Saturday, August 30, 2008

Code Red

I've been having 28 Days Later-related nightmares a lot lately. Sometimes a franchise rotates into mental prominence and I don't really know why. Like when I'll be obsessed with Star Wars for a week, or when I'll chew through an entire TV series on DVD in a matter of days. It's mostly that I become enchanted with the idea of whatever it is that's caught my attention; my whiskers brush along their symbolic core.

I just finished watching the sequel. I had seen it before, but I'm still jittery. Not just from the tension, the violence, but for the sense of distilled hopelessness that pervades its scenes. As I get older and see things change, I come to recognize what I have, to value it more. Unlike when I was fifteen, unmoved by images of gore, seeing things taken away is now painful. And these movies take everything away, ruthlessly. Society, family, the future, our own humanity. I worry that they are so popular because they reflect our culture's self-image: a world of cannibals, grasping tenuously at a century whose momentum is overwhelming. They're not haunting because of the blood, the monsters creeping in the dark. They're haunting because it all seems so much closer than it should. And why is that? AIDS? A global economy poised on the edge of catastrophe? A spiritual ache for a mode of human artifice that does not presuppose environmental self-destruction? All of that, partially. But mostly, I think, because everything seems to be slipping, and losing things hurts. It is the fear of total social regress; of falling off the pedestal we built to keep us from the screaming wildness below.