The reason the zombie genre is so popular these days is that it’s increasingly becoming the norm for people to feel dead inside. Hence, the conquest of cool and the triumph of indifference. Exuberance is now suspect; goofiness is decidedly uncool, which is why I’ve finally stopped wearing a toilet seat around my neck as a fashion statement, after thirty-seven years. I confess that I’m a little sad about it, but it was getting uncomfortable anyway.
The cool cannot abide the open exhibition of emotions, especially those associated with love and tenderness, which suggest too readily our universal vulnerability and interconnectedness. That must be why it’s so hard to find an orgy nowadays.
As an American living in Korea in the second decade of the 21st Century (and the best one so far in the history of time), it’s both illuminating and depressing to see how Korean popular culture parrots trends the U.S. has already been through (with its own particular twist). For example, there’s a song that’s been on the radio lately called “I Don’t Need a Man,” which reminds me of America back in the seventies and eighties, when it was not cool for girls and women to be feminine (which meant subscribing to the same narrow parody of masculinity assigned to boys and men; denying that essential part of our humanity paved the way for the Reagan revolution and its ensuing economic and military carnage, and what morphed into a perennial lurching toward the right to help squelch what remained of late-sixties idealism and the thawing of the Cold War represented by JFK’s detente with Khrushchev and even, ironically, to some extent, Reagan’s rendezvous with Gorbachev, despite that meeting’s promise being thwarted by our zombie president’s childish–not to say boyish–embrace of the Star Wars missile defense/offense boondoggle).
A former Canadian co-worker of mine said the displays of Korean men in drag on TV “comedy” programs in this country reminded him of Milton Berle, who was a cutting edge comic in the U.S. during the so-called Golden Age of Television, back in the late 1950’s.
Not to say that the United States has a more mature culture–that would be a preposterously pretentious remark. It would likewise be absurd, seeing as Korean culture has been around for five thousand years, while that of the U.S. has existed for a mere 237. If anything, American popular culture is still lodged in the past too, though we’re stuck in the 1980’s of Top Gun and The Terminator, at least according to David Sirota, who wrote a book about the phenomenon (I think it’s called Back to Our Future).
And yet, as American popular culture is a hegemony cricket that’s hopped all over the earth just as surely as termites have tunneled through Pinocchio’s bloody giveaway of a nose, it’s done its part to destroy–or at any rate badly damage–the cultural integrity of many other places, in addition to my own wackily lovable homeland. Even as the planet underfoot shrinks, the obesity pandemic spreads like special sauce slathered on the grey, uniform patty of a Big Mac, social scientists’ warnings that if we want to survive, we’re going to have to shrink ourselves notwithstanding.
The inexplicable global popularity of someone like Psy is a conundrum matched only by the fulsome evangelism of so many Korean Protestant churches (the protest is all mine), along with the worship of nauseatingly earnest Korean ballads sung by ostensible males who bleat and whine as if in dire need of a laxative.
On the flip side of the counterfeit corporate cultural coin is the robotic cool alluded to above. I saw the trailer for the movie Warm Bodies and have glanced through the book, which I intend to buy and read before catching the flick as I have to admit it’s an irresistible concept, combining the genre of romantic comedy with the blossoming zombie phenomenon.
Whatever meaning life may have, as far as I can tell from my nearly fifty years of virtual existence, is bound up in love in all its forms. The only problem is that the different types of love are apt to conflict with each other. For example, you might love God so much you forget how to love your wife. (I guess it’s also easier for people to love someone who’s not real.) Or you might love your smartphone more than you love your girlfriend. And in the heat of passion it’s easy to confuse lust for love. They’re both such powerful forces, it can take years to distinguish one from the other (maybe the one that got away was merely the one who didn’t put out).
I’m proud to be a zombie myself, weeping tears of embalming fluid and wearing a slithering crown of maggots. I pledge allegiance to the flag draped over my coffin, and promise to come back to life as soon as either the world or the earth does, whichever happens first. I’m sorry to say this, but I’m afraid I can’t live without them.