Shaun of the Dead

No matter how much you enjoy a film – and Shaun of the Dead is a very enjoyable faux-B-movie – it is difficult to promote that which you are ideologically opposed to. How sad it must be for entrenched Marxists and Feminists to despise a film because it has a few politically incorrect gags! Who do they trust: their laughing instinct or their scowling intellect?

It’s an interesting question and one that I would defer to a later date were it not for the fact that I’ve got a bit behind with these journal updates and if I don’t write about something soon then I’ll lose all my momentum. Apparently, every day that Rhodri Marsden doesn’t update his journal he loses five readers (out of many hundreds). Because my site statistics are so erratic, I’m never sure what people read on The Mind’s Construction. All I know is that there are at least ten people a day looking for things relating to The Karelia or Franz Ferdinand or Alex Huntley-Kapranos or how old he is. Even writing that sentence now will doubtless draw a few more lost souls – and what will they think? Can I point them towards enlightenment? And if so, surely I should point myself there first. I’m meandering . . . as I was saying . . .

Now, I hated Spaced (and Big Train and that one which was set in the Activist commune with Simon Pegg). It is filed under the heading of “wacky” comedy, that kind of “aren’t I crazy?!” ironic humour so ably satirised by Ricky Gervais in the Office. Despite this, Shaun of the Dead (both star, Pegg, and director, Edgar Wright, are from Spaced) rarely resembles its lesser cousin and certainly never suffers from looking small-screen even on a small screen. The visual details and tight narrative give it the verisimilitude that is often lacking from contemporary British comedy. The acting is never bad, if not strikingly good, and the script is free from any absolute howlers. I even laughed out loud a couple of times. So why did I hate it?

The satirical edge of Dawn of the Dead, where the zombies congregate in the shopping mall is echoed in Shaun by the zombies going to the pub. The mindless jobs in the supermarket are explicitly compared to the mindless traipse of the zombies. But never do the makers present an alternative to the very real 21st century zombification via banal computer games or meaningless jobs. It endorses a kind of cheerful mediocrity, where “kidults” balance IKEA and mortgages with Playstation and turntables. Emotionally retarded, the characters have a choice of being serious or childish. There is nothing in-between, no intellectual possibilities, except perhaps to make a film, as Wright and Pegg have done. Which brings us full-circle, I like it and I hate it. Keats’s idea of negative capability (allowing oneself uncertainty) is preferable to deciding one way or another.