As described in my blog on Reuben Fleischer’s Zombieland, there exist, within zombie-themed apocalyptic media, certain tropes that seem to pervade most modern genre- interpretations. Some examples include: the quest across the country to find a (probably dead) loved one; the brief moments of levity where killing zombies turn into a fun game; waking up in a hotel room etc. These tropes are often used by contemporary satirists – such as Fleischer – as points for humour: their inherent ridiculousness being presented, hopefully evoking laughter from a well-versed audience member. Having recently re-watched season 1 of AMC`s The Walking Dead I thought it appropriate to present, in detail, one such trope and, its respective lampooning within Edgar Wright`s 2004 Shaun of the Dead:
PRETENDING TO BE A ZOMBIE.
Episode two of the first season – aptly named “Guts” – begins with Rick trapped In a tank, surrounded by ‘walkers.’ Fortunately for him, however, his radio immediately erupts with the voice of an as-of-yet unnamed Asian teenager who, in true, comic book fashion assists him in a daring escape. The young lad – who we soon find is named Glenn – guides rick into a safe-house; once inside we meet the remainder of Glenn’s band of misfit survivors including, but not limited to, a white-supremacist drug addict and his “dark-meat” counterpart: T-Dawg. We soon learn that this band has come from a camp outside of the city but are unable to return for lack of a vehicle; fortunately Rick, having immediately assumed control of the group, devises a daring scheme to remedy this deficiency. With Glenn in tow, Rick smothers himself with festering zombie guts and walks out into the street – the plan being that the zombie entrails will mask their human-stank… Of course, they weren’t counting on rain.
Wait a second though… I’ve seen this before! Back in 2004, Edgar Wright released what is still one of my favourite movies Shaun of the Dead. This hilarious zom-com earns its popularity by lampooning every last zombie trick in the book, then filling in the rest with relentless shots at contemporary pop-culture. By far one of the funniest scenes, however, depicts Dianne – Shaun’s amateur actress companion – teaching the group how to act like zombies; having completed their lesson the misguided troop blaze a trail across the street, effectively deceiving the drooling masses, and arriving successfully at their safe-house: the local pub.
These two incidences are an effective demonstration of the trope-satire dynamic. Once an element of fiction becomes too overworked within a given genre – ie: once the audience members are entirely comfortable with it – it becomes susceptible to parody. The audience, expecting ‘the usual’ is surprised by a comedic re-interpretation of something they ‘thought they knew’ – allowing them to enjoy it afresh. Pretending to be dead is but one example of a widely popular practise.