Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Viral Morality: A Few Remarks on Contagion

Let us begin with a few often repeated arguments about horror films. These are not so much theories, but things that "everyone says," statements that appear occasionally in film reviews without justification or citation. First, horror films are the way in which a society or culture confronts its fears. Although confront is not quite the right word, since the whole point is that these fears appear only in a mediated form, masked by monsters and aliens. Godzilla is a stand in for atomic war, body snatchers for communism or McCarthy conformism, vampires for sexuality, zombies for consumption etc. Second, horror movies, as well as disaster films, allow the audience to play God, to view some people as fit to die and others to live. This dimension of films is highly moralistic and often racist (the black guy dying first is almost a meta-cliche), as the final credits close on the surviving virgin or restored family. We might call these two things the "spontaneous philosophy of the horror film."

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Owe You an Explanation: Graeber and Marx on Origin Stories

The story of so-called primitive accumulation is well known to readers of Marx. This story was political economy’s way of understanding the origins of capitalism, explaining how the world was divided into workers and capitalists. The story is a kind of grasshopper and ant tale, of those who save and those who squander, although Marx gives it a different literary spin. As Marx writes: 

Monday, September 05, 2011

Primer for the Post-Apocalypse: The Hunger Games Trilogy

Up until now I have avoided the trend of adults reading young adult fiction. I have never read a single Harry Potter book, but I have seen a few of the movies, and I have avoided Twilight as much as possible. (Of course it is nearly impossible to completely avoid such mega-media events, I find myself picking up references to these things, to “Team Edward and “Team Jacob” by sheer cultural osmosis.) This avoidance of young adult fiction came to an end with The Hunger Games. I picked up the first book out of curiosity, having heard a few of the details through osmosis, and found myself tearing through all three fairly quickly, they were this summer’s beach reads (concealed by the blank slate of a kindle).