A free discussion on the prevalence of prejudice in zombie movies will take place at 6:30 in the Multicultural Center lounge tonight.
According to event organizer Eric Hamako, the conversation will focus on the real world issues of prejudice, war and imprisonment that are highlighted by negative portrayals of Arabs, Muslims and East Asians in zombie flicks. Hamako, a doctoral candidate from the University of Massachusetts, said nativism is still rampant in American pop culture and most evident in gruesome zombie movies.
Zombies often represent minorities, Hamako said, exhibiting stereotypical
“Orientalist” qualities such as hyper-sexuality and stupidity which threaten the structure of the nuclear family.
“White supremacy relies on a myth that white people are racially pure and anything that threatens white racial purity may seem scary to some people,” Hamako said.
Instead of challenging widespread societal racism, Hamako said the film industry instead perpetuates the nation’s long history of discrimination.
“Sometimes movie makers take these old horror stories, slap some monster make-up on them and think they’re telling a new story, but the stories resonate with audiences because they’re based on old, deeply rooted stories,” Hamako said.
Omar Najam, a fourth-year film & media studies major, said during the Vietnam War filmmakers recreated the horror experienced in the war through zombie movies.
“In the 1960s, there was a huge movement toward zombie movies, and its conjunction with the Vietnam War didn’t help with the racism aspect,” Najam said.
Moreover, Hamako said, zombie movies are metaphors for what he perceives as a societal hatred towards people of color.
“Like white supremacist stories about Arabs and Muslims, stories about zombies propose that they commit sneak attacks, they are angry and hate us for no apparent reason, they want to destroy ‘our’ society, they hunger for ‘our’ white women,” Hamako said. “They threaten to pollute or infiltrate families and society, they are weak and yet threaten to overwhelm ‘us’ with their massive numbers.”
Instead of avoiding zombie movies, Hamako said people should instead critically reflect on all pop culture exposure.
“I think we can love pop culture and think critically about it,” Hamako said. “The real monster isn’t a group of scapegoated people, it’s the monstrous ways we systematically treat each other.”
Hamako said he first became interested in the topic when zombie comic books became more popular in 2003 and zombies became a metaphor for terrorism.
“That got me thinking because I knew that the ways people in the U.S. think about terrorism are tied up in prejudices about people of color and non-Christians,” Hamako said.
Hamako also said there are few zombie movies that challenge typical racist themes.
“Some stories imagine an exceptional zombie who’s friendly or civilized, but that’s like when a person tries to excuse their own prejudices by telling someone, ‘Oh, but you aren’t like the rest of them,'” Hamako said.
The discussion on zombies is part of a larger Race Matters Series within the MCC. Another free discussion, titled “Using Critical Race Theory and Racial Microaggressions to Examine Everyday Racism,” is scheduled for March 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the same location.