Tag Archives: Berry Giezen

Rick and Morty versus the Meaning of Human Life By Berry Giezen

Rick and Morty is a popular adultswim cartoon series about the Smith family, and notably the two titular characters Morty – a nervous teenager- and his alcoholic grandfather Rick – who is also a brilliant scientist. They may remind you of the dynamic duo of Back to the Future, except that the scientist here is an alcoholic with a lack of moral boundaries. Rick believes in freedom and intellect, and cares for very little, least of all emotions or any kind of authority. He does not let ethics restrict him and this has led him to great scientific discoveries and progress. Things like the educational system and bureaucrats are just easy targets of comedy for Rick’s grumpy personality, but behind it all, spread out over the seasons, there is a sentiment, a message, that is subtle yet even more pervasive: a sense of nihilism and the belief that it is wrong to put ourselves at the centre of our galactic worldview. Rick and Morty actually seems to go against this anthropocentric worldview, and instead shows us the meaninglessness of life.

Rick’s catchphrase ‘Wubba lubba dub dub’ is a great way to start when looking at the show’s subtlety and duality. His catchphrase is silly and sounds very cheerful, and is often said when Rick is excited, but later on in the show it is revealed that it is actually a phrase in an alien language, and that it means “I am in great pain.”[1] Rick’s alcoholism too has been interpreted by some as being his coping method with the meaninglessness of life. While Rick and Morty presents itself as an absurd cartoon comedy, beneath the surface there is a sense of darkness.

rick

Grayson Nowak summarises the duality very accurately, stating that the programme is driven by “the binary between the optimism of scientific adventure and the pessimism brought on by the burden of knowledge gained from such endeavors […].”[2]

While the sense of scientific adventure allows for all the absurd comedy, it is the dark, pessimist side underneath the cheap jokes and absurd scenes that conveys the show’s subtle yet critical message towards the anthropocentric worldview – the worldview that puts mankind at the centre of the universe. It will not surprise you that a good part of the criticism comes from Rick. Since Rick has experienced much more of the universe and other dimensions than anyone else, he has seen more than any other human and therefore knows exactly how insignificant one little human life is. His great intellect and his many experiences have made him such a nihilist, and from his high horse of intellect he looks down on everyone and thus deals with everyone in a condescending way.

Besides these examples, there are numerous instances when Rick isn’t the voice of anti-anthropocentrism. For example, in the very first episode, Rick and Morty are being chased by alien customs officers when they try to smuggle illegal seeds off a planet. As Morty and Rick run through the interplanetary airport, one of the alien bystanders can be seen taking a drag from a hookah-like device, and he exhales a cloud of green smoke and Morty runs right through it. The green cloud of smoke turns into a creature that runs along with Morty, but we see his entire lifespan from birth to death pass by in a few seconds.

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Minutes later, Rick forces Morty to shoot at the custom officers to give him some time to work on their escape, and calms him down by saying that the aliens are ‘robots.’ When Morty wounds one and the officer falls down on the ground, bleeding and crying out for his family, Rick states that he meant this as a figure of speech because they are bureaucrats.

In Lawnmower Dog , Rick creates a machine that bestows intelligence on the family dog, Snuffles, because he’s tired of the family nagging about it peeing on the carpet. This subplot develops further and the dog meddles with the machine, gaining more intelligence than intended and creating a dog army to take over the world, enslaving humans and switching around the roles of pet and owner. The crux of this subplot lies with the very end when the show parodies people who bankrupt themselves to save their pets. In his plan to bring down dogkind and save the world, Rick makes Morty’s liver shut down and Snowball (as the dog wishes to be called instead of Snuffles, “his slave name”) bankrupts his dog kingdom to save Morty. His advisor asks him “Do you think they would’ve done this for us?” and Snowball answers with a “we are not them”, taking the high ground and declaring themselves morally superior.[3]

In Get Schwifty, the show blatantly parodies our sense of galactic self-importance. Films like Independence Day and games like Mass Effect put forward a sense that humanity is a great force to be reckoned with by the currently unknown intergalactic community. Instead, the episode brings all human life down to the role of one contestant in an intergalactic song contest show, with the losing planets being blown up.[4] This adds to the sense of dispensability and greatly reducing the sense of how important humanity is to other alien races. Shubhankar Dharmadhikari also touches upon the notion in light of the concept of cosmic horror, and states:

the cosmic horror of Rick and Morty poses obvious questions to us about the significance or rather insignificance of our being. Most scifi centers us, the mighty human race at the center of the universe, and this drives significance and meaning to human actions within the narrative. Cosmic horror inverts this premise, as Opperman goes on to say, by asking the question ‘What if the Universe doesn’t give a shit about us?’[5]

In the episode Mortynight Run, Rick and Morty visit an alien arcade, where there is a video game called ‘Roy’, in which aliens can play as a human named Roy and simulate a human life down to the gritty details like being fired, contracting and overcoming cancer, moving on into old age and dying a lousy death.[6] These are things that video games usually skip over because these are too realist to be entertaining and offer no sense of escapism for us humans, meaning that they are at the core of the human experience that we sometimes want to escape from. The fact that these are added to a video game and are expected to offer some entertainment value for aliens, not only reduces being human to the equivalent of a game of Sims, but undermines their value as a human experience.

Another episode, Close Encounters of the Rick Kind, shows the arbitrariness of the development of life in different dimensions. When Rick and Morty are fleeing from the council of Ricks (don’t ask), they run through various parallel universes. In one sequence, they run past pizzas ordering humans whilst sitting on chairs, phones ordering chairs whilst sitting on pizzas, etc.[7] This scene illustrates that there is no reason, no plan for the state we are currently in, but just the result of organic development and that things could be radically different in another dimension.

And of course the breaking down of human life wouldn’t be complete without the classic breakdown of emotions and love: in Rick Potion #9, Rick invents a potion to help Morty get a date for prom, but it turns out he used a recipe for disaster. A flu epidemic alters the effects of the potion and the episode ends with the whole population –except for the Smith family- having been transformed into mutants. The bottomline of the episode is that even love, humankind’s best emotion, is based on hormones and chemistry (pun intended), which adds to the sense of meaninglessness of life, or at least emotions. This coincides with a point that Thomas Evans made about Rick and Morty, namely that it criticises the pursuit of happiness and portrays it as something that is “inherently dangerous.”[8]

Whenever Rick and Morty isn’t blowing your mind with absurdities than can only be found in parallel universes in sci-fi comedy cartoon shows, the show tends to put forward a sense of nihilism and perhaps even anti-anthropocentrism. Dan Harmon himself summarises it beautifully: Science rules supreme, marriages are on the rocks, and things get so chaotic that it does boil down to the petty, emotional issues of humanity. And the moral is that we’re all pretty insignificant.”[9]

While mankind is still searching for the first contact with extraterrestrials, we already portray ourselves as galactic big shots when it comes to sci-fi films or games – but this may not be the case and shows like Rick and Morty put us back with our feet on the ground. And Rick and Morty goes even further than that: it goes on explaining away the layer of emotions and all kinds of sanctities attributed to the experience of human life. Shubhankar Dharmadhikari explains this sentiment of the show through the words of Alec Opperman – writer of, among others, the YouTube video “The Philosophy of Rick and Morty” for the Wisecrack channel – who states that “science allows us to make some sense of the universe through formulas and theorems, but we as humans are left confronting the bleak, arbitrary nature of our own existence.”[10] Dharmadhikari adds to this by saying that “the absurdity of it all for the showrunners arises then, as science can reason away any sense of sanctity or emotion and turn the human experience into something meaningless” to which she adds the question “So how does one go on living with this?”[11] It seems that Rick and Morty has an answer for this as well, as Dharmadhikari responds with a quote from Rick: “The answer is don’t think about it.”[12]

If that doesn’t work for you yet, I’ll leave you with a memorable quote from Morty:

“Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.”[13]

Works Cited

[1] “Ricksy Business.” Rick and Morty, season 1, episode 11, Adultswim, 14 Apr. 2014. Netflix.

[2] Nowak, Grayson. “Absurd Parody for Nostalgic Night Owls: Understanding Adult Swim’s Offensive Content”

[3] “Lawnmower Dog.” Rick and Morty, season 1, episode 2, Adultswim, 9 dec. 2013. Netflix.

[4] “Get Schwifty.” Rick and Morty, season 2, episode 5, Adultswim, 23 aug. 2015. Netflix.

[5] Dharmadhikari, Shubhankar. “The Absurdist Knook: Creating a Zone of Antisemiotic Exchange Through a Postmodern Reading of Waiting for GodotAcademia.edu (n.d.): 47. Google Scholar Search. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.

[6] “Mortynight Run.” Rick and Morty, season 2, episode 2, Adultswim, 2 aug. 2015. Netflix.

[7] “Close Encounters of the Rick Kind.” Rick and Morty, season 1, episode 10, Adultswim, 7 apr. 2014. Netflix.

[8] Evans, Thomas. “Wubba Lubba Dub Dub!: The Pursuit of Happiness in Rick and Morty.” Under Construction @Keele 2.1 (2015): 16. Google Scholar Search. Web. 8 Nov. 2016.

[9] Thielman, Sam. “Dan Harmon.” Adweek 54, no. 43 (December 2, 2013): 12.

[10] “The Philosophy of Rick and Morty – 8-bit Philosophy.” Wisecrack. qtd in Dharmadhikari, Shubhankar. Idem p.49.

[11] Idem.

[12] Idem.

[13] “Rixty Minutes.” Rick and Morty, season 1, episode 8, Adultswim, 8 Sept. 2015. Netflix.

There Are No Heroes Left In Man: How The Protomen Create a Video Game Turned Orwellian Dystopia to Mirror Mankind By Berry Giezen

The Protomen are an American rockband from Tennessee. Their discography includes two concept albums in which they have reworked the story of the Mega Man videogame franchise. The games follow a rather linear plot of good versus bad, despite some twists and elements that have also found their way into the two albums analysed here,  but the band has reworked this into a dystopian narrative of Orwellian proportions. The surprises and twists don’t stop there though! Dystopian narratives often feature a totalitarian regime or corrupt form of government, and there is often some criticism of these political regimes or society in the narrative or sub-narrative. The (social) criticism that the story on the albums offer, however, does not seem to solely lie with Wily’s regime over the city. But if it’s not the one who’s ruling the city, who might then be in the iron sights of criticism? And what does this mean?

The Story

Chances are that you are not familiar with the music of The Protomen and the story on their albums, so a summary is in order. The story analysed here is told on their debut album Act I: The Protomen, which was released in 2005, and on Act II: The Father of Death, which was released in 2009. The story is a continuing rock opera, and while a good bit of story happens through the lyrics, much of the story is also told through the booklets that accompany the CDs. In terms of chronology, the second album, Act II: The Father of Death, is the prequel to the first album, The Protomen.

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Act II (The Father of Death)

Dr. Thomas Light has had to witness his father work himself to death in the mines, which inspires him to build robots to create a better world. Together with Dr. Albert Wily he works on this project, but the two of them get into an argument about their goals for the project. Wily aims to use the robots to take over the city and lead mankind on to technical advancement. The two have a falling out, because Light just wants to aid mankind and make work easier for them.[1] Wily goes to Light’s house and is going through his drawers when Light’s girlfriend Emily walks in. He tries to persuade her to join him. She stays loyal to Light, and he has his robot kill her. Soon after, Light finds her and is struck with grief and guilt. The police find him with her body, and he escapes, knowing how things look.[2]

Wily, in the meantime, has been planning this all along; he spins the story and talks to reporters, pinning the murder on his former partner Thomas Light.[3] Light is arrested at the cemetery, an hour after Emily was buried there. Light is put on trial and Wily whips it up into a media circus. After the trial, Light is sentenced not guilty. Wily entices the crowd against the justice system that allowed a monster like him to live, and gets the crowd on his side.[4] Light is escorted to a railroad station and flees the city, which is in Wily’s hands now.[5]

 

As Light lays low, Wily gets on with his project of developing the city. The mining sector and factories are completely replaced and staffed by machines. Wily clears the homeless and the criminal. For a while, it seems perfect and the people live in fear, for it can all too easily be taken away from them. A new generation grows up in the chokehold that Wily and his robots have over the city. Joe is one of these people. He distrusts the robots and disagrees with the state the city’s in.[6] He sees that the city is chained. He visits his old home, and finds his late father’s motorbike. He takes it and leaves for the outskirts of the city.[7] Here he finds Dr. Light. Together they kill a robot assassin sent to kill Joe for his thoughts of rebellion.[8]

The two men hatch a plan to detonate a bomb on the transmitter on Wily’s tower, so that they might inspire hope and show that Wily can be touched.[9] Joe races over to the tower and runs up the flights of stairs to the roof of Wily’s tower. From a distance, Light sees the flames erupt from the tower and watches a body drop from the tower. As he gets closer to the tower, he finds that it is indeed Joe. The transmitter and the telescreens are down. But then they switch back on again, and Thomas understands that Wily had backups for everything. There was a second transmitter, and Joe had died for nothing.[10] Wily uses the situation to spin this as a “threat to the safety of the city” and uses this as a possibility to deploy his army and completely crack down on the city. Thomas witnesses what happens, and while he is overcome with grief and more guilt, he also finds that it fuels his rage and determination to fight Wily: “Joe, when you see Emily \ tell her to wait for me, \ ‘cause I still have work to do.”[11]

protomen-album2

 Act I (The Protomen)

Dr. Light has worked on his revenge for many years, and in the year “two-thousand-x, Protoman was born, a perfect man, an unbeatable machine.” Protoman is sent to fight Wily and his evil robots. Protoman is defeated in the fight, and when Wily orders the final attack, none of the spectating citizens comes to his aid.[12]

In his grief for his son and his rage against Wily and the citizens, he builds Megaman.[13] Knowing that he will find out anyway, he tells Megaman of his older brother Protoman and his fate, and how he thinks mankind deserves the cruel oppression from Wily and that Protoman had carried a weight no single man could and should bear. He tells Megaman this to protect him and teach him, but instead, Megaman is furious and wants to avenge his brother.[14] He visits his brother’s grave, a monument in the city, and then rushes on, frenzied, to fight Wily and avenge Protoman.[15] Before he can get to Wily, he has to defeat a great army of his robot henchmen, led by Wily’s second in command. When he reaches Wily’s gates and the commander of the robot troops, he finds that the one in charge of Wily’s forces is none other than his brother Protoman himself!

Protoman tells him that mankind is doomed because they will not stand up for themselves:

“Do you see that the truth is they don’t want to change this? They don’t want a hero. They just want a martyr, a statue to raise.”

Protoman kills the remainder of his troops to make it an even fight, and the two brothers face each other, about to decide the fate of mankind.[16] Megaman refuses to fight Protoman, who says he must. He tries to win back his brother, saying that they “both know they’ll never fight”, but fails to convince his brother. The crowd is pressuring Megaman into killing his brother to save them, and he gives in. Protoman falls, and Megaman finally understands, and walks away. Without commander, Wily’s robots don’t know what to do, and they look to Wily’s tower. With a single gesture, Wily gives them new orders, and the machines march and massacre the gathered crowd for their thoughts of rebellion.[17]

hqdefaultThe two sons fighting, as envisioned in the 2003 MegaMan NT Warriors series.

Analysis

 The Dystopian Elements

 It’s quite difficult to write such a comprehensive story within the textual confines of lyrics, even with the added textual notes. Yet the two albums offer two full narratives that share many elements with other dystopian texts. Quite like other dystopian texts, this particular dystopian narrative starts “in medias res, within the nightmarish society,”[18] which is true for the Act I album, which was released first. Tom Moylan notes that this causes “cognitive estrangement by the immediacy and normality the location.[19] Cognitive estrangement is a theory coined by Darko Suvin, which is defined as the “factual reporting of fictions,”[20] describing unfamiliar things, values, concepts, and worlds as if they are familiar. Through this “distancing or by the unfamiliarity of science fictional worlds, we are estranged from our assumptions about reality and forced to question them.”[21] This mindset is also invoked and required for the story by The Protomen. By the end of Act I, the estrangement works to get the audience to reflect on themselves and society.

It is interesting to note that, while dystopian narratives often feature an immersed main character who is slowly opening his eyes and starting to question the state, the story by The Protomen does not share this. This can easily be explained, however, by the fact that the Dr. Light in this narrative facilitated the development of the world into this dystopian state and even witnessed it change. This is another remarkable feature: the fact that we also get to hear how this dystopia came to be, in the form of the second album as the prequel.

There are other dystopian and Orwellian elements as well, for instance in the way that a regime is established. Moylan notes:

“To be sure, the official, hegemonic order of most dystopias rests […] on both coercion and consent. The material force of the economy and the state apparatus controls the social order and keeps it running; but discursive power, exercised in the reproduction of meaning and the interpellation of subjects, is a complementary and necessary force. Language is a key weapon for the reigning dystopian power structure.[22]

Wily works his way into his position of power from within; he reforms the city with his robots and makes it a place with better work environments and less crime. He cunningly sets a trap, and when it is sprung by Light, he can deploy his army for the safety of the city and take the city without losing the loyalty of the citizens. So, Wily greatly boosts the economy and eventually becomes the state apparatus by himself, and thus in the position to control the social order.

proto57

Dr. Wily and Protoman as envisioned in the 1994 cartoon series.

In terms of language, there is a small number of instances in which Wily is described using his telescreens and loudspeakers as propaganda, rallying the citizens or ensuring them that everything is under control: in “The Will of One” it reads:

“The rusting metal loudspeakers mounted at intervals on the side of the stone wall are humming, chanting now words to settle the stir created by a new hero. Words to quell a potential uprising. Words to inspire fear. Words to drive back the idea that freedom is within the grasp of one angry mob headed by one unstoppable leader.”

Wily is using language to control and play the citizens and reduces language to a tool for mind- and crowd control. So, through a combination of language, military force, control over technological and economical advancement that he created and can take away again, Wily establishes his dominion over the city.

Some of these elements are typically Orwellian and are very similar to the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Most significantly is Wily’s telescreen on the tower from which he rules that he uses to broadcast his propaganda. Quite like the state in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Wily uses fear to keep people in control, and has an assassin who makes criminals, homeless, and people who seem to disagree or rebel, disappear. Wily’s regime is totalitarian in an Orwellian fashion.

Indeed, Wily even seems to have control over people’s behavior, and even ideas that are forbidden:

“Ideas forbidden in Wily’s society
The society for which he worked,
The society in which he lived
The society he would set free.
And so Light worked, far into the night, when the watchful eyes of Wily’s robots weren’t upon him.”[23]

The lyrics also illustrate that Wily is monitoring people in his society, similar to what happens in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The Meaning of this Brave New Dystopia

 It is interesting to see that the focus of social criticism that often comes with dystopian settings and stories has shifted: usually, dystopias are created to criticise certain political concepts or regimes. In these cases, the inhabitants of the regime are the oppressed and painted as the victims. In the story of the two albums by The Protomen, the criticism is aimed at these people who do nothing and bide their time, hoping for change to come somehow. As Moylan notes, “most dystopian texts offer a detailed and pessimistic presentation of the very worst of social alternatives.”[24] This is definitely true for the city in the story told by The Protomen, but whereas other texts base their social criticism on these extreme social alternatives, The Protomen do not; it’s not Wily or the city that leads them to social criticism of a tyrant or an oppressed state. Instead, they criticise the inhabitants and their behaviour, their lack of rebellion and activity.

So, now we’ve established that the narrative in these albums by The Protomen shares many elements with traditional dystopian texts, and even with the classic Nineteen Eighty-Four. Not only do these albums paint a very grim and haunting image, via the disconnection with our own world and values (the cognitive estrangement), the music moves the listeners to question their own world and its values. The lyrics of The Stand (Man or Machine) and Sons of Fate, the crux of the story, (can) fill in the answers to these questions, as they focus on the fact that mankind won’t stand up for themselves.

This shift in focus also causes a shift in meaning. The social criticism that can be read in the albums can be summarised along the lines of standing up for yourself, not waiting for others to do your job for you, and not to tolerate oppression, and perhaps even that there is strength in numbers. This new message coming out of a dystopian narrative fits the modern times, in which society has grown individualistic, where many tasks and responsibilities are taken away from us by others or by machines, and where we sometimes seem to forget that the power lies with the people, not with the people who represent (or rule) them.

In short, The Protomen took the linear good versus bad-plot from a videogame franchise and spun it into a dystopian narrative. Remarkable as this is, even their dystopian narrative differs from other dystopian tales in the way it the focus of its implied criticism has shifted from a criticism of the state and political system to a sense of socio-criticism that well fits the modern era.  On top of that, the music is amazing and diverse and worth a listen! There may be no heroes left in man, but fortunately for us, we have The Protomen.

[1] The Protomen, The Good Doctor. Act II: The Father of Death. Sound Machine, 2009. CD.

[2] The Protomen, The Father of Death. Act II: The Father of Death. Sound Machine, 2009. CD.

[3] The Protomen, The Hounds. Act II: The Father of Death. Sound Machine, 2009. CD.

[4] The Protomen, The State vs. Thomas Light. Act II: The Father of Death. Sound Machine, 2009. CD.

[5] Give Us The Rope. Act II: The Father of Death. Sound Machine, 2009. CD.

[6] How The World Fell Under Darkness. Act II: The Father of Death. Sound Machine, 2009. CD.

[7] Breaking Out. Act II: The Father of Death. Sound Machine, 2009. CD.

[8] Keep Quiet. Act II: The Father of Death. Sound Machine, 2009. CD.

[9] Light Up The Night. Act II: The Father of Death. Sound Machine, 2009. CD.

[10] The Fall. Act II: The Father of Death. Sound Machine, 2009. CD.

[11] The Protomen, Here Comes The Arm. Act II: The Father of Death. Sound Machine, 2009. CD.

[12] Hope Rides Alone. Act I: The Protomen. Sound Machine, 2005. CD.

[13] Funeral For A Son. Act I: The Protomen. Sound Machine, 2005. CD.

[14] Unrest In The House Of Light. Act I: The Protomen. Sound Machine, 2005. CD.

[15] The Will of One. Act I: The Protomen. Sound Machine, 2005. CD.

[16] The Stand (Man or Machine). Act I: The Protomen. Sound Machine, 2005. CD.

[17] The Sons of Fate. Act I: The Protomen. Sound Machine, 2005. CD.

[18] T. Moylan and R. Baccolini, Dark Horizons: Science Fiction and the Dystopian Imagination. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print. p.5.

[19] Idem.

[20] P. Nodelman, “The Cognitive Estrangement of Darko Suvin.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 5.4, 1981. Project Muse. Web. 23 June 2016.

[21] Idem.

[22] Moyland, T. Scraps of the Untainted Sky: Science Fiction, Utopia, Dystopia. Boulder: Westview Press, 2000. Print. p.147.

[23] Hope Rides Alone. Act I: The Protomen. Sound Machine, 2005. CD.

[24] T. Moylan and R. Baccolini, Dark Horizons: Science Fiction and the Dystopian Imagination. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print. p.6.

The History Behind Iron Maiden songs By Berry Giezen

The career of the British heavy metalband Iron Maiden is long and extensive, seeing as they have recently released their sixteenth studio album, and they have a number of live albums and compilations beside those. Their songs cover various topics, personas, and situations, and many of the songs have been inspired by famous people and battles in history. So could you reasonably replace revising for your History exams with listening to Iron Maiden? Perhaps not, but to make things easier for you, we’ve made a list of their songs about historical events and people right here.

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The Skeletons of Stories: An Analysis of Trending Two-sentence Horror By Berry Giezen

Horror is a genre that is found in many forms, from long novels to films, and from poetry to short stories. A while ago, a number of posts circulated on social media that were compilations of horror in another, new form: two-sentence horror stories. This new form poses a challenge for the genre of horror and the people writing it, since within two sentences, a writer can’t rely on building suspense or describing gloomy castles, eerie situations or scary figures to create a sense of horror. This raises the question; how short can a short story be? Moreover, can a two-sentence narrative be considered a story at all, and if so, how can it function like a story?

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The (Dead) Body Politic: How In The Flesh Mirrors Modern Society By Berry Giezen

Disclaimer: this article features spoilers.

Zombie flicks and films seem to go hand in hand with social criticism. Romero’s films about the ‘Living Dead’ have often been interpreted politically. Night of the Living Dead, for example, is a zombie film that came out in a time when America was divided and in social turmoil, with various figures and movements, such as Martin Luther King, seeking equality for minority groups. The hero of the film is an African-American man, Ben, who hides in a house, trying to outlive the roaming zombies outside. He rescues a woman, initially a very silent and catatonic character, who hardly manages to help out – this in contrast with other women who do their best to help out. Another illustrative passage is the interaction between Ben and Harry Cooper, a white, middle-class man, as they clash over the best way to survive. The government is broadcasting news updates and researching the phenomenon, but is too slow in rallying its forces to help the survivors.[1] It takes the posse of a local sheriff to help the local survivors, yet instead they shoot the only survivor when they mistake him for a zombie. Here, Romero already introduced the idea that the government will not always be there to save people, and broke away from the solid belief in the government as man’s saviour.

A very recent series with a similar theme and message  is In The Flesh, a drama mini-series by the BBC. The premise is that there has been a rising of the dead: some of the recently deceased have come back from the grave. In their hunger for human flesh, they have attacked humans. Mankind has been fighting them off, and in the meantime, they have also invented a drug through which they have been able to ‘save’ some of the zombies. The drug suppresses the neurons responsible for the hunger-frenzy and allows their personalities to return to their former selves. They are then observed for a period of time in a high-security facility whilst being given therapy to prepare them for their re-assimilation and re-immigration into society. They also need to come to terms with what they have done in their ‘untreated state’.

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The Construction of a World of Nothing: The World in Mad Max: Fury Road By Berry Giezen

Disclaimer: this article features spoilers.

This year, the new Mad Max film took the world by storm, and presented us with a world of its own. Not much is said about how exactly the world became this apocalyptic, but it is caused by nuclear weapons and wars. The world has turned to dust and sand. This primitive and savage world revolves around three things: food and water to survive, bullets to protect what they have to survive –or to take it, and gas to move around. Vehicles here are not only a way of escape, but they are also weapons

In some (post-apocalyptic) works, the world and environment function as a mere setting or decor. It is the background for a story about people surviving and overcoming obstacles and enemies. One reason for this is that all the social structures of the old worlds are literally dead or broken, and it is hard to write a dynamic world when there is so little going on compared to what we are used to in our world. It is often reduced to a free-for-all sandbox. On top of this, in case of films, there is just too little time to work in a detailed and vibrant world when you’re also trying to fit in an action-packed narrative. TV series are more suited for building dynamic worlds, since they have more screen time and can feature gradual and more detailed build-ups. In The Walking Dead, for example, there are a few settlements of people banding together in settlements to increase their chance of survival. The post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max is surprisingly dynamic and alive, which is especially surprising considering the fact that it is brought to us in (four) films.

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