the writing sank into a miasma-like sophomore slump. With the mid-season premiere just a few short weeks away, it seems worthwhile to break my No Zombies rule and discuss the strengths and questions of season 3.

It should go without saying that this post contains spoilers. But there. I’m also saying it.

Probably the number one thing season 3 has going for it is momentum. There’s a lot going on from episode to episode and the focus doesn’t linger too consistently in one place. I think we’re much benefited by the change of scenery. It helps that prisons are already terrifying places, but the the dark tunnels and real possibility of getting well and truly lost, it makes for a creepy as hell setting. I loved it. This is in sharp contrast to the seemingly idyllic town of Woodbury, where the Governor reigns. Although the clean streets and plethora of amenities make Woodbury seem like the ideal post-apocalyptic settlement, there’s an unease about it that is not unlike the unease of the prison.

I think we also see a lot of momentum in this season because of the mortality rate. Key characters have died; others come to replace them. In one instance, we have a secondary character who has returned to have a far greater role. Like many, I was more than okay with Lori’s exit and I appreciated the opportunity for the character’s redemption. I’m still upset about T-Dog. I will probably always be upset about T-Dog, especially because he was just starting to get awesome. And, in a way, his death felt gratuitous because the showrunners had yet to put the time and energy into really developing him.

I’ve never really been on Team Rick (like all sensible Walking Dead fans, I am 100% Team Daryl), but I am fascinated by where they’ve taken his character this season — his brittleness, followed by a complete breakdown in the wake of Lori’s death. It’s interesting, too, how the leadership role he shared with Shane has now dispersed between the other members of the group, primarily Glenn (who has also seen some fabulous character development), Hershel, and Daryl. I think this shift in dynamic has helped tremendously. Love triangles are never that interesting to me, even if one point is a batshit crazy Jon Bernthal.

Obviously the introduction of new characters always adds complications and breathes new life into a show. Based on my knowledge of the comic, I was excited to see Tyreese’s group. And there’s the Governor, of course, who makes an interesting if somewhat difficult villain (I’m still waiting for the full of extent of his crazy to come out, although the zombie heads in the aquariums were pretty fantastic). And Michonne. You could easily watch this season just for Michonne and Daryl. In fact, just as I wanted T-Dog and Dale to start their own peaceful post-apocalyptic collective in a spin-off series I like to call Of Walkers and Turnips, I want Michonne and Daryl to ride off into the sunset (as comprades!) and have awesome zombie-slaying adventures and terse, monosyllablic conversations about life, love, and weapons.

Is it a perfect season? Not at all. Is it a great step in the right direction? Definitely. The pacing still often feels weird to me and I’m not sure how all the plotlines are going to play out, but I’m invested enough to stay along for the ride.

What are your Walking Dead season 3 thoughts? Who do you think is going to bite it in the second half? And what is your ideal spin-off series?

Fall has arrived and October is nearly upon us (seriously, where did September go?), bringing with it my absolute favorite holiday: Halloween.

I know you’re all really surprised . . .

Those of the uninitiated might believe that Halloween happens on October 31st, and on this strange, commercially-driven day small children scamper about in costumes demanding candy while young adults overindulge their Ids and get extra, extra plastered in skimpy outfits. Technically true, yes, but not nearly the whole truth. See, if approached correctly, Halloween can and should be a glorious monthlong event.

Given that this is the most unhindered October I’ve ever had and probably ever will have, I’m excited to announce a new project for this blog: 31 Days of Halloween. 31 Days of costumes, scary movies, spooky stories, eerily colored cocktails, pumpkin carving, writing prompts, arts and crafts, haunted house ideas, and everything else I can come up with. Yes, ladies and gents, we are welcoming the autumn and All Hallows Day in style.

What does this mean for the blog? At the very minimum, there will weekly updates on Halloween projects. In each update, I’ll fill you in on whatever I wore, watched, read, and mixed during the week. I’ll post a weekly prompt, fun recipes, trivia, and costume ideas. Maybe some how-to videos if I’m feeling really ambitious. Plus, there will be a book exchange and giveaways for All Hallows Read (details next week!).

Some things I’d like to do this month:

–watch 31 horror movies

–(re)read 31 scary stories/poems, including “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”

–read 5 horror novels

–write a ghost story

–create 5 costumes

do a zombie run

–mix 13 Halloween-themed cocktails [I’ll provide virgin equivalents whenever possible]

–cook 13 Halloween snack/dessert recipes

–give away (at minimum) 3 books for All Hallows Read

Of course, participation is welcome! I’m going to kick off the movie-watching on October 1 by livetweeting The Cabin in the Woods at @julialivetweets. Feel to watch along and comment. And throughout the month, please share your own Halloween projects and ideas.

How do you celebrate Halloween? Is it a monthlong affair or just one night? And what would you like to see for 31 Days of Halloween on ‘The Girl Who Loved Zombies’?

Today’s “Kickstarter of the Week” actually comes to you from Indiegogo, another awesome crowdfunding site, which focuses on fundraising. There are a number of creative projects on Indiegogo, but they have a social justice bent, which, of course, is totally exciting.

This week, I’m breaking protocol and pushing a zombie-oriented project–a play, specifically, which was written to increase hunger awareness in NYC. But it’s really just too cool to pass up, so I hope you’ll forgive me.

Project: Salvatore Brienik’s ZOMBIES

End Date: September 11 at 11:59PM PT

Prizes: Some truly awesome rewards, such as signed pictures of the cast, free tickets for you and a friend, personalized zombie portraits–even a thank you dinner! Of course, some of these are dependent on your willingness/ability to go to Queens, but hey.

Current Goal: $6,800

Current Number of Backers: 14

Current Pledges: $3,260

Why they deserve your support: First, let’s talk about the premise. We have a group of survivors (including a cat!) weathering the apocalypse on the second floor of a house. They’re following along world events via radio and dealing with, more than the shambling hordes of undead, the question of how to cope with survival. Then we have the social benefit of the show, namely the awareness they’re raising for the Food Bank of New York City. So, basically, if you contribute, you’re assisting the performing arts, which is always awesome, funding another piece of zombie culture, and you’re helping feed the hungry. Moreover, if ZOMBIES is a success, that paves the way for similar projects, ghoulish and otherwise, maybe at a venue near you. Or maybe you’ll do it. (If so: LET ME KNOW.)

Did I give: Yes! I don’t always have much to give this time around, but every little bit helps, yes?

Five posts in and already I’ve fallen off the getting-beyond-zombies wagon. I can’t help it–the undead were one of my first loves. (That and killer sharks, but Discovery Channel’s taken care of that for all of us, haven’t they?)

We’ll blame this post on the fact that I saw ParaNorman yesterday. I’m not going to write a review, although you can read some here, here, and here. But really, you should just go watch it, because it’s awesome. You know when it feels like a book or a movie was made just for you? That’s how I feel about ParaNorman. It reminded me why I love the horror genre in general and zombies in particular.

What is this fascination with flesh-eating ghouls, you might ask? Well, it’s more than a love of the grotesque. I would argue, actually, that zombies are one of the most versatile monsters we have. For many reasons, but especially because they’re so liminal–they exist between the boundaries of definitions, they are trapped between one state of being and another.

A zombie, we know, is neither living nor dead. Neither human nor beast. They were people once and they look like people, but we can’t define them as people anymore. After all, people are alive. And in most societies, people don’t eat other people. (If we did, what could we say about our enemies to discredit them? Eating babies is about the worst thing we can think of, no?) Zombies are the ultimate transgressors–they once belonged to the orderly human world and (through disease, black magic, or radioactive satellite dust) have since abandoned it. And that’s scary, because we can recognize ourselves in them.

At some point or another, we’ve been liminal, too. Yes, maybe (probably?) you’re not trapped between life and death, but you most likely have been trapped between adulthood and childhood. Maybe you lived somewhere that was on the border of two places (hello, suburbia). Maybe a relationship got stuck there, or your employment status. Historically, we see women in this position fairly frequently. For instance, widows who haven’t remarried yet. They weren’t maidens–they weren’t matrons–what were they? Not to mention your general undesirables, people who don’t fit whatever norms you’re trying to push. If you live on the fringe, you’re in monster territory–you’re not safe. Safety exists neatly within the bounds of cultural norms and language.

But the really brilliant thing, the really terrifying thing is that because these liminal sorts are on the edges, in the between places, they retain aspects of humanity. They are recognizable, or at least similar to, the normal folk who stay within the lines. Which means, too, that there’s always the possibility, the threat, of conversion. After all, if something’s not at all like you, unrecognizable as even a little bit human, you don’t have worry about seeing yourself in it. But if there’s even a small resemblance, well. That could be you, couldn’t it?  You could end up stuck, snagged between culture and chaos, society and wilderness, roast beef and babies. It only takes a small shift, one moment of exposure to the wrong element. Or, if we go back to zombies, you get bitten. And as simple as that, you shift from human to once-human, alive to undead.