Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wednesday Reboot: Zombieland

Zombieland was released in 2009 and stars Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Woody Harrelson. So a zombie apocalypse has taken over the world and there are very few survivors.  Columbus has a list of rules for survival that have kept him alive.  The movie starts off by showing all the people who died when they violated this rule.  Columbus is a geek who is absolutely terrified and has largely survived by segregating himself, which for Columbus is not really different than how he lived before the apocalypse.

He runs into Tallahassee whose main motivation is to find the last twinkie.  You would think that since a twinkie could probably survive a nuclear war, that a twinkie wouldn't be hard to find but that is not the case.  Tallahassee is rough and tumble and is a great foil to Columbus.  The two meet Wichita  and her little sister Little Rock.  All of the characters in Zombieland go by their place of origin rather than their names.  Wichita and Little Rock manage to con Columbus and Tallahassee out of their vehicle and guns not once but twice.  Columbus takes an instant liking to them and especially likes the fact that they were con artists before the apocalypse.

Zombieland is essentially a comedy and this is quite different than how the zombie apocalypse is normally framed in the media.  It does include the angst of the survivors but Columbus' survival rules add a lightness.  In one scene, a woman kills a zombie by dropping a piano on him for instance.  Another man is eaten by a zombie while using the bathroom, and Columbus quips about not using public bathrooms.  One woman is killed because instead of shooting the zombie twice, she shots him and then taps him with her foot to see if he was dead, thus inspiring the "double tap" rule for killing zombies. I do however feel it necessary to mention that Columbus makes it clear that no fat people survive because of an inability to move quickly.  Fat people apparently were the first ones killed off.

What Zombieland does have in common with all other movies in this genre is that the survivors are all White.  People of colour must be extra tasty.  There is no reason that any of the characters in this film could not have been people of colour.  The only time people of colour appeared on the screen was when they were zombies who were quickly killed by the White characters, thus making them even more disposable. Zombieland is also incredibly straight and in fact, much of the movie concerned Columbus' desire to get laid.  The GLBT community are certainly a minority population, but there is no reason that even one person could not have survived the apocalypse.

Wichita and Little Rock's big goal is to get to an amusement park.  I suppose when the end of the world arrives going on a roller coaster is a huge priority.  I really feel like this was a touch of spunky agency and made no sense given the intelligence that they displayed in conning Columbus and Tallahassee. Their ridiculous decision puts them in a position to need saving. Surprise, surprise.  Columbus and Tallahassee track them down at the amusement part where they are trapped on a ride, and save them both.  This is presented as big moment for Columbus because he actively chooses to be a hero, rather than running away, and he faces his biggest fear - a zombie clown.  They could have had Columbus face his fears by saving Tallahassee, but why bother with that when they're two female characters who can be saved.

Saving Little Rock and Wichita gives Columbus the sense of family that he has always been looking for.  He is even rewarded with a kiss from Wichita.  Everyone knows that the hero always gets a kiss when he saves the girl, and so I guess you could say that Zombieland did not disappoint. 

If you go into Zombieland expecting a light heart comedy that does of course use several common tropes that we see in urban fantasy then you will not be disappointed. Though these tropes are of course problematic and wrong, they are absolutely common in the media.  I found myself laughing for much of this movie and it was light and fun.  It was refreshing to see the zombie apocalypse as a comedy.