Monday, November 30, 2009

Movies: Wu of the Dead.

Though extensive work has gone into unearthing Christian symbolism in zombie narratives, here's a less analyzed Black Muslim take on Romero's Of the Dead franchise. From the RZA's new book, The Tao of Wu:

When I first saw Night of the Living Dead, I was scared to death. But when I watched it again at the age of sixteen (when they were up to Day of the Dead), I'd gotten knowledge of myself, and could relate to what it was saying about America. The dead were alive, but they were blind, deaf, and dumb. So to me, they were symbolic of black men in America.

The dead in those movies are alive- that's just a description of physical matter, it's active - but they don't have life. Life comes when you have knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, when you can see for real, touch and feel for real, know for real. Then you are truly living.

Finally, all the Of Dead films work as metaphors for the Five Percent [The Nation of Gods and Earths, also known as Five-Percent Nation of Islam - CRwM]. The survivors are holdouts living among the mentally dead. And interestingly, they tend to be led by black men. At the same time, though, after the black man survives - he fights off destruction through the whole movie - a white man kills him.

Though factually wobbly at the end there - the black protags survive Dawn and Day - the analogy actually works far better for me than efforts to fit Romero's flicks into a Christian framework. The origin of the Five-Percent name stems from their belief (and this is a profound simplification) that 85% of humanity are blind to knowledge of themselves; 10% understand some of the divine knowledge needed to be fully realized humans, but ignore or lie about this knowledge for personal gain (notably, Christian preachers and scholars who teach about an incorporeal, or "mystery," God to advance their own political agendas - left and right); and a final 5% who understand and spread the truth, known as poor righteous teachers. The idea of a tiny, fully alive and self aware minority surrounded by a globe of the half-alive fits like a glove with Romero's flicks.

I wonder what insights Buddhists, more mainstream Muslims, and other non-Christian religious peoples could bring to the table.


Sasquatchan said...

Wow.. I mean.. ummm.. wow..

Bad flashbacks to [pick your choice] deconstructionists professors in college..

Scrymarch said...

You might already know there is a separate zombie tradition in China, going back to the 19th century Qing dynasty, and with an accompanying pulp literature.

Not sure how it would fit in the religious tradition per se.

zoe said...

that's interesting. actually, it seems like you wouldn't really need a particular religion to see the world as being full of violent, drooling zombies, just
a bad day
like, say,
black friday.

i mean, the zombie movies always have big mall scenes, don't they? haha..

wiec? said...

i like the first 3 Romero zombie movies but always found it sort of laughable that people read into them a sort of social commentary. maybe in the first one social issues are explored in terms of race and stuff like that but that's the only one i'd let slide.

however when people say part 2 is a screed on consumerism and greed i say aw- fooey. they went to mall because it has all the stuff in it and it make sense for a hideout. plus Romero probably got the permission to film there for a song.

I'll give RZA credit for seeing the series fit as an analogy for his ideology. if it makes sense to him, why not. unrelated, his turn as a horror rapper in the Gravediggas (at least the 1st album) was weird and kind of excellent.

Shon Richards said...

As a Buddhist, I always thought Romero's zombies were great examples of how all suffering is caused by desire. All the zombies do is desire flesh, which makes them look hellishly unhappy. It also makes them quite mindless and lacking in reflection.

Having said that, I can totally see the 5% Nation point of view, and I prefer it most analogies I have seen.

CRwM said...


And to think that I'd almost all but forgotten about the Gravediggas. I feel a music post comin' on.

CRwM said...

Argh! I screwed the name up again! Why do I suffer hyper-specific wiec related dyslexia? You'd think as a random letter name kinda guy myself I'd have it down!

Sorry about that.

wiec? said...

i think it's the "i before e except after* c" rule that's tripping you up. no worries.

* or is it before c ? i forget.