Friday, November 4, 2011

Eat the Rich!

With all the Occupy Wall Street rallies going on, I’ve found it pleasing that some have taken the extra step and walked the streets dressed as zombies and holding signs asserting, “Eat the rich!” I wonder though. How many people get the joke?

George Romero has been making zombie movies since he revolutionized the genre in 1968 with “Night of the Living Dead.” And he’s been a man on a mission. You see, for him the zombies aren’t walking blobs of decaying flesh. They are us. Or more specifically they are those of us that have fallen on hard times and tumbled from the middle class into poverty. And from one film in the series to the next, their numbers have steadily, dramatically grown.

In “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), a scientist assesses the political situation saying, “This isn't the Republicans versus the Democrats, where we're in a hole economically or... or we're in another war. This is more crucial than that. This is down to the line. There can be no more divisions among the living!” Another character realizes the zombies – those struggling – kill for one reason: “They kill for food.” They are the hungry.

With “Day of the Dead” (1985), hopes of working with the government had faded. In a throwaway line of dialog discussing the failing phone systems, a character says, “We used to talk to Washington all the time. They could hear us then.” And the beginnings of revolution were forming: “It takes more energy to keep quiet than it does to speak the mind.”

This culminated in “Land of the Dead” (2005). The zombies have overrun the earth and the last CEO (played by Dennis Hopper who notoriously went from “Easy Rider” to one of Ronald Reagan’s biggest supporters) is barricaded in his high tower as countless zombies converge on the city. Beginning their march in a funny scene set in Main Street, USA, these zombies are different than their predecessors. They’ve learned to work together. And the last vestiges of the old way are memorably devoured.

In “Dawn of the Dead,” it was proclaimed “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.” I think the true subtext of that quote has become all too familiar: “When there’s no more room in the unemployment lines, the unemployed will walk the earth.” And they’ll be plenty eager to “Eat the rich!”

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