Monday
Jun242013

Hope in the Time of the Zombie Apocalypse  

Dickinson wrote that “Hope is a thing of feathers,” but in our age of political blunder, book scan, and Honey Boo Boo, where reality is our obsession and the most tragic lives become our favorite television shows, a person who declares their hopefulness may fear appearing, well lets face it, out of touch. Hope is no longer this type of flying thing; it has been shot down with a beebee gun put under a microscope. The footage has been replayed with narration from news personalities, and it now lies beyond expiration in a cryogenic freezer just in case we find the technology to resurrect it in the next 100 years.

But I am not a cynic.

Biases aside, literature, the stuff we read and the stuff we think we should be reading tends to be the most important social and historical artifact. And yet, the theme of the age, this age, the plastic age in which we now live, is death. In books, we read death by alien, death by zombie virus, death by vampire cliché, and even the post apocalyptic  ‘welcome to the narrative landscape after the great death and now see if you can survive’ death story. Don’t get me wrong, I love my zombies and vampires and all things expired. And yet I can’t help but wonder when writers of literature and genre fiction and filmmakers all over the globe inadvertently combine their efforts to assert one larger message, what does it mean?

From Barbara Kingsolver to TC Boyle, from Cormac McCarthy to Susan Collins, we see similar messages. Though their markets are different, The Hunger Games’ plot-oriented first-person white-knuckle storyline to The Road’s third-person literary narrator, we can’t help but consider the idea that environmental and social messages are just under the surface—something goes terribly wrong, humankind chooses the wrong path, and this is our potential future calamity. What does this say about our hopes and dreams?

Is it that we’ve lost hope, or is it that we understand that through our presentation of this potential future is the only way we will instill enough fear, enough dread and hopelessness to effect a larger wide-scale change? Some may say that writers, filmmakers, artists may not even be aware of this massive joint effort to present this particular and creative doom, but I say take a look at modernism. The globe reacted and musicians, artists, writers on every continent created works that responded to the tension of the times, war, fear, and the absurdity of it all. Art on many levels is a reaction to the age.

Or, are we now simply seeking the zombie’s point of view? To be comfortable in this world that we are on the brink of, perhaps that’s where we feel it will be easiest to survive. Or perhaps there is no deeper meaning to this global interest in the apocalypse, after all, haven’t we been completely obsessed with the idea since the beginning of time? For humans, loss of the world in which we live may be our greatest fear.

Understanding what we are writing and creating today is difficult because we lack the power and gift of hindsight, but it wouldn’t surprise me if in fifty years that we would look back at our work today and say, “that’s when we reacted to hopelessness, that’s when we changed the path of humanity forever.” Thank god for zombies.

But then again, I believe in feathered things, great, reptilian, screeching, sharp-taloned feathered things.

 

-Olivia Chadha 6.24.13

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