Thursday, July 1, 2010

Fear the Führer-- Zombie Nazis?



Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.


It may seem like my interests are mostly horror related. I love zombies, monsters, slasher flicks, freak shows... but it may surprise you to learn that I'm also a history nerd. Specifically, World War II history. I'm fascinated by all things WWII with a special interest in the Holocaust.

I am the first person to stand up and press the importance of the Holocaust-- studying it, remembering it, trying to understand it. Many countries turned a blind eye to the over six million Jews, homosexuals, Catholics, gypsies, and many more who were being systematically murdered. The United States was such a nation that did nothing in the beginning years to stop the atrocities, even though we knew what was happening (I wrote a lengthy paper on this my third year of college).

The Holocaust is a sobering topic. And the ideas and actions of the National Socialist party (Nazi party) were so horrible, how could it ever be a joke or a funny topic?

But it is... with zombies.

You may have noticed a theme in my writing. I am always on a quest for "why?" Why zombies? Why zombie sex? And now, perhaps the most mind-boggling why of them all-- Why zombie Nazis? Zombie Nazis are everywhere. Movies, cartoons, books, even video games. With a history so grim, why turn them into something so humorous? Most instances of zombie Nazi portrayals are more comedic than scary. Originally, today's blog was going to be more of a review of the film Dead Snow. In all likelihood, I probably will do a write up of that film (maybe next week), but the more I started thinking about the subject, the more I wanted to touch on some deeper issues that main explain the modern fascination with zombie Nazis. Here are some of my ideas, and I very much welcome some of your theories!


1. One reason could be rooted in the idea of the horror/comedy genre. When something is unnerving or frightens us so much, we tend to laugh as a coping mechanism. A nervous chuckle, a giggle... anything to mask our actual terror to those around us. Because if something is funny, it takes away the threat (for you Harry Potter nerds out there, think about the Boggart and the 'Ridikulus' spell). A recent example for me was seeing the new independent film The Human Centipede. I highly encourage you to go see it! But it is the type of film that at times is physically and psychologically disturbing and disgusting. When one looks at the overall premise and idea, there is absolutely nothing funny about any of it. It isn't a horror/comedy. And yet, when I saw it in a crowded theatre, people were laughing, chuckling. Even I caught myself snorting a few times. But only because the *group* was nervously laughing. At home, alone in the dark, I guarantee the vast majority of people watching the film, myself included, would not find a single thing in that film amusing.

To me, I can think of few things more horrible and terrifying than the Holocaust and Nazis. And the reality of zombies existing is also a terrifying and disturbing idea, as we have discussed before. Imagine the dead literally rising from their graves with only one intention-- to kill you. Not at all funny. So putting two horrifying extremes together, one gets zombie Nazis. And in the films they are in, it is typically more comedy based (mixed in with horror as well), such as in Dead Snow and The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (and while not technically zombies, also think along the lines of Werewolf Women of the SS). To cope with the horror of both ideas, we make it funny. We turn the two ideas into a parody of the actual horror.

2. My next idea could get quite lengthy to discuss, so I will try to keep it as brief as possible. I'm also extremely interested in propaganda, specifically war propaganda and, more importantly, the propaganda posters of World War II. When I think of World War II, I think of Nazis and concentration camps first and foremost. But the United States didn't really enter the war until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan. Hitler had been organizing and carrying out the concentration camps literally for years, and we did nothing. So when America finally joined WWII, the government needed to rally the country into getting behind the cause. Hence, propaganda. But when studying the posters of the time, I was fascinated to discover the huge difference in the way Nazis were portrayed in the artwork versus how the Japanese were portrayed. The Japanese were demonized in these posters. They were made to look like savages, animals, and evil. But for the most part, the Germans, and especially Hitler, were made to look merely comical. As a result of this twisted perception, the American government rounded up Japanese-American citizens and threw them into camps, while no such extreme was done to German-Americans.



My point to all this is, there may be an underlying sense of comedy in the American mindset when it comes to Nazis. After all, our own government, by way of propaganda, taught us to laugh at the Nazis, not fear them to the extent that we were taught to be afraid of the Japanese. Perhaps there is a common idea to ridicule Nazis buried deep in our subconscious culture. There are other examples of this humor outside of the horror and zombie genres-- have you seen The Producers, complete with the fake musical Springtime for Hitler?

Do you think it is possible that our world history can unintentionally dictate the way we shape horror culture and popular culture in general? Or is it all just mere chance or a joke, the throwing together of two unlikely groups used to scare us and make us laugh? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

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