Sunday, April 10, 2011

Race Relations in Night of the Living Dead

I was actually surprised by how entertained I was with this film. At first, it seemed rather cheesy with the slow zombie chasing after the girl constantly falling down (not that it doesn't also have other cheesy parts as well). But what really stuck out to me the most was the use of a black man as the lead character in the film considering the time period. His death at the end of the film bothered me and it seems a bit racially charged. But, I wanted to look into this more and found something on wikipedia that said the director, George Romero, cast this guy because he gave the best audition not because of his skin color (and he was an unknown actor at the time who would later go on to be in a bunch of other horror flicks). But, he could have also kept that to himself and had an open audition. Intentional or not, I thought it was very progressive but kind of flounders in the end because of how he is killed off and leaves behind all of the irrational white people.


  1. I agree, it almost seemed like the race relations were an after though in the mind of the creators of the film. I mean I saw the connection between mob hysteria in the end with shooting on sight and not waiting to see if the person was still human or had turned into a zombie but at the same time I think I have a hard time seeing the breaking of traditional film roles in the 60’s (I just don’t think I know enough about that era to know what was normally in a film). But I will have to say that the end when they used the photographs of the men burning the bodies it took my mind directly to the pictures of when towns would hold public lynching’s of residents. So even though he may have claimed his intentions were not to get people thinking I think the ending / the credits demonstrate that his intentions deeper than just a film about zombies.

  2. I agree, partly. While I didn't see the film as commenting on race relations, at least not explicitly, I can see how such opinions, especially through the credits, could be drawn. If we take the Director for his word, then this is all simply coincidence. This, I believe, speaks more about race relations than purposeful intent by the director. For, if we as a society attribute each death of a black character in film or their presence in leading roles to "commenting on race relations," then we still have a ways to progress. While its important to remark and explore the vestiges of the past to promote social progress, its equally important, I would argue, to appreciate film and other works for their qualities, regardless of race or other distinctions. This may be overly idealistic, but if one's work is routinely overshadowed by their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., then we neglect the individual of their deserved appreciation for their work.