Saturday, June 10, 2006

politics & zombies

Most people who think President Bush stole an election, got us into a war under false pretenses, and keeps us in the war by lying to us just bitch and moan and do nothing constructive with their criticism. Writers Sam Hamm and Dale Bailey, along with director Joe Dante, crafted a witty zombie horror story called "Homecoming" out of it. "Homecoming" was broadcast on the horror anthology MASTERS OF HORROR whose track record is wildly uneven and whose guidelines seem to be to include one graphic portrayal of fornication per episode.

"Homecoming" was set in a US pretty much like our own, where an Ann Coulter type conservative appears on a Larry King type tv show to skewer liberals while defending the current conservative administration which has gotten itself tangled up in a war in Iraq which grows ever more unpopular as the body count of American soldiers rises. A Cindy Sheehan type mother who has lost a son in the war goes on an anti-war tirade, the Ann Coulter type is brittle instead of warm, and a PR guy high in the ranks of the battle to re-elect the President tries to teach her the fine art of getting your point across without alienating people. The election is just days away, and they need her to win them new voters without alienating others.

This PR guy gives a touching speech in which he says that if he could have just one wish granted, it would be that the brave men and women who gave their lives for our country could come back and tell their mothers, their families and the rest of us exactly how they felt about giving their lives for such a good cause as their country's freedom, and freedom throughout the world.

So what do you think happens? Cut to Dover Air Force Base, where the latest shipment of American dead have been flown in and warehoused in flag-draped coffins. We hear a hollow banging sound, one of the coffins starts to move, and pretty soon a zombie soldier is walking around scaring the pants off of the military guard. Then another. Then more.

Pretty soon the Larry King guy is hosting some folks trying to figure out what the zombie soldiers want. They don't want to eat brains. They don't want to attack the living. What they want to do is... vote.

Then we get some cool riffs on election rules and media coverage of elections as the nation debates whether undead soldiers have the right to vote or not. The conservatives spin the resurrected soldiers to their advantage, citing them as heroes, until the more vocal of the zombies says that in fact they died for nothing and are NOT happy about it. Then they spin it so that the zombies are brain dead and incapable of making a rational voting decision.

The episode thoroughly entertained me, even though I am more conservative than liberal when it comes to the war, and I like Ann Coulter. But wit is wit, and this was splendid, hitting satiric marks over and over again.

As my husband said, it could not have been fun for anyone who actually has lost a loved one in the war, although the dead soldiers themselves are poignantly rendered, wanting to get in touch with loved ones as well as let their voices be heard at the ballot box. But for lovers of horror, it combined a good story with some actual logic to explain -- sort of -- why it was that this particular wish came true.

I thought of The Da Vinci Code afterwards, and wondered if I would have been so entertained if the skewering had been of Catholic doctrine instead of political viewpoints, and if the satire had been directed at religious leaders and not politicians and pundits. Would I have taken offense if it had been Pope Benedict appearing on the Larry King type show? Likely, I would have.

As always, I find myself perplexed by the question of what are the legitimate boundaries of art. Politics and art have always lived in an uneasy tandem, no?

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