ZOMBIELAND: Is It Deep or Dumb? – Wisecrack Edition
Articles,  Blog

ZOMBIELAND: Is It Deep or Dumb? – Wisecrack Edition


Hey Wisecrack, Helen here. When you spend as much time thinking about
movies as we do, sometimes you wonder if you’re just plain overthinking. Is You Got Mail a fun-loving rom-com or an
Orwellian masterpiece? Is Hairspray a metaphor for the Cold War? And what’s the super secret meaning at the
heart of The Sandlot? This is all to say — sometimes when you read
a text too deeply, you go a bit cross-eyed. Which brings us to Zombieland, which we’ve
probably watched dozens of times at this point. On the surface, the film seems like a pretty
typical mainstream horror-comedy, leaning more on quippy one-liners than on plot or
theme. “Time to nut up or shutup” But after watching Zombieland too many times,
we began to notice some interesting… subtext. Could there be hidden depths to the film no
one’s noticed before? Is Zombieland far more than just a fun diversion? Or… have we gone totally off the rails? Welcome to this Wisecrack Edition on Zombieland:
Is It Deep or Dumb? and as always, spoilers ahead. But first, a quick recap: Zombieland focuses
on a world overtaken by, you guessed it, zombies. It’s the typical zom-pocalypse, where pretty
much everyone’s now undead, and the few living folk struggle to keep themselves from
becoming dinner. The film focuses on four outcasts – Columbus
(a nerdy recluse), Tallahassee (a trigger-happy Woody Harrelson type… played by Woody Harrelson)
and Little Rock & Wichita (two con-artist sisters). Together, the group travels west to California,
taking refuge at Bill Murray’s mansion and then letting off some steam, and a shitton
of bullets, at the local amusement park. Zombies are decapitated, shot, and smooshed
— as the dysfunctional quartet works through their issues and becomes their own make-shift
family. Now, the first interesting bit of depth we
noticed about Zombieland is how similar it is to a certain genre. No, we’re not talking about zombie films
or comedies… But the western! Just look at John Ford’s quintessential
western, Stagecoach. In Ford’s film, a group of strangers from
different backgrounds travel West together, dealing with their own internal issues while
fending off a different kind of threat: Native Americans.. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s more or less the same
basic plot as Zombieland: A group of strangers travel West together, dealing with their own
internal issues while fighting off the local inhabitants – except this time the locals
are the undead. Tallahassee is pretty much the textbook gunslinger
in the tradition of a John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. There’s even a ‘mexican stand-off’ between
Columbus and Tallahassee, complete with Sergio Leone esque close-ups of each character’s
eyes and weapons. Zombieland uses these Western tropes to draw
a deliberate parallel to our own historical expansion further into Native land. This expansion was justified by a concept
called “manifest destiny,” which held that it was Americans’ God-given duty and
right to travel west and snatch land away from the indigineous tribes already living
there In Zombieland, four settlers led by a man
named Columbus (ahem), move West, taking everything in their path– cars, guns and the houses
of Beverly Hills.. And they snatch this land away from the not-quite-people
already there, shooting, stabbing and bashing all that stands in their way. For that matter, the names Tallahassee, Wichita,
and Little Rock are also associated with Native Americans. “Tallahassee” is an Apalachee Indian word
for “old town” or “abandoned fields”; Wichita is “a confederation of Southern
Plains Native American tribes”; and Little Rock was a place where Native American lived…
but then again I guess they lived everywhere, so maybe that one doesn’t fit. Think we’re stretching? Well, as our motley zombie-killing crew move
further to California, their destruction crecendoes with
the vandalizing and looting of a Native American souvenir shop. So is Zombieland actually a sly commentary
on America’s Western Expansion? Is the film using its character to critique
our past sins — eradicating an indigineous population in the pursuit of some kind of
new ‘Manifest Destiny’? It’s kind of unclear. The film never admonishes the crew’s actions;
on the contrary, it revels in the ruin. Also is the film really conflating mindless
zombies with Native Americans? You could interpret this comparison as a commentary
on how colonizers viewed indigenous tribes. Native Americans were often presented as mindless
and uncivilized, a horde intent on just mutilating & killing. Not so different from hordes of brain-hungry
zombies But if the film were satirizing this mindset…
where’s the satire?. And as much as we searched for it… there
just isn’t any evidence to prove our theory. We’re always supposed to side with Columbus
and his friends, never the zombies. Shooting and killing these mindless creatures
is the moral & correct solution in Zombieland. Compare that to the satirical take on manifest
destiny seen in a Western like Little Big Man, which depicts the Cheyenne tribe as sympathetic,
the American settlers as pretty dickish, and life on the American frontier as an absurdist
tragedy. In contrast, Zombieland could read like just
a celebration of murdering a ton of quote unquote “monsters” to conquer the New
World That also seems like a stretch, one that would merit a big “yikes.” So if this film is deep, it’s a little unclear
if it’s coming from the whole manifest destiny theme. but there’s a second potential deeper meaning
to Zombieland: As an indictment of our own consumer society. Zombieland indulges in the destruction of
the social stratum. In the first image of the film, the American
flag breezes backwards, as the Capitol Building burns in the background. Symbolizing the destruction of society as
we know it. Then, in the credits sequence, we watch as
a hodgepodge of regular people (a father with his child, a fireman, a police officer) are
mercilessly devoured by the zombie hordes. Zombieland deliberately rejects all the social
shackles that kept people in check. Transgressional acts, like looting and pillaging,
aren’t just the new normal, they’re laudatory acts of defiance. “Tallahassee firlmy believes that you have
to blow off steam in zombieland or else you lose what’s left of your mind” Even people’s own names are forsaken. Nobody in Zombieland goes by their given name. Instead they take the mantle of their place
of origin, a rejection of old society’s fancy rules about who gets what name. “Wichita, Little Rock” The only people who thrive in this new zombie
world are the outcasts of society. Columbus was a loner who spent all day at
his computer playing World of Warcraft. Wichita & Little Rock were con artists, who
survived by up-selling shitty rings. But now that the zombies have taken over and
the world has fallen apart, they set the rules. Columbus defines the proper ways to survive
in Zombieland, and the film treats these rules as absolute. Cardio, seatbelts, and the double tap all
save him and the rest of the gang countless times, becoming their new pseudo ‘Bill of
Rights.’ Now in charge, Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita
& Little Rock revel in the destruction of the commercial past. When they wreck the Native American gift shop,
it’s framed as a bonding moment amongst the quartet. “you gotta enjoy the little things” Yet despite the chaos, nothing has really
changed. Sure, society’s fallen apart but it’s
only ushered in a new social order. Columbus and co. seek out the same luxuries as their predecessors,
consuming everything in their path, be it food, cars, mansions or weapons. The only difference: now that the rich are
dead and/or zombified, these societal rejects can just take it for themselves. In essence, all they’ve done is become the
upper-echelon by virtue of their survival skills. So is Zombieland actually about the inevitability
of our social norms or consumer society?Even after the world ends, will we still be mindless
consumers beholden to ingrained cultural norms? Well, yet again… there’s just not enough
evidence to support this theory. Other zombie films have explored similar themes
to far better effect. Take for instance, Dawn of the Dead. A film explicitly about the ills of consumer
culture. In George Romero’s masterpiece, a few survivors
take refuge in a shopping mall away from the zombie hords. There, they senselessly consume everything
in the mall to their hearts’ content. That is until the zombies show up to take
the mall back. In the end credits, the zombies mindlessly
wander around the mall just as our heroes did, suggesting there’s no difference between
the two. If their zombies mindlessly lust for brains,
our survivors mindlessly lust for stuff. In Dawn of the Dead there’s no question
about the intent of the film. But Zombieland doesn’t have the same critical
edge. In the end it seems to tacitly support these
same societal norms. Through wanton consumerism, our heroes actually
do find convenience & safety with one another. The film strays from its more critical points,
opting instead to end on the importance of ‘family’ above all else, as in: the family
that consumes together, stays together. “That face? That’s me realizing that those smart girls
in that big black truck, and that big guy in that snakeskin jacket, they were the closest
to something I’d always wanted, but never really had: a family” So on our 2nd point – nothing is adding up
to deep. Yet. Or we’re a little dense and not getting
it – also an option. But perhaps all this family stuff leads us
to the ultimate point of Zombieland — wish fulfillment. Typically zombie apocalypses are presented
just as it sounds… as an apocalypse. Society has completely fallen apart post out-break:
People betray and kill one another… Nothing is safe and anyone could get eaten
at any moment. Or they’ll sit around a farm boring us to
death But that’s not the case in Zombieland. Unlike every other zombie film (where most
of the main characters die or become zombified), here none of the leads die. Even when Tallahassee seems doomed, surrounded
by dozens of zombies, It doesn’t matter. He ends up killing them all anyway and looking
like a total badass in the process. Sure there’s plenty of danger in Zombieland,
plenty of near misses with zombies lunging at your face, which isn’t much fun. But for our virtually indestructive protagonists,
on some level, it’s a perverse kind of paradise. You can do anything you’ve ever wanted to
with zero consequences. Destroy a minivan? Check. Shoot a firearm in the middle of the street? Check! Loot any store at any time? Check again. Plus, not only can you live in Bill Murray’s
house, you can meet Bill Murray in person AND re-enact scenes from Ghostbusters with
him. Until you accitendally kill him But for the most part, every character gets
everything they want– Columbus gets to hook up with the super hot and smart girl; Tallahassee
gets to kill a whole bunch of zombies; and they all become their own family. The greatest tragedy in the film is that all
the Twinkies get shot to hell. But even then — Tallahassee still gets to
chow down on one final remaining one. So is the point, for Zombieland, that the
apocalypse is a kind of utopia? If many people feel like they’re stuck in
a modern hell, Zombieland topples that hell with a funner, if slightly fraught-with-the-undead
hell. One where your whole family’s probably dead,
but hey, you can’t have everything, right? This zom-pocalypse though isn’t presented
as something solely to fear, in weird ways, it’s even a welcome relief. You no longer have to deal with who’s polling
well at the Iowa State Fair or worry about how many likes your vacation photos got. “No facebook status updates, y’know, Rob Curtis
is gearin’ up for friday” With almost everyone dead, these concerns
are a thing of the past. Now you can reap your just deserts, doing
anything you’ve ever dreamed of. Killing a few dozen zombies every now and
again doesn’t seem like too steep a cost. Hell, there’s even a foolproof guide on
how to do so and survive. And this is kinda smart. Super deep? We don’t think so. But as for the movie as a whole, it’s a
certified Wisecrack maybe-almost-teetering on deep. We have a feeling there was some unrealized
depth with the film’s other themes, but hey, it’s a fun movie. But what do you all think? Have we read too much into Zombieland? Is it just a fun diversion? Or the smartest movie ever made? Thanks to all our patrons who support the
channel and our podcasts. Don’t forget to hit that subscribe button
and and as always, thanks for watching. Peace!

100 Comments

  • Amet Vikram

    Apart from the Beautiful Woman whose face represent the golden symmetry, and her beautiful voice, I also saw some brutal scenes of People killing dead people.

  • Roadie Dave

    I think the Helen version is better. She's more expressive. I'm betting they're all well scripted, but you can tell when Jared wrote it, because he tends to go a little off the rails into his own ideas, whereas Helen punctuates the strong points, and gets on with it. Helen is also high key cute :). A good looking girl with intelligence is my unicorn.

  • SuperRayW

    Maybe the writers don't suffer from white guilt, and therefore didn't see a reason to portray the "natives" in a positive light? Native Americans waged war amongst themselves over territory, they recognized the right of conquest; white people doing it doesn't magically turn it into theft, just because they did it better. By that logic winning any competition is theft.

  • 01blackhat

    Helen, Ellen what ever your low expectations parents named you. Who wrote this? If there is a writing staff, you should attempt to pay/ intern individuals who have actually graduated from J.R. High school, or even better 12th Grade. However due to your flow, I believe you scribbled this critical analysis with your own crayons.

  • Scott K

    You guys should do a Philosophy of Trends video. Trends are getting out of hand. Everything is a fucking hashtag, or buzz word, or catchphrase or viral sensation now. Every time something cool happens, 1,000 people need to emulate it on instagram. Every time there's something new and creative in a movie, 100 other directors have to copy it. Every time something works in music, 100 other artists have to copy it?

    Why does every other female singer sing with a raspy, baby-talk voice now? Why does everybody say "mansplaining," "living my best life," "vegan af," "thicc," and "get woke go broke?" Why do trendy news buzz-words like "brexit" and "bomb cyclone" go viral in an hour? Why does every epic movie trailer start with a single piano key and have at least one "Your World" line spoken by a British female? Why is there at least one movie every year with "Rise of" in the title? Why is every youtube video guaranteed to have at least one "Am I a joke to you?" comment and one "Absolutely Nobody: " comment?

    Why is every other female tinder profile a "dog mom foodie that loves tacos and adventures. Just touch my butt and call me pretty," equipped with an angel wings on wall pic, a butt cheek on counter selfie, a kneeling on the beach with a wedgie pic, a paddle boarding pic, and a Machu Picchu selfie?

    Why are people so desperately addicted to following, emulating, copying, reproducing trends? I think it'd make for a good video (even though Jared isn't around.)

  • John Doe

    I think what she is saying is that Native Americans are actually just misunderstood zombies, and that we should be careful in case they are still infectious. Huh, I never thought of it that way.

  • Tanner frey

    at this point it's a cliche to even mention "indictment of consumerism" when talking about a zombie movie. it's an inherent theme when you use zombies.

  • Jared Anderson

    It's a commentary on the State of Nature as a total opposite presented by the Purge. In a lawless society, we don't break down and kill each other, we come together and make our own rules because humans need family.

  • DruTube The TubeBunny

    I think Zombieland is a comedy first above all else so I would consider it somewhat deep since all satires/comedies of specific genres are taking influence/saturising something. So…Deep-ish?

  • CJ Meiko

    The Video: Delves into meaning of the film, causing deep thought
    Me: Ain't nobody got time for this
    The Video: Narrated by Helen
    Me: Maybe I got a little time for this

  • matthew styles

    Sooo y if a movie isnt deep its automatically dumb? Maybe u should go into the philosophical consequences of labeling based on the only to extremes.

  • Uri Bassilian

    I think all post apocalyptic movies are a form of fantasy regardless of how dire they try to appear. Zombieland realizes this and runs with it!

  • hal900x

    I love this film, but after that Starship Troopers piece, which they dared to keep up, I just can't take anything they upload seriously.

  • Julian Grant

    I don't think I've ever heard anyone say that this movie is "deep" let alone judge the film based on its philosophies.

    I feel like you guys have made this question up.

  • Andrea Ruiz

    I think having Helen doing the same mannerisms and voice modulation as Jared is kinda distracting and too weird. I know this is to keep the branding and style but can she just be herself? As a human I have my “this is weird or uncomfortable” alert. This is like the uncanny valley

  • Hafez Ali

    I love how the video is self-conscious that we might be the ones who're dumb for trying to read too much into a dumb movie. and I love how Helen is very similar to Jared in the way she talks and presents the video, although it's a little creepy if you think about it too much, lol. Shout out to Wisecrack, keep the cool videos coming. Wish to see you in future videos, Helen, but where did Jared go? please tell me he is coming back.

  • Leo Andersson

    It feels like an similair outlook. On the whole society ain't that different from a zombie apocalypse. That Dawn of the dead ran with. But instead its kinda an nod that for otusiders. Being lonely and not being able to interact with people. Its basically like living in a zombie apocalypse. Where no sign of life is, just feels empty. And all the humans around are just as useless to oneself as a horde of zombies. Maybe too msantrhophic, but true.

  • SzaniChan

    I may be dumb but I was thinking if in the age of self-called movie critics and philosophise (I don't say that Wisecracks says something dump) Who overthinks everything and sometimes act like looking for hole in a whole aren't some modern producers or screenwriters thinks" Hey lets make movie that will move one random deep topic in it so every youtube channel is going to diggin in it for more and talk about it for ages. People will talk and watch a movie to see for themselves if it's really deep. We can just scratch topic nothing crazy thou". I think that sometimes we try to find sometihng deep in the wrong places. I believe that some movies are just for fun and it's nothing wrong to enjoy something light from time to time.

  • Lukas S-O

    It's awful; Wisecrack posted this after a video that remarks the fact that we might invent, fabricate meaning in other movies; it's even worse when you consider that Zombie Land is the movie they wanted to finding meaning in. The movie doesn't want OR need to be smart, only have personnality. That's what attracts people: the edge, jet-black humor and pleasure we find in those characters. Very disappointed, but I do hope (and believe) Wisecrack can pull off great videos every once in a while.

  • Anthony Unlovely

    Part of it is that it was originally meant to be a TV show, but when it was rejected it was rewritten into a movie script so I'm willing to bet that the show would have been able to retain the same fun vibe as the movie while getting deeper into its deeper themes, but theres no way to know that for sure.

  • Sara Mikos

    I think the zombies are stand ins for Native Amerian myths, not actual Native Americans. Unlike the cowboys of the past, the group has to kill zombies to get land. The main characters aren't mindless consumers either. They go after luxuries, but not to impress strangers; just to enjoy themselves. I also think that the zombies are ironically stand ins for popularity comformists. The zombies in this film used to be members of society who ignored or bullied the main characters when they were outcasts. Zombieland tells outcasts that they need to metaphorically shoot down people like that and be themselves. That was they can find real friendships.

  • Scarleto

    How much you wanna bet that 'Native' stuff was made in China and is getting hocked by a dude named Johnny who brags to the customers that his great great great great great grandma was an Indian Princess

  • Emily Mortimer-Webb

    i definitely don't think it's deep, but I do appreciate that it's witty, funny, interesting and just a fun look into character analysis if that makes any sense

  • Mephiestopholes

    I know it may be silly, but, could you guys consider either a "Earthling Cinema" or "Deep or Dumb" episode on the classic "Kung-Fu Hustle" film from 2004? Silly, maybe. I think there are discussion points yet untapped.

  • MH3Raiser

    Zombieland is an exploration of chaos, pure and simple. It shows the good AND the bad of it.

    Yeah, there are a great deal of things that make modern life a modern hell. So many things we see as important and serious are just things thought up by someone no smarter than you to pad time. A huge amount of our time is taken up by useless garbage we don't actually care about.

    Now in Zombieland, all of that safe, reliable and mind numbing normalness that we hold dear is gone. In fact, the opening few minutes of the film show Zombieland as a terrifying place where Columbus almost dies.

    Every day is fraught with danger, friends leave and die constantly. The number of people you can count on can be counted on one hand.

    However, there's a fae beauty in the freedom and honest happiness the characters find within the chaos. The same freedom an insurance salesman feels in burning his briefcase, leaving his job and going travelling.

    You burn everything you thought you needed, and realise you didn't 'need' any of it, and other fundamental needs get the focus: true comraderie, freedom to explore, a purpose: to survive. All fundamental things humans are programmed to want, but often unable to find within the walls of common society.

    "One day I realised I wanted to be free, but everyone is constantly taking up space. And all of the sudden the whole world belonged to somebody else, and all our space was closing in, second by second."

    Zombieland is a film about the isolation and fear, but also the sheer joy and wonder of freedom.

  • Coy Graf

    I think that it's both deep and dumb. I don't think that any of the things you spotted were totally unintentional, but I don't think that the movie takes itself seriously enough to make one singular statement about anything.

    I think it draws significant influence from the "Splat-stick" of Troma and early Peter Jackson films.

    Yes, it touches on deeper themes, but it's completely nihilistic in it's bent, and everything is presented as to laugh at the absurdity of the chaos around them.

    Maybe that's the deeper philosophy? Absurdist nihilism, and appreciation of the little things like Twinkies and explosions.

  • Lenz

    I know this sounds crazy but could you guys do a Deep or Dumb for the Amazing World of Gumball. It’s an cartoon that takes the Monty Python themes to new levels.

  • forgottenfamily

    The stagecoach thing might be a better filmography analysis of the tradition it's carrying rather than a philosophical concept. They're not trying to compare the natives to zombies, they're just continuing a story tradition of fighting off hordes of monsters.

  • Laura B

    Sorry, but didn't Romero say any consumerist subtext in Dawn Of The Dead were purely coincidental and not really intended? I feel like I heard that

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *