Category Archives: Zombies

Things You Said: Talking Pop Culture with Rob Thomas

So, we’ve established that I’ve got a wee bit of a soft spot for Rob Thomas.  This is not a new thing – my love affair with the music of Rob Thomas and Matchbox 20 has been going slightly longer than the one with my husband. I’ve long joked with people who react with disbelief to learning that I named my only son after him, “well, it’s not like they’re ever going to meet.”

Except that last Friday night, they did.

With massive thanks to Live Nation, I scored complimentary tickets to the State Theatre show, along with a hyperventilation-causing meet’n’greet opportunity. You had to share your favourite Rob Thomas story to win, so I told the story of my boy’s name, and won–which also made it pretty easy to decide who got the other ticket.

winning entry

The other competition winners were lovely people, and the excitement was palpable. We had to wait in the tiniest corridor you’ve ever seen, and Rob was supposed to walk straight past us. Except he didn’t: he stopped and said hi to the lucky few waiting to meet him. We were then led in two-by-two. I went to shake hands, hoping that was allowed. Rob Thomas put out his arms and gestured for a hug. It would have been rude not to respond.

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And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how it took approximately two seconds to transform the self-diagnosed Aspie with clinically-diagnosed anxiety from someone who was afraid of throwing up or passing out in front of an idol, into the relaxed, smiling person chatting in the photos below.

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Look at me, making small talk! With a famous person!

Rob Thomas (the musician) then extended his hand to my son and said, “Hi. Rob” (We both resisted the urge to say, “I know.”). My son replied in kind, also extending his hand and saying, “Hi. Rob,” and then Rob Thomas the musician looked at me in confusion and Rob Thomas (aged 14) and I both said, “Rob Thomas” in unison. And then Rob Thomas (musician) got really excited, and said he’d only ever met one other Rob Thomas (the TV guy). (I think he missed the bit about these being the boy-oh’s given names, but the conversation moved into interesting territory pretty quickly, and it probably meant I didn’t seem quite so stalker-ish as I otherwise might have).

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Wait, you named him WHAT?

So suddenly we’re on solid ground, because Rob Thomas (the TV guy) is something of a pop culture icon. He’s the man behind Veronica Mars, which was discussed at great length at our school reunion (I’ll watch it soon, Phoopie, I promise!), as well as the reboot of 90210, which Roslyn and I will be looking at in some detail in our next book, Mental Health on TV: Representation and Reality.

And then, Rob Thomas (the musician) starts talking zombies. Because Rob Thomas (TV guy) is now running iZombie  on the CW (the network that is also home to  The Vampire Diaries).

iZombie-Season-2-Trailer

And Rob Thomas (musician) and Rob Thomas (TV guy) became friends on Twitter over their shared name, and now Rob Thomas (musician) is going to have his brain eaten in an episode of iZombie when he returns to the States. So watch out, folks, we may be about to see another sexy zombie soon.

So after that little bit of excitement (my son took charge of retrieving my iPhone and our signed photos from the lovely staff, because, in his words, “I knew how you’d be”), we used our complimentary tickets (thanks again, Live Nation!) and headed into the iconic State Theatre for what was billed as “an intimate audience with Rob Thomas.”

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Now, I admit I was a bit overwhelmed by this whole experience, and maybe that explains how I had missed the point that the State Theatre concert was going to be markedly different from the arena-spectacular-esque Melbourne version at RLA a few days earlier. This turned out to be a pretty good thing. I feel incredibly blessed to have seen both “versions” of #theGreatUnknownAussie16  tour.

The RLA performance was high energy, and two of the highlights–David Bowie’s Let’s Dance and Rob running through the crowd in the closing minutes–were not really able to be replicated in this stripped back show, where Thomas was backed only by long-term collaborator Matt Beck, and guitarist Frankie Romano. No thumping drum beats here, which is probably one of Mr 14’s favourite things, but instead we got stories behind the songwriting process, which is definitely one of mine.

Oh, and Rob Thomas played Little Wonders. I’ve actually seen “my” song played live, and it was awesome, and I don’t even mind that it was inspired by what is probably the most mundane part of pet ownership. 😉

All in all, this was a fantastic evening and an experience I’ll remember  ’til they’re blaring Little Wonders over my casket.

 

UPDATE: Apparently TV Insider “broke the news” of Rob Thomas’ iZombie appearance on March 4 (which is March 5 for us, because as Charles M Schultz once reportedly said: Don’t worry about whether tomorrow will come. In Australia, it’s already there.

You read it here on Shapeshifters in Popular Culture, first.

 

 

 

 

 

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Are zombies the new vampires? Part 2

Someone rather foolishly once wrote on this blog that vampires and werewolves are easily cast as romantic heroes, while zombies languish as the unwanted and rejected lovers, unable to ever meet anyone because they always want to eat everyone.

Okay, that was me, and I was wrong. An astute reader of this blog (thanks Frank) pointed me towards a film called Warm Bodies (2013), a romantic zombie comedy film (rozomedy?) about a teenage girl’s romance with a “sensitive undead” after a zombie apocalypse.

Sensitive undead? Apocalypse?

Sign me up right now!

So it is time to admit my error – sorry, two readers of this blog – and update my previous musings on the topic of paranormal suitors.

Warm Bodies takes place in a post-apocalyptic North American setting, 8 years after the usual kind of vague apocalyptic plague thingy happened. We begin with R, a zombie suffering existential angst as he wanders around an abandoned airport now inhabited by fellow zombies. He wonders about the meaning of life now that he has none: he feels alone, longs to connect with other people, and wonders if his life would be better if he worked on his posture and had more respect.

Nearby, humans are living in a fortified urban enclosure, worrying about extinction, and occasionally venturing outside to find more resources and medical supplies. A human team sent outside encounters R and fellow zombies who are out for a stroll looking for food. They fight. Zombies eat the humans. Well, most of them.

The humans include a girl called Julie and her boyfriend, and R eats her boyfriend’s brains but saves Julie and takes her back to his crib (an abandoned plane). R is embarrassed about his love of eating brains but he also relishes it … bad pun, sorry … because when he eats someone’s brains he captures their memories and feelings.

So, when he kills Julie’s boyfriend, his initial interest in Julie takes on an added dimension because of those captured feelings. Cue unexpected romance between our leads R and Julie, Shakespearean connotations and all. He plays her bad music, occasionally summons up an actual word or two instead of his usual grunts, and struggles to understand her. In other words, your typical man and woman attempting to date.

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The movie gives us levels of zombie-ness: R is unusual for the fact that he has some thinking and caring abilities despite his love of eating brains and limited speech, and over the course of the film he and fellow zombies gradually become more human. The bad zombies are those who have lost all humanity and turn into skeletal CGI “bonies”.

It’s a funny movie in a low-key way. There’s plenty of self-referential humour about the zombie genre and wordplay on life and death. “Welcome to the dead zone,” graffiti announces to the human team exiting the compound, “Look alive out there!!!!” “This date is not going well,” R thinks as he struggles to communicate with Julie. “I’m going to die all over again.”

At one point Julie holds up to R the DVD cover of Zombie (1979), the very image I chose for my earlier blog post to illustrate how unromantic most zombies would be as heroes, which is a nice contrast for this current post.

So was I wrong about the romantic lead thing? Maybe. R is appealing in the way of all awkward, socially inept characters whose communication skills might be lacking but whose sincerity can’t be doubted. Which makes a nice change from those uber handsome, rich, smooth talking vamps that so many teenage girls love. And the film’s celebration of brainy girls is worth some props.

OK so it’s kind of completely undermined by the busty blonde pose, but hey, let’s give them points for trying to be funny anyway. And, like the similar meme running round social media that there’s nothing hotter than a man who reads, they are sentiments we can heartily subscribe to here. But such sentiments mean the typical non-Warm Bodies zombie still remains unattractive as the thinking woman’s romantic lead, since most of them can’t exactly think, let alone read.

If nothing else, though, R has nailed the zombie version of the intense leading man stare, so maybe there’s hope for lonely zombies yet.

 

 

 

 

 


Are zombies the new vampires? Werewolves and vampires and zombies, oh my!

So zombies seem to be making a comeback … from the dead. Cue canned laughter. With texts like TV’s The Walking Dead, films such as I Am Legend and 28 Days / 28 Days Later, and zombie takes on classic literature in recent years, the recurring question in various parts of the media seems to be: are zombies the new vampires? Have we moved on from those endless vampires in books and movies to something new(ish)?

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald last year on Alan Ball, zombies might just be the new vampires. Ball is quoted as saying ” ‘We have a line in the last episode of True Blood this season where it’s Halloween and they’re all dressed up, and somebody goes, ‘I’m a zombie. Don’t you know zombies are the new vampires?’ I’ve heard zombies, I’ve heard angels. I don’t know. That’s one of the great things about it all, nobody knows. It’s just going to be one person who does something from a place of pure passion and that’s going to catch attention.”

Time was also asking this question several years back, as was The Hollywood Reporter.

Perhaps the oddest zombie infiltrations in recent times have been into classic literature. Ie, Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! It really wasn’t a truth universally acknowledged that an Austen novel in possession of Darcy and Elizabeth must be in want of zombies, however tempting it is to chalk up Lydia’s brainlessness to zombie influence.

But monsters spawn monsters, so to speak, and post PPZ, we have an enormous array of monster mashups that see zombies, vampires and other monsters join the cast of classic novels:

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

 Jane Slayre

Jane Slayre

Android Karenina

Alice in Zombieland

Little Women and Werewolves

and … well, you get the picture.

Rachel Hyland and Kate Nagy have listed and rated 30 examples, which helps to sort out some of the hits from the misses.

But people have been posing this question in numerous ways for years. Are werewolves the new vampires? Are vampires the new zombies? Are angels the new werewolves? Are zombies the new … And so on.

It seems reasonably obvious that we’re just seeing cycles of fashion and trends. Vampires have been the focus lately what with Twilight and The Vampire Diaries, but then for a while it was all fallen angels on the covers of YA literature, witches were also popular, and of course, rather obviously, we here at this blog are interested in the werewolves who seem to be undergoing a renaissance of sorts.

But zombies are a bit different to the other monsters. They’re never going to be as mainstream as vamps or wolves simply because they don’t measure up to the romantic hero stereotype. To put it in more scholarly terms, they’re not hot enough. I don’t know how many girls would sigh over a zombie male lead like they would over an Edward Cullen or Jacob Black. Vampires provoke interest because of the themes of redemption and love; werewolves get attention because of their torment and dual identities; fallen angels draw out ideas about eternity and salvation.

Vampire hero

Werewolf heroes

Zombie hero?!

Zombies kind of don’t do much except, well, eat brains and stagger about like drunks. They’re not exactly the stuff of romance, unlike those current clichés of sparkly-beautiful-vampires or sexy-muscled-werewolves. Their eyes are bloodshot, their mouths are bloody (well, so are vampires), their bodies are damaged, and their brains are gone.

This is not to say we can’t have fun with zombies, as Shaun of the Dead proved.

I’ll let someone else do an in-depth explanation of the zombie phenomenon (stay tuned), but suffice to say that explanations for their popularity usually centre around the idea that they are potent symbols of particular ills in society: capitalism or consumerism (sucking the life out of everything), terrorism, viruses, war, unemployment, and … you name it.

So what is the appeal of zombies? Can zombies mainstream it as heroes after all?  Or, as others argue, should we just forget about any kind of “meaning” and let zombies be zombies?