Chuck Klosterman

Battling Zombies

Excerpt from "My Zombie, Myself: Why Modern Life Feels Rather Undead," by Chuck Klosterman, The New York Times, December 3, 2010:

World War ZWhen we think critically about monsters, we tend to classify them as personifications of what we fear. Frankenstein’s monster illustrated our trepidation about untethered science; Godzilla was spawned from the fear of the atomic age; werewolves feed into an instinctual panic over predation and man’s detachment from nature. Vampires and zombies share an imbedded anxiety about disease. It’s easy to project a symbolic relationship between zombies and rabies (or zombies and the pitfalls of consumerism), just as it’s easy to project a symbolic relationship between vampirism and AIDS (or vampirism and the loss of purity). From a creative standpoint these fear projections are narrative linchpins; they turn creatures into ideas, and that’s the point.

But what if the audience infers an entirely different metaphor?

What if contemporary people are less interested in seeing depictions of their unconscious fears and more attracted to allegories of how their day-to-day existence feels? That would explain why so many people watched that first episode of “The Walking Dead”: They knew they would be able to relate to it.

A lot of modern life is exactly like slaughtering zombies...

Every zombie war is a war of attrition. It’s always a numbers game. And it’s more repetitive than complex. In other words, zombie killing is philosophically similar to reading and deleting 400 work e-mails on a Monday morning or filling out paperwork that only generates more paperwork, or following Twitter gossip out of obligation, or performing tedious tasks in which the only true risk is being consumed by the avalanche. The principal downside to any zombie attack is that the zombies will never stop coming; the principal downside to life is that you will be never be finished with whatever it is you do.

The Internet reminds of us this every day...

This is our collective fear projection: that we will be consumed. Zombies are like the Internet and the media and every conversation we don’t want to have. All of it comes at us endlessly (and thoughtlessly), and — if we surrender — we will be overtaken and absorbed. Yet this war is manageable, if not necessarily winnable. As long we keep deleting whatever’s directly in front of us, we survive. We live to eliminate the zombies of tomorrow. We are able to remain human, at least for the time being. Our enemy is relentless and colossal, but also uncreative and stupid.

Battling zombies is like battling anything...or everything.

More...


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Personal Experience

Excerpt from The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman:

Television is a form of one-way entertainment, but that's not how people want to think about it. They want to believe they're somehow involved.

This is why they talk back to the TV. This is why they get upset if certain characters don't behave in a likable fashion.

This is why they complain when the story moves further from their own personal definition of interesting.

This is why they criticize boring episodes on the Internet and expect the show's writers to study their thoughts and care what they think.

This is why they love shows that involve voting. They believe their personal experience with television effects what television is.

But television is the only place where this belief exists. Within their actual life, they feel powerless. They believe voting is frivolous. They think caring is a risk. They assume they have no control over anything, so they don't even try.

They perceive reality backward.

Reality, Without Quotes

Matt, Lake Champlain, August 7, 2011

Excerpt from The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman:

Just watch any husband arguing with his wife about something insignificant; listen to what they say and watch how their residual emotions manifest when the fight is over. It's so formulaic and unsurprising that you woudn't dare re-create it in a movie. All the critics would mock it. They'd all say the screenwriter was a hack who didn't even try. This is why movies have less value than we like to pretend --  movies can't show reality, because honest depictions of reality offend intelligent people. 

The reality I got to see was not "movie reality." The reality I saw was just reality, without quotes. You want to know what I really learned? I learned that most people don't consider time alone as part of their life. Being alone is just a stretch of isolation they want to escape from. I saw a lot of wine-drinking, a lot of compulsive drug use, a lot of sleeping with the television on. It was less festive than I anticipated. My view had always been that I was my most alive when I was totally alone, because that was the only time I could live without fear of how my actions were being scrutinized and interpreted. What I came to realize is that people need their actions to be scrutinized and interpreted in order to feel like what they're doing matters. Singular, solitary moments are like television pilots that never get aired. They don't count. 

Looking Without Seeing

"Lost in Art" by Liu Bolin

Excerpt from The Visible Man by Chuck Klosterman:

I mean, seriously? Invisible? You should know better. You do know better. Tangible objects can't be invisible, ever. But they don't need to be. That's the crux of the concept. One of the most meaningful things I've learned from this is that people barely see what's openly in front of them, much less things that are camouflaged.

We all have a fixed perspective on how the world looks, and that perspective generates itself. We mentally change what we see to fit our unconscious perception of order.

I'm sure you're familiar with the phrase "People see what they want to see," but that's not really accurate. A more accurate phrase would be "People see what they assume must be seeable."

If there's no sense of movement and no unexpected sounds, we typically let our mind produce a backdrop that matches our memory. People will look at the world without seeing anything beyond their unconscious expectation.

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