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Monday 08 November 2010

Man-Eaters!!! (and some woman-eaters...)

Posted in: Movies, Books, Features
By Craig Young - 22nd July 2010

LA Zombie
Although vampires and werewolves appear to receive top billing in the paranormal dark romantic stakes (...), what about the "real" 'man eaters' (and some 'woman-eaters'), zombies?

Across the Tasman, this has become an issue of interest, given that their Office of Film and Literature Classification has apparently refused to allow independent gay film director Bruce LaBruce's LA Zombie (2009) into the Melbourne Film Festival, although there is some talk that it will pass muster as a DVD.

Like the director's earlier Otto Or Up With Dead People, this is a gay zombie movie, although this one is a fusion of gore and gay smut. Francois Sagat serves as the eponymous character, except he's actually suffering from delusional schizophrenia. He apparently has sex with hot male corpses. Or does he? And if he is a zombie, is it necrophilia? Come to think of it, isn't it also technically necrophilia when vampires have sex with those of us on the other side of the mortality barrier?

Unfortunately, Australian censorship policy is governed by 'community standards' criteria. Although the criteria are apparently flexible enough to permit gay safe sex materials in the Australian context, there have been utterly ridiculous incidents like recurrent attempts to ban Piers Paolo Pasolini's graphic and horrific anti-fascist polemic, Salo or 120 Days of Sodom, which has screened here at film festivals (with an R18 certificate) and is available in some university libraries.

In New Zealand, there is a strong evidential basis to our censorship policies, which has been the case since the late lamented Lawrence Publishing won its case against a censorship tribunal shortly after homosexual law reform in 1986. I imagine LA Zombie would be granted an R18 certificate, as was

It is undeniable that the less aesthetically gifted, more secular and sometimes more dilapidated versions of the undead have experienced a resurgence in their popularity over the last five years or so. While vampires and werewolves can appeal to the darker side of romantic fiction, straight, lesbian or gay, it's harder to reclaim the zombie. "He" or "she" remains resolutely uncommunicative, visually dissonant and obsessed with their nutritional needs, usually human cranial contents (or braaaaaaaaaaaaaains...)

While the zombie apocalypse has become a staple of dark comedy and SF horror in such enterprises as George Romero's Living Dead oeuvre, Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, as well as Max Brooks World War Z zombie apocalypse fiction, and the Walking Dead independent comics series, all those survivors and the zombies themselves seem to be straight. Well, sort of. Zombies arguably used not to have any other surrounding cultural trappings and accompanying differentiating identity politics.

Used to, that is. As independent cinema suggests though, the underlying concept can be tweaked and producing zombies that are somewhat sentient and do have discernable sexual orientations. Hence At Twilight Come the Flesh Eaters, Otto: Or Up With Dead People, LA Zombie, Gay Zombie, Creatures from the Pink Lagoon and Alyson Press' literary effort, Lust for the Dead, published earlier this year. Insofar as drag queens go, there's also Cage Au Zombies.

Lesbian zombies are rarer than their male counterparts, and seem to be primarily confined to independent comics. I'm not sure about Gwen Dylan, the twentysomethingish and possibly lesbionic zombie in the Vertigo DC Comics series I Zombie, but The Abandoned apparently has Southern gothic lesbian zombies!!! Eat your heart out, Charlaine Harris. (Oops...wrong metaphor...) Anyway, they tend to be more sentient and less dilapidated than gay male zombies, who have two things on their minds- sex and dinner, sometimes consecutively...

The arousal of lesbian and gay zombies is odd, as zombie horror is usually about the erasure of sentience and identity. Without sentient, individual personalities and social structures or communities of interest are redundant. United by their cannibal dietary tastes, zombies are a ghastly parody of leftist equality politics and feast indiscriminately on humans, who must unite to fight back against their undead predators. Even if it's much smaller than that of normal humans, I imagine that even the fundamentalist Christian brain may look tempting to a diet-conscious zombie from their perspective.

So, what happens next? Will the arousal of lesbian and gay zombies lead to divergences and nuances developing within zombie horror fiction? Watch this space and try not to be put off by the decomposing animated cadavers that occasionally lurch across it...

LA Zombie:
"Gay zombie movie gets festival flick" Melbourne Age: 20/07/10

Craig Young - 22nd July 2010

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