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Study Questions: Max Brooks, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Using different fictional iterations of the vampire archetype, Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, in "Why Vampires Never Die," make a case for the vampire's enduring marriage of "Eros and Thanatos fused together in archetypal embrace." 
Max Brooks in "The Movies That Rose From the Grave," examines the currently trending version of the zombie as "an outlet for [people's] apocalyptic anxieties without directly confronting them."
Form groups of four or five. Having the assigned readings out and ready to reference, respond to the following questions. (A volunteer should record your responses and important points.)

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1. Saved by the Apocalypse
Zombie movies present people with an outlet for their apocalyptic anxieties without directly confronting them. The living dead are a fictional threat, as opposed to tsunamis or avian flu. No matter how scary or realistic the particular story might be, their unquestionably fictional nature makes them "safe".

In this quote from Max Brooks's essay about our resurrected interest in zombies, what does Brooks mean by "safe"? Furthermore, what are the apocalyptical anxieties affecting 21st century U.S. Americans? (Don't limit your discussion to natural disasters and pandemics.)

2. Semblance of Stability

It's been over a decade since Brooks predicted, "Perhaps, as...society returns to a semblance of stability, our macabre fascinations will return to more conventional monsters, forsaking flesh-eating ghouls...." What does Brooks mean by "semblance of stability"? Do you believe his prediction will come to pass? Do you see any evidence in the here and now that we are renewing our interest "conventional monsters"?

3. Not Your Father's Supernatural Archetype

What, in your opinion, is the most effective supernatural / monster archetype right now in U.S. culture, and what kinds of "cultures" can you ascribe to it?

How many other supernatural archetypes (other than vampires and zombies) can be explained and examined using the same approach as Brooks and del Toro/Hogan? Select one fictional archetype (a recurring traditional character model) and discuss its current interpretation in popular culture or popular entertainment (e.g., comic books, anime, graphic novels, movies, popular serial novels, etc.). Then, using specific arguments made by Brooks and/or del Toro/Hogan, create a thesis statement about the way your selected archetype has evolved from previous iterations, and how it may be deconstructed to explain our current cultural, apocalyptic anxieties.

You're strongly urged to think about the moral, ethical, philosophical, or existential "problem" depicted by your selected character as well as the world in which that character exists.

Here's an example, in which the Frankenstein archetype has evolved. You don't have to make your own argument as long or as articulate as this:

The "Frankenstein" archetype (created about the same time as the "vampire archetype") was introduced by 19th c. Romantic author Mary Shelley in response to the advancements of the scientific age and our human quest to conquer death. However, many people today confuse the name "Frankenstein" to mean the creature, rather than Victor Frankenstein, the doctor-scientist. Frankenstein's creation struggled with his own existential quest for meaning, and tried to rise above the moral inadequacies of his creator. At the end of the novel, the monster disembarks a ship in the Arctic, leaves his creator for dead, and begins a quest for his own meaning and self-worth (even though he is never heard from again). Mary Shelly invented her monster as an interpretation of the Prometheus myth (who was chained to a rock as punishment for stealing fire from Olympus and giving it to mortals). The popular Boris Karloff film version, however, shows the monster to be an ambiguous villain-hero who perishes in a fire of vigilante hatred. Karloff's monster seemed a sympathetic archetype of "the culture of the outsider" who takes a courageous and sacrificial stance against the uncaring mob. What was originally a character symbolizing the rejection of god and the quest for independence and meaning adapted to the 20th century milieu and its many cultural injustices based on differences of gender and orientation, race and ethnicity, physical and intellectual disability, etc.
Last Updated: 03/13/2017


Karl J. Sherlock
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