Will America save us from zombies?

Issue 

World War Z
Directed by Marc Foster
Starring Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale & Matthew Fox
In Cinemas now

It’s movie time — winter is upon us, kids are home for two weeks and there’s a glut of new releases at the cinemas.

While providing the necessary action and suspense for my kids’ age group, the US$190 million production World War Z also glorifies US-style international relations in the fight against a futuristic global zombie takeover.

As the story unfolds, the zombie pandemic clearly parallels the present US outlook on world terrorism — when moderately behaved people succumb to Zombie-ism with a single bite, the United States has no choice: call in the local superhero, troops and allies. Lead the world into war.

Brad Pitt plays Gerry Lane, a United Nations investigator turned house husband, whose family is fleeing zombies. The Lanes are briefly dependent on a poor Latino family for shelter.

But the usual power balance between whites and Latinos is quickly restored when the Latino family succumbs to a zombie attack — the Lanes then rescue their orphaned son, winch him to safety on a helicopter and help shelter him on board a US naval vessel.

Lane is then approached by a former UN colleague who pleads with him to return to active service, insisting Lane is needed at a military base in South Korea to help develop an anti-zombie vaccine. Lane initially refuses to leave until the pleas turn to threats against his family.

The message to the white male hero is clear: Uncle Sam still needs you. Involvement in overseas military expeditions is in your family’s best interests even if they don’t know it.

As he leaves the vessel, Lane tells the young Latino boy, “You are the man” in charge of the welfare of his wife and two daughters.

A further development is a trip to Israel. A Mossad-inspired Zombie proof-fortress wall around Jerusalem is another parallel to present day international relations. But trust those Zombies to carry out an anti-Semitic invasion.

Loud praying at the Wailing Wall impels the menaces to scale the fortress and begin their carnage. Our heroes escape by plane, but not before Lane saves his female Israeli escort soldier Segen from certain zombification — by slicing off Segen’s bitten hand.

US-Israeli heroism and victimhood reach fever pitch when Lane and Segen fight off a mid-air zombie attack, crash land in Wales and drag themselves to a World Health Organisation research facility. There, Segen continues her armed attacks upon Zombies one-handed, while Lane experiments by injecting himself with a zombie-repellent pathogen.

Lane and Segen are assisted by a handful of uninfected WHO research scientists who are keeping zombified former colleagues at bay behind barricaded glass doors.

This segment features a gratuitously long scene where a Black female former colleague with dreadlocks is depicted as being a particularly menacing zombie — Lane is told he will have to confront this zombie as final proof that the anti-zombie pathogen really works.

The people watching the movie were old enough not to believe in zombies, but what about the undead US international relations being glamorised in this movie? The stereotypes depicted in World War Z have a particularly infectious bite.

[How do you talk to children about racism in the media? Send you ideas into weekly.greenleft@gmail.com .]

Comments

2nd week of the holidays and we've just witnessed another infectious movie stereotype, this time at the animation, "Despicable Me 2." The bad guy in this remake is a Latino restaurateur "El Macho" who serves up corn chip sombreros filled with guacamale dip to customers. In several scenes the heros express disgust and revulsion at the sight of El Macho's brown hairy chest. They said, "I can see how he got the name El Macho." While both these films for young people depict characters of many races as both "goodies" and "baddies", the film makers are clearly lingering on their exaggerated portrayals of some racial characteristics, making these characterisitcs appear as signs of malevolence.