TELEVISION, THE AMERICAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, AND THE ZOMNEY APOCALYPSE by David Lavery

Printable version Friday 14 December 2012 Last updated at 12:46

Spam has its own key. 

—Joss Whedon

 

Image from AMC.com.

I am watching Walking Dead on the small flat screen television that sits beside my computer. It’s the third episode of Season Three (“Walk with Me”) of AMC’s fabulously successful zombie apocalypse series, the one in which we meet The Governor and visit Woodbury for the first time. Dead is my third most favorite show on basic cable’s surprising powerhouse (after Mad Men and Breaking Bad), but tonight, only about a week from the US Presidential election, it seems newly relevant.

Thanks to Joss Whedon, the cult television creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse (which gave us a neurological zombie apocalypse brought on by an evil corporation) and, more recently, movies like The Cabin in the Woods (which features a backwoods zombie family) and Marvel’s The Avengers (now the third highest grossing film of all time—try to keep up), we now understand that a Republican victory could result in much worse than war with Iran, eradication of the Affordable Care Act, and extermination of women’s reproductive freedom.

The grocery from Shaun of the Dead. Image from movie-locations.com.

Surprisingly, in a time of Twihards and True Blooders, decidedly not-sexy Zombies have for some time been gaining popular culture prominence. First they had their night and their day. They took over the mall and the land. They have gone meta. They menaced Jane Austen. Shaun battled them in Crouch End, and they overran England (in only 28 days). They have given AMC its biggest hit.

Image from Google Images.

And, of course, they have not only spawned a slew of critical and theoretical discussion seeking to explain their political and popular culture significance (see the bibliography) but begun to stalk (slowly, haltingly) our language: now we have zombie candidates, zombie banks, zombie feminists, zombie bees.

The zombie threat has become so real that in the US both the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Homeland Security issued instructions for preparing for a zombie apocalypse.

Screen capture from the Centers for Disease Control Website. Click on the image to visit the site.

Screen capture from Huffington Post. Click on the image to visit the site.

Which brings us to Whedon’s video.

The recent, not-Zombie-related, official Obama campaign video by Lena Dunham, the provocative creator of HBO’s Girls, comparing voting with a first sexual experience, provoked a firestorm on the right, even though conservative icon Ronald Reagan had used the same metaphor (in a much more disgusting manner1) in 1980.

Foaming-at-the-mouth conservative Erick Erickson, for example, would proclaim: “If you need any further proof we live in a fallen world destined for hell fire, consider the number of people who have no problem with the President of the United States, via a campaign ad, ridiculing virgins and comparing sex to voting.”

Joss Whedon’s anti-Romney video is not likely to provoke the same kind of “end-of-days” pronouncements from the right as Dunham’s cunning, tongue-in-cheek feminist message (though both are sure to be taken as further evidence that “Hollywood” is in the pocket of the Democrats). It is, after all, itself an end-of-days pronouncement.

For, unlike the delightfully impish Dunham, Whedon is entirely, fantastically serious. Trust him. The man knows apocalypses.

Screen Capture from “Whedon on Romney.”

 

 

David Lavery is the author of over one hundred and twenty published essays and reviews and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of twenty books published or under contract.  He is also the organizer of international conferences on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Sopranos, and Lost, a co-founding editor of the journals Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies and Critical Studies in Television, he has lectured around the world on the subject of television (Australia, Turkey, the UK, Portugal, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany) and has been a guest/source for the BBC, NPR, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The New York Times, A Folha de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Publica(Portugal), The Toronto Star, USA Today. To learn more about him, visit his home pageHis C.V (in PDF) is also available.

Reagan: “I know what it’s like to pull the Republican lever for the first time, because I used to be a Democrat myself, and I can tell you it only hurts for a minute and then it feels just great.”

 

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