The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless

The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless

The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless

The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless

Synopsis

Nineteen philosophers sink their teeth into the juicy topic of the Undead and discuss some of the major movie treaments of zombies, vampires, and other types of living dead.Though Bram Stoker coined the term, the undead have stalked the human imagination for eons, appearing in the myths and legends of nearly all cultures. The concept of people, or unpeople, interacting with others while devoid of humanity provides a wealth of material for philosophical speculation. Encompassing George Romero's radiation-spawned Living Dead, the "infected" of '28 Days Later,' as well as more traditional zombies and vampires, the essays in 'The Undead and Philosophy' ponder questions such as: Is it cool to be undead, or does it totally suck? Is a zombie simply someone with a brain but without a mind? Are some of the people around us undead, and how could we tell? Can the undead be held responsible for what they do? Is it always morally OK to kill the undead? Served up in a witty, entertaining style, these and other provocative questions present philosophical arguments in terms accessible to all readers.

Excerpt

Richard Greene

It’s an interesting feature of horror films that most people either like them or dislike them for precisely the same reason: they are terrifying. Those who like them enjoy the “rush” of being terrified and those who don’t like them find being frightened distressful, unpleasant, or uncomfortable. Few, if any, enjoy horror films but fail to find them frightening to some degree. One reason that horror scares us is because we have an ability to empathize with characters as they are being chased, slaughtered, mauled, impaled, burned, eaten, or tortured. We can easily imagine what it would be like to be hung on a meat hook by Leatherface while still alive or to have one’s jugular vein sliced by one of Freddy Krueger’s razorsharp “fingers,” and it scares us. Horror films such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Nightmare on Elm Street frighten us, in part, by playing on our fear of death. After all death is regarded, at least by most folks, as a bad thing for the person who dies.

While people’s emotional responses toward death range from mild anxiety to all-out panic, there is a scenario that frightens us even more. Films about the Undead, such as Night of the Living Dead, Dracula, Nosferatu, and White Zombie to name a few, trade on this more terrifying prospect: they threaten us with the possibility of becoming Undead ourselves. There is no shortage of examples in zombie and vampire films of characters that either kill themselves or ask others to kill them so as to avoid becoming Undead. Being Undead is generally regarded as a . . .

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