XXXombies: Economies of Desire and Disgust

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Drawing on the well-established understanding of the zombie as metaphor for the deadening effects of consumer capitalism, this chapter seeks to account for three distinct changes that contextualise 21st century zombie fiction. The first is situational: the global economic crisis has amplified the anxieties that inspired Romero's critique of consumer capitalism in Dawn of the Dead (1978). The second is intellectual: as Chapman and Anderson (2011) note, there has been an “explosion of research on all aspects of disgust” in recent years. The third concerns the subgenre itself: zombies have become increasingly sexualised since the late 1990s. These issues intersect in a numerous recent zombie films - including Zombie Strippers! (2008), Zombies! Zombies! Zombies! (2008), Big Tits Zombie (2010), and Zombies Vs Strippers (2012) - that are centred around or within strip clubs. Stripping epitomises the logic of consumer capitalism, offering tantalising promises but little physical satisfaction. Stripping translates sexual desire into a voyeuristic transaction, evacuated of corporeal messiness. The zombie’s decomposing body epitomises disgust, and its presence in the strip-club disturbs the fantasy typically provided within that context. In the zombie infected strip-club, intimate contact is damaging rather than desirous. In these respects, zombies hypostatize numerous tensions that are usually masked by fantasy and financial exchange. In doing so, these zombies reify the horrors of late capitalism. Their disgusting bodies disrupt the foundational logic of consumerism qua desire.

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Steve Jones
University of Northumbria at Newcastle


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