I haven’t Facebooked or Tweeted about the atrocities in France and the Lebanon that occurred this weekend. Like many others, my mind is whirling trying to find understanding and space to acknowledge my own emotions. So, whilst I might like and share others posts, my own ideas are too muddled to articulate. Therefore, on Saturday night I did what I usually do in these sorts of circumstances. I retreated to Rom Com. This Saturday, it was Warm Bodies.
Warm Bodies is Romeo and Juliet with zombies. It should have been the perfect escape. But a zombie is always a metaphor and the setting for the movie, with its deserted airport, the armed fences, the distinct insider and outsider of this post-apocalyptic world felt weirdly familiar.
So, whilst essentially this is a romantic film, it was also about fear and disconnection. Or at least it was for me on Saturday night. As a social researcher I know that approaching and understanding a text is always an active process and that how I understand what I am observing is about my interests rather than my detachment. I could not ignore the context of my watching this film. I watched the film in conversation with Trinh T. Minh-ha’s book Elsewhere, within here: Immigration, refugeeism and the boundary event
The globe is evoked in terms of both a closely knit village and a new, dishomogenous metropolis. Yet, the talk on the world political page is all about closing down, curtailing movements, reinforcing borders, building new fences, installing more checkpoints, fortifying security zones, setting up gated communities, and worse, sealing an entire nation into restricted areas. (Minh-ha, 2011: 1)
Attachment/detachment – interest/disinterest – connection/disconnection. This was all in the film, as the clunking metaphor of the zombie questioned what it is to be human.
R: [voice-over, introducing M] This is my best friend. By best friend, I mean we occasionally grunt and stare awkwardly at each other. We even have almost conversations sometimes.
Whilst we cannot be sure why the world of Warm Bodies has reached this level of disease and zombism, the film hints that pre the apocalypse humans forgot to fight disease, distracted by flimsy entertainment, celebrity gossip and the disconnection of being connected to technology. What R wants, from his zombie state, is to feel connected:
R: There’s a lot of ways to get to know a person. Eating her dead boyfriend’s brains is one of the more unorthodox methods, but…
But the zombies, the bonies and the humans cannot be connected. The system of classification and separation forces them to belong to just one category. There is an enforced disconnection. Everyone is a stranger. Everyone is displaced. The constant exile. This is untenable for the human.
But I am a stranger to myself and a stranger now in a strange land. There is no arcane territory to return to. For I am no more an ‘overseas person’ in their land than in my own. Sometimes I see my country people as complete strangers. But their country is my country. In the adopted country, however, I can’t go on being an exile or an immigrant either. (Minha-ha, 2011: 34)
And what of fear…
The epoch of global fear has provoked extreme reactions and sentenced the world to indefinite confinement behind the bars of homeland security. With the political backlash against marked foreigners, foreign born of foreign-looking members, asylum and refugeeism remain a key political issue, while immigration and (dis)integration arbitrarily connected to terrorism, have become an explosive matter of voting date in national politics.
The film has a solution – love. Of course within Hollywood and the RomCom genre conventions, this means romantic, heterosexual, young love.
So, what can my solution be? As my partner pointed out, I shouldn’t really be looking for this in a film that includes dialogue like:
Nora: I mean, I know it’s really hard to meet guys right now, with the apocalypse and stuff. Trust me. And like I know that you miss Perry. But Julie, this is just weird. Like, I wish the internet was still working so I could just look up what whatever it is that’s wrong with you.
This made me laugh and provided a quick release, but I still haven’t worked out what to do for my own fear. Because yes, it is fear that I feel and I need it to be acknowledged. I have worked out, however, what I won’t be doing. I won’t be changing my Facebook profile to the Red, White and Blue of The Tricoleur. I know and love this close neighbour. I have recently visited Paris with my daughter and we both had a wonderful time. I want them to know that I care, but I want to acknowledge the wider hurt, harm and violence. Nor will I be quick to shout down others as they call for closed borders or utter Islamophobic statements. I disagree entirely with these sentiments and believe they need to be challenged. But I also recognise that they are borne out of fear and reprimands are a useless tactic. My challenge needs to be kinder.
This film can’t answer what to do. Falling in love with a zombie is not a practical solution. However, if anyone else has a way of dealing with fear, I would love to hear from them.
Minh-ha, T. T. (2011) Elsewhere, within here: immigration, refugeeism and the boundary event London: Routlege