Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Earth Abides

Stewart's book offers an interesting insight into the possibilities of an apocalypse, and the reasons behind its occurrence. Apocalypse fictions often reflect societal fears of the time, with the fear of the end of humanity Earth Abides begins explaining how when a species becomes so widespread and powerful that nature culls it to keep the balance. 1949 with humans spread accross the world, the recent end of WWII and the Chinese Red Army conquering neighbouring provinces, this fear of over-expansion and fighting for control could be seen to be reflected in Stewart's idea of nature taking back control.

The biblical and tribal references that the story evokes are interesting, looking at the portrayal of females as predominantly a means for procreation, using names such as mary and evie, offering a relation to religion. The book also looks at the problems arising post-apocalypse in the seperate religions of members of the tribe, this is interesting when it results in Ish attempting to get everyone together to preserve some kind of religious idea through the tribes own interpretations.

The new names of years, similar to that of the chinese calander, offer an insight into how Ish has drawn on knowlege and memory of societies previous to the apocalypse, to create his own idea of how to build again, though his interest lies more in education and a necessity for intelligence to recreate a prominant society, rather than merely a hunter gather instict to stay alive. His wish to rebuild civilisation, as opposed to simply existing stems from the early reliance on pre-apocalypse relics, wishing to create a society that can progress itself as opposed to post-apocalypse stagnation.

The problems arising with Ish and Charlie show how even post-apocalypse human nature will inevitably lead to non-harmonious struggle of the 'oppression of the individual by the mass', Ish desrcibes as the 'beginnings of war and tyrrany.'

Stewart's book is very in depth, looking at multiple problems ariving in a post-apocalyptic society, as well as being enjoyable to read.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Earth abides

The book Earth Abides, was a interesting read, with many issues involved, it was never dull.
Elizabeth Wells writes "Christian drama of world destruction and resurrection and inso doing encodes popular fears about the end of the world, and more importantly what follows it"

The book is based on a typical apocalyptic setting of the ruins of San Francisco,this book which was written in 1949, was in the era when women were second best to men, made to marry, bear children and nurture then, and they have to stay a virgin until they marry.

The novel shows that this issue still exists, with Evie not allowed to give birth because the tribe only wants strong genes in the future world. The only female who may break free from this female status, is Emma who is the "Eve" (mother of the tribe) and Ish would be nothing without her.

The tribe is stuck in the old ways of the norm America, such as driving, which they even felt uneasy about going through red lights. But Ish is adamant that they should start a fresh new beginning, taking the leadership role, Ish who believes that education is the answer for a better society, which came from his passion as a student while doing research and his life and death experienced, for example the snake bit which lead passers by to believe he had the virus.

The animals, did not receive the virus and have gone back to be able to do as they please with nature returning back to the beginning. With nature returning the Americans in time decide the money, clothes and materials are not necessary, using money as arrow heads, although while going back to the basic, it is obvious that they have become suspicious of the unknown and when Charlie arrives from an unknown area, the tribe especially Ish who has an instant dislike to him becomes uneasy about him - leads the tribe to execute him through no fault of his own, introducing the negative parts of the old society.

In the end it is obvious that the world is a powerful thing and that man is not needed for its survival, the aftermath of the event leads the tribe to go back to the more western days of living off the land.

"Men go and come, but earth abides."

The book was both interesting and enjoyable.
The themes that resonated for me was the portrayal of earth as a controlling organic being, that humans are no one privileged then anything in nature. This is the thought also of Ish who believes this as well. The book also shows how the actual earth would cope with the lack of humans. It is portrayed that it would be beautiful without them. Without anyone controlling the production of plants and cultivating them they will develop themselves into live like plants. The novel cleverly portrays the idea that intelligence and survival in terms of academia is one that is created by humans. Without the means to education humans learn coping skills better and with the lack of numbers of humans’ means that the most important skill is to be able to survive, this is our original purpose and Stewart puts this idea across well.
The area I Felt the novel lost the impact of its point was using biblical referencing. I found this book review that back up the feeling I had whilst reading it.

the dual themes are as old as Genesiss...Not a flood but a swift and deadly new disease wipes out all but a few of the human race. Ish (for "Isherwood") is the Noah of this "Great Disaster." As material civilization begins to crumble, Ish gradually devolves into a kind of Adam who, inevitably, finds his Eve, Em (For "Emma"), a level-headed lady with Negro blood, and nature takes its time-worn course. Em. is hailed by Ish as "The Mother of Nations.

Making the story biblical is important in order to reach the reader at the time as religion played a strong part of the lives of readers, so in terms of making the message more effected it is justified.

Earth Abides

I very much enjoyed the book Earth Abides.
The book deals with the topic of post-apocalyptic America very well, introducing a variety of issues that I have not given thought to before. For example there was a fairly heavy focus on animal and wild life. This area is not generally given much attention in apocalyptic texts, and I found it to be interesting and realistic. We see how nature begins to reclaim the land, and given time, everything humans worked for is destroyed and reclaimed by nature. This is a running theme through many post apocalyptic texts, showing images of collapsed buildings or skyscrapers covered in wild life (The Road and I Am Legend). However the book also makes reference to how many things will die or fail to function properly without the presence of man. Fires lay waste to the country side, animals are free to wipe out other species and certain plants will not have the ability to live.
It’s interesting to see that the survivors at first lived like scavengers and despite all the talk of building a new civilisation, continued to live off ‘old world’ luxuries, until circumstances forced them to act. This shows how the tribe are longing for their old life styles back, never truly accepting the circumstances which they are in.

We see that Ish is almost obsessed with the idea that for civilisation to start over there is a need for education. In many apocalyptic texts we see there ‘hero’ as being a strong and determined man, with little focus being on his education. With Ish however we see that he is dependant on ‘Joey’ being able to learn and ultimately lead the tribe into a new era of civilisation “Only by the power of intelligence, Ish believed firmly, had man kind ever risen to civilisation”

Two major topics struck me towards the end of the book, firstly the encounter with Charlie. This echoes the notion which lies deeply embedded within American life of ‘the fear of the outsider’. “But what raised the worst shivers in Ish at such moments in the night was the thought of men”
This subject crops up all throughout American history and is now reflected in the book. Ish is no longer scared of animals or weather problems, but of a man who has come from an unknown place. This fear ultimately escalates to the execution of Charlie, showing basic human savage nature. “And now the first act of the state, its originating function, had been to bring death.”
The harshness of the community is also reflected in the discussions about Evie as well as other outsiders, stating that they are too dumb or mentally ill, and should not taint the tribe’s gene pool.

The second point was how the new tribe (at the end of the book), greatly resembled that of the Native Americans. They have animal skin clothing, the start of a new language etc. It also reflects how insignificant money is in the long run, as they use old dimes and pennies for arrow heads, which are scattered everywhere.

Finally I thought the book was almost a critique on the wastefulness of the American lifestyle. Early on it describes how there was no need to re use anything, as you can just pick up a new one. This reflects current consumer attitudes.

Earth Abides

After reading Earth Abides, as a novel, I really did enjoy it, and a common theme I am finding throughout this text and other post apocalypse stories is how ‘Men go and come, but earth abides’ (a quote which Stewart uses to open and close his novel) this makes an agreed suggestion that the human race is just a guest on this planet, and so greater natural forces like disease can easily be the end of humanity as well as self destruction via nuclear war as you see in such tales like The Road. It’s quite interesting that this book isn’t about a post nuclear holocaust as the time it was written World War 2 was just ending and The Cold War was just beginning. With the memory of humanity still being all around the survivors, the last Americans continue their new life using the old means of their past life. Living in houses, driving in cars, eating cans of food and using electricity and plumbing in their everyday lives still. It’s only until these things fail with time and old age gets the better of most of the original tribe that a more primitive life begins, suggesting the last Americans were clinging onto the American lifestyle even after its demise. The use of coins as the arrow heads during the last chapter suggest that important luxuries in our time such as money is worthless to the younger members of the tribe, coins are just seen as metal with other purposes than of what was intended.
This book being published in 1949 shows its time via the treatment of women throughout the novel. Women being seen as only the mother would be quite sexist in this day and age, but Em’s character being the source of strength and confidence to Ish throughout the years and also, the importance of repopulating their small tribe gives women an equal role in their small society. The only character which has dated attributes is Evie, who is never given the chance to have children due to them not wanting to repopulate “half witted” children into their Tribe.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Dawn of the Dead

Dawn Of The Dead (2004).

This film offers an interesting idea of the end of civilisation, "When there's no room left in hell, the dead will walk the earth". it's not an infection to be cured, such as in I Am Legend, and 28 Days/Weeks later, but instead showing the demise of humanity because we are so terrible that hell is full.

Harper and Bishop definately make a persuasive argument about the relation to the negativity of consumerism. Using the mall as a last stand, fighting for control, and with the quote, "its not us, its the place", shows how the film relates consumerism to the downfall of society and humanity. The baby born as a mindless zombie into an environment of consumer culture, the mall, shows how consumerism is viewed as a perpetuating downward spiral.

Selfishness and survival also come into play as important themes in the characters traits. The struggling together idea to overcome the obsticles is fought over on both sides, with characters such as Steve and CJ only being concerned with selfish self-preservation, and Anna, Kenneth, and Michael always trying to help others.

The failure for everything to be fixed in the end shows how the film views the problems of society as ongoing, there is no escape or immediate answer correcting everything, mmaking this a slightly different apocalypse film. Unlike pre-apocalypse films, the devastation is not averted, and with post-apocalypse films such as Terminator Salvation you see how humans can win in the end. Dawn of the Dead just shows the apocalypse as it unfolds with no answer to resolving it.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dawn of the Dead

Watching the movie i did not find it like most apocalyptic films which are aimed at more destruction by reading what Stephen Harper and Kyle Bishop had written, it was clear that this film was made with a message behind it. The metaphor of this 2004 remake film is primarily Consumerism, that we have in some respects as Bishop comments has been brainwashed throughout life to buy the "in thing' on the market. The Mall being the main metaphor for consumerism, one being why would both zombies and surververs go to the same place? because as Harper quotes "its not us they're after, it the place. They remember that they want to be here" it is an instinct a place were people go all the time. in the film you see them shopping around for example baby clothes, like it is any other day. The baby is also another metaphor one of which is very strong, that no matter how hard society tries, 'mindless zombies' to consumerism will caring on being born, in some dawrting sense that the hold that consumerism has on humans will not subside, which shows when even in survival mode, they think of shopping, which will do them no good in the future. as Bishops states " the end of the world means the end of consumerism" which is obvious that at the end, the survivors are still not out of danger because the world needs to stop to start a new world where the consumerism debate is no more.

One other metaphor would be something that is linked to America quite strongly, 'paranoia' in Bishops essay it states that "paranoia becomes almost as important as survival" where people hide their bites so that they can stay alive a little bit longer, that they can not even trust their family or friends, because they may choose their lives first and kill them. This metaphor indicates that as consumerism life is a very competitive system and that people are out for themselves not each other, this film represents consumerism in many angles making one think that the film had a secret agenda of it own to its audience.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Week 2 - Dawn of the Dead

As a movie, I found the remake to be quite enjoyable but fairly predictible, but it wasn't until after I read Steven Harper's essay that I saw how it actually is a prime example of the Consumerism Debate rather than just a movie.
I especially agreed with the idea that the Zombie race isn't much different to that of our own, that we're just mindless sheep, following the leader for the latest must have purchase, but instead of brains, our race is after the latest iPhone. This is just one example of many which indicate humanity is living a consumer driven life.

In the majority of horror films, there is always a happy ending, showing how the family got over their tough time and is now happily living their lives. Yet at the end of Dawn of the Dead it shows that there is no escape from the Zombies no matter where you run (or in their case, sail) to. I feel this was a metaphor to life today with the recent arguement of climate change bringing an upcoming doom on society, suggesting there is no escape from the damage we have done to this planet and humanity will reap the repercussions of their actions.

Week 1 - Terminator Series.

First off, apologies for this being so late.

Here is the wiki link for a brief background on all four films :

I have chosen the Terminator series as my Apocolyptic text because it shows the world both before and after the apocolypse throughout it's movies. Although the background story is how humans defeat the machines in the very end (therefore cyborgs are sent back into the past to change the timeline to prevent the future distruction of their empire) I feel it tells a strong tale of the selfishness of humanity, how always striving for the bigger and better will lead to their downfall in a cataclysmic manner. This is seen at the end of the third movie 'Rise of the Machines' showing how Skynet ( the artificial intelligence which leads the machines) destroy's much of humanity in a nuclear holocaust.

On the other hand, it tells the tale of how nature will alway prevail. In this case of an apocolypse, our buildings, cars and computers may all be destroyed, but plants and animals (including the human race) will adapt and evolve to live life in a new world.