Saturday, January 1, 2011

Comic Apocalypse

It's morning after New Year's Eve. One solar year over, lunar new year more than a month away. It's another of those holidays-by-ellipse, a period between endings and beginnings. This one isn't about death and memory. It's about the gap between the last star of night and the break of dawn. Will there be another day, or is the apocalypse upon us? The apocalypse. It has sodium benzoate!

So maybe it's not that bad. For example, when H. G. Wells ends the world in War in the Air, the protagonist is living the life of an Anglo-Saxon pig farmer in the Weald, his best girlie at his side. Which is a good thing, according to Wells. (We'll unpack that baggage when we get to it.) Apocalypses ending well? Surely there's a problem here?


Ooh. Eighties hair. Doesn't make Reggie Belmont (much) less hot, though. And she's a gamer girl! Meanwhile, at the 4:42 point of the clip, Sam asks  Reggie why fellow survivor Hector Gomez didn't make his move last night. "Either the last boy on Earth is a gentleman, or he's gay. What are the odds?"

Gee, thanks, little sis. And since you ask, the odds are: gay, 10%; sociopaths who hit on all girls every time, 10%; social retards, 80%. Er. I mean, "gentlemen." Some gentlemen are more retarded than others, but that's the numbers. Girls just know the sociopaths better because they talk to you. Most apocalypse movies are boy films. They're more concerned with the guys who don't talk to girls as much as they'd like. (We've got the money! Everyone listens to us!) So they're more into the "not if you were the last boy on Earth" thing than "what if the last boy on Earth isn't interested in you," but these are really different sides of the same coin: the central dilemma of the apocalypse film.

What's that, you say? Not so much? More like

this (credit)? No, guys; not the girl in the miniskirt with the long, sharp stake in the foreground. The zombies! The zombies are the only ones left (besides you and your gang), and they want to eat you. Haven't you heard about the zombie thing?

If you haven't, at least that makes you a viable protagonist for a zombie film, as you're perhaps the only person in the multiverse apart from over-educated philosophy grad students/film critics. (Dude! Read other books. See "Night of the Comet.") Grasp the idea that you should do some research before proclaiming the breathtaking novelty of whatever it is you just noticed.

 "Night of the Comet" has fast, clever zombies, and military protection that turns out to be something other than it seems, and the question of whether people are turning into zombies. Our linked author is right about how zombies are symbols and stuff, but they're polymorphic symbols. This here's a  chick flick, so the zombies are about girl-friendly (unfriendly?) threats.

We start the movie slow, because it's an old-timey movie where they think that they can get away with not having any action for, like, six whole minutes.

But at least we establish some villains: the mean step-mom, the absent Dad. I don't know. I think I've heard this one before. Obscure story, though,  had a glass slipper in it? And a sleazy boyfriend who treats Reggie like a ho.

 Don't worry, they're both going to be dead soon. But the zombies can stand in for them. Zombies, after all, eat the eligible boys and threaten to smother girls in their blooming, when they're not getting all creepy and sleazy. And we've got a hero. Hey, it's Chakotay, before he got caught on the spaceship of suck!

But, again, he didn't hit on Reggie. That's a thing. Oh, and there's an apocalypse, and that's a thing, too. Only, they're not unrelated. See, this "last man and last woman on Earth meet" is not new business. Eighty thousand years ago on the African veldt, it was more like "what happened Tuesday." Maybe fewer zombies, more sabretooth tigers, but more-or-less the same thing. How do we overcome the big issue, which is, as I said, on the odds, that the guy is a social retard who won't hit on the girl? Why, we buff his self-esteem a bit, but this is the tricky part, because of the whole difference-between-the-sexes thing. Guys and girls, they have different self-esteem issues. And, again, girl flick, so it's not going to be on the wavelength of the question: what buffs a guy's self esteem?

The answer is that generally, accomplishing something makes him all swaggery and stuff. For about five minutes. So, kill a sabretooth, ask a girl out. But let the girl say no (look, I don't know why, I'm a social retard!) and he'll be off trying to kill a mastodon. That sort of thing can't go on forever. And guys will always measure themselves against the next obstacle, and they'll be having the same internal dialogue going on as last time. "You're a wimp! A coward! A failure! No-one will ever love you until you kill that there Bi-Beast with a spoon." Which is really more details than girls need. The important point is that they'll always be reverting to wimp mode.

 In the real world, you deal, I suppose. Comedy, though, works better with idealised objects of desire. That's why comedies turn on their being obstacles to romance that keep the boy and the girl apart. The girls never see the guy fighting, the guys never see the girl ugly. The obstacle is removed in the same moment that the guy saves the shining girl. Both sexes are ideal objects of desire until it's too late! (Cue Mother Nature: "bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!")

So what kind of obstacle might do that kind of work?

How about the world? And that's why all apocalypses are comedies. Everyone dies, except your gang, and it leads to a romantic resolution. In this case, Chakotay gets to save the girl, so he can feel man enough for Reggie, and it turns out that not only is he not gay, but ....

(Did they have cars on the veldt?)

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