Homophobic zombies?

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I just finished George A. Romero’s latest sequel – the fourth one – to his famous zombi-trilogy. Yes the gore is there, and the humour is there but it lacks the qualities that made Romero so famous. In the Land of the Dead the criticism on modern society just doesn’t bite as hard as the previous zombies did.

On the DVD Romero explains that his new vision mocks the conservative Bush administration. I guess you can find that in the movie if know to look for it. Personally I just felt that this was just an entertaining B-class gore movie. I can’t really see this as a sequel to the previous movies. (Like I will never recognise Alien 4 or Terminator 2-3 as part of the original series.)

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Harmless, I thought initially. But then towards the end of the film when the zombies finally really start their rampage, there is a weird shot that made me wonder. The zombies are staggering into the city quietly and they attack the poor unprepared inhabitants. The camera shows a lesbian couple making out in their shack. This is the only love scene in the movie. They are standing against a fragile wall, caressing and kissing. Then suddenly a pair of zombie hands break through the wall and grab one of them to her screaming death.

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I just don’t get it. Why would Romero, who is famous for writing more-intelligent-than-your-regular-hollywood-stuff, plant such a scene in the movie? Yes, there is the obvious choice, that it’s there just for the teen wankers. (As there is no sex in the movie otherwise.) Still, it seems weird because it is so easy to interpret as homophobic.

Let’s see… In the movie the only persons shown in a normal intimate moment are these two lesbians. And for this they are instantly rewarded with horrible death? The grabbing hands seem be male… Female/lesbian sexuality is dangerous, and that’s why it should be punished? Sexuality in general is a sin? Homosexuals just can’t control their urges like the “more civilised heterosexuals”? (Echoes of the classic teen slasher rule: sex leads to death?)

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On the DVD there is a similar bonus scene, cut out of the movie, where a boy and a girl are kissing and then eaten alive. So, perhaps the movie maker’s honest intention was to equally slaughter couples?

But bonus scenes do not count, only the scenes left in the film. No matter what Romero’s intentions might have been, the result is quite awful. Either Romero has proven himself homophobic or just unwary of his own creations.

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4 thoughts on “Homophobic zombies?”

  1. I kind of agree with this. I can see why it’s easy to interpret this scene as homophobic but honestly at least its not as bad as Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake which had much more blatant homophobic messages than this. For example the character of Glen was a completely unfiltered negative stereotype and don’t even get me started about the scene with the preaching televangelist guy on TV…

    1. Also as a gay man myself and a fan of George A. Romero’s zombie movies I don’t like to think of the possibility of him being homophobic. I like to think he’s more open-minded than that and other than this one small scene from Land of the Dead (which can honestly be interpreted in multiple ways) I can’t think of a single moment in any of his other movies that ever gave me the impression that he feels that way.

      If anything I think he’s probably a misanthrope who hates all of humanity because of the nasty things that humankind has done over the years and he often portrays the human characters in his movies as being more dangerous and evil than the zombies, yet at the same time he has somewhat of a soft spot for racial minorities and women because they’re the ones who tend to be the most powerless and victimized in our society which I believe is the reason why he chooses those characters to be the ones to most likely survive the zombie apocalypse

  2. Thanks! Those are good points!

    That misanthropy angle is interesting. I’ve never really thought that and instead saw it being criticism of society as well as selfishness.

    I agree with you that his movies otherwise do not come across as homophobic. Back when I wrote this piece, I was reading about interpreting culture as a series of choices following linguistic theory. So every cultural product is produced through selecting things from all the available possibilities. (Choices are made from paradigms and the end result is called a syntagm.) I’m not a huge fan of looking everything through a language-oriented angle, but this is one of those cases that it does work.

    And I still think this is a good example of that. Because it shows, as I tried to point out in the end, that perhaps Romero isn’t actually homophobic. But the way he has made his choices of what to include and what to exclude – especially during the editing process – can give that impression.

    And unfortunately, the normal audience in the movie theatre or on the home sofa will never see those discarded choices. And you can’t be there justifying and explaining things. The audience will only see the end result.

    1. You’re welcome! :) And yeah you’ve got good points too. Like you said maybe Romero didn’t intend for that scene to come across the way it did but the fact is it’s a very questionable scene and he left it in the final cut of his movie.

      Anyways I felt like Land of the Dead was one of the weaker of the movies he directed because it was really more of a campy action film than a serious horror movie (even though I have to admit I still enjoyed it). To me it felt more like he was just having fun with the idea of a hypothetical zombie apocalypse and wasn’t taking himself seriously with this one. I also feel like his new movies such as Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead are kind of weak too compared to his old movies like the original and 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead. Those movies are true classics in my opinion so even if his newer movies aren’t as good I will always be a fan of him for his original works.

       

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