Jin, Shuang, and Tiauna's movie review is a response to a field trip to see the new movie, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016), as part of our Spring 2016 seminar, Languages of Fear, Racism, and Zombies at Swarthmore College. **SPOILER ALERT**
In the movie, viewers see hundreds of zombies that constantly hunt for brains while being hunted down themselves. Historically, this stems from the Haitian belief, in which zombies came in multiple forms: They were spirits stolen by magicians, humans who willingly became zombies, or mindless servants of their zombie creator. In American society, however, the historical appeal of the zombie initially came largely from the creature's lack of autonomy. Many even considered zombies to be the ideal slaves, since they could work for long hours and survive on minimal amounts of food. This characterization of the zombie as a mindless corpse is what the American public is most familiar with today.
However, the greatest disappointment in the movie was the stunted portrayal of zombies and human-zombie relationships. When Wickham introduces the Church of Lazarus and the idea that zombies can be conscious, unthreatening beings with whom humans should co-exist, there's an untapped potential to delve into deeper questions.
We wanted to know how the humans in the storyline feel about zombies, why they fear them, why they are so quick to kill them and feel little remorse, and what exactly characterizes a zombie. Addressing these areas would not only make the movie more cerebral, but would encourage viewers to extrapolate their analysis from the movie to current issues.
The movie would have been much more interesting had the zombies not been just pawns used by both sides, but fleshed-out characters--pun intended!
The movie does begin to humanize zombies by bringing up contrasting attitudes towards them. Mr. Darcy extends the cold, unforgiving attitude that when someone becomes a zombie, one is justified, even obligated, to kill them because they lose all humanity and social standing. In the opening scene, Darcy doesn't care who the newly-infected zombie is; he's on a mission to kill him before the virus spreads. Though others at the afternoon soiree are horrified after Darcy slices the zombie's skull open and start whispering about the deceased and his niece, Darcy is totally unbothered by his murderous act and the identity of his victim.
On the other hand, after Jane is wounded on her way to Bingley's estate due to a confrontation with zombies in the forest, Elizabeth defends her sister from Mr. Darcy's zombie-detecting flies, absolutely indignant that he would disrespect Jane in such a manner. She must be aware of the possibility that Jane was bitten, but that doesn't prevent her from still seeing Jane as her sister and caring about her.
Later, during the unexpected zombie infestation at Bingley's ball, when Darcy is suspicious of Bingley's unconsciousness and asks Elizabeth whether he's been bitten or not, to be ready to kill him, she replies, "Your abilities as a warrior are beyond reproach--if only you were as good a friend." While Elizabeth is able to see Bingley as Bingley and Darcy's best friend, Darcy is all too ready to turn his friend into an enemy. However, instead of investigating these attitudes any deeper--for example, why can Elizabeth be sympathetic to those close to her, but still easily kill zombies whom she doesn't know very well--the movie pushes them to the side to finish out the larger love story and good versus evil battle.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains
must be in want of more brains.
About the Authors.
Shuang Guan is a Swarthmore College student. Her friends say she spends too much time peeling oranges. She says it's a craft.
Tiauna Lewis is a student at Swarthmore College. Born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, she enjoys slam poetry, Arabic grammar, and celebrating the beauty of human connections.