The recent films 28 Days Later, its sequel 28 Weeks Later, the “Firefly” film Serenity and I Am Legend with Will Smith all involve humans converted into frenzied murderous demons due to a man-made virus - usually a virus created with noble intentions. In Weeks and Legend, the hero(s) must give their lives to protect a “special” individual whose blood may hold the key to humanity’s salvation; in Serenity the sacrifices are (less convincingly) necessary so that truth can out. In all cases not only are the demons trying to stop the heroes, but the heroes are up against the establishment as well. Similar setups can be found in many recent films, good and bad, from Children of Men to Ultraviolet.
Why does this theme of the demon virus and the special savior keep popping up, and what are all these movies really about?
Seems to me most of them are about the failure of ‘liberalism’ (in the American sense), i.e. the failure of social democracy - and also, more surprisingly, a longing for monarchy.
A certain stripe of horror/disaster/apocalyptic/exploitation film serves to play upon some widespread yet unstated fear, a fear that cannot or does not find its expression via “respectable” outlets. It’s not politically correct to make a straightforward movie about the threat of commies, but who will object if you make Invasion of the Body Snatchers? ’70s teen slasher films were about the dangers of casual sex and free love: teens have sex, then get killed. The subtext, which could not be stated in progressive company but could be woven into a cheesy movie, being that teens who have sex are sluts and deserve what they get.
What happens in a demon-virus movie? Who are the monsters? The monsters are other people. And not just some evil or colluding subset of other people, either: basically, it’s all other people (except the protagonists). The message is pretty clear: people are monsters and will come after you and claw at you and not stop until they are dead. But, how did those people - regular, faceless people - all get to be monsters? Usually it’s like this: the government is working on some project, something that they think will do a lot of good (say, cure cancer), and something goes horribly wrong.
The well-intentioned government program ends up going awry and turning people into monsters.
This sounds like every far-right caricature of their view of every liberal government project, does it not?
This is not to say that the people who write and make these films are actually far-righties who have such a view of liberal government programs. Probably, most of the people involved in making these films (as with all films) are well to the left of the political spectrum and probably would not even recognize this subtext of their films. (Some of them, e.g. Serenity director Joss Whedon, probably even think the critique they are levelling is pro-left and anti-right.) Nevertheless, these films appear designed to tap into that fear, the fear that liberal social projects will inevitably backfire and have disastrous unintended consequences.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Killer Virus: Hollywood's Subliminal Critique Of Liberalism?
A great analysis from one of my favorite writers:
I suspect there is a neo-Ludditism behind these films. I know many Liberals, whose very livelihoods are dependent upon technology, who are, nevertheless, frightened of the modern world.
For a class of people who purport to believe in a holistic approach to life, they seem to be able to conceive of the modern world only in fragments;
software = good
factories (who might happen to make comact discs) = bad
iPods = cool
people who leave a big carbon-footprint (like maybe, just maybe?, the rock stars who make the music which goes on the iPods) = way uncool