Trauma, Post Apocalyptic and the Post-Human
Academically speaking, can we really ever know enough about zombies?
Ever since George Romero re-woke the dead in 1968 and revolutionised the horror genre, academics have been flocking to explain just what makes us so damn terrified of zombies.
Enter a new contestent in this lofty pursuit of knowledge: Anirban Kapil Baishya and his essay Trauma, Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction and the Post Human, examining the idea of the ‘post-human’ in cinematic science fiction and horror cinema through zombification.
In his analysis, Baishya looks to the films 28 Days Later, it’s sequel 28 Weeks Later, as well as Children of Men, to explore what draws us to scenes of post apocalyptic disaster.
Baishya suggests that post-apocalyptic films draw from a library of traumatic media images that stretches back to the holocaust, and that these images are used to create narratives that disturb us 1) because they refer to a troubling past (such as the holocaust) and 2) because of their uncanny resemblance to the present – a present in which media images are inherently traumatic (think 9/11, Japan earthquakes, Queensland floods).
That is a pretty simplistic summary of what is a pretty complex topic, so here it is again in Baishya’s words:
“Post-apocalyptic horror and science fiction cinema taps into this optical unconsciousness to refer back to the horrors of catastrophic events, by evoking the images of war, violence and destruction and reproducing the tortured corporeality thereof by means of oblique reference. This method and moment of reference is what Lowenstein calls the ―allegorical moment.”
On the whole, this a fairly dense essay and many of Baishya’s points have to be carefully extracted from the surrounding academic cypher. But take it somewhere quiet, and Baishya’s elegantly argued points do bubble to the surface.
His knowledge of the chosen source materials is quite spectacular and in particular, I really enjoyed his examination of Alfonso Cuaron’s massively under appreciated movie, Children of Men – a movie Slavoj Zizek, the masterchef of undead theory, also seems to love.
For those writing about post apocalyptic theory, Baishya’s references are a gold mine for further reading – I’ve added the relevant sources to my existing post apocalyptic theory reading list for those interested.
You can find the full essay at: http://widescreenjournal.org/index.php/journal/article/viewFile/105/150
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