Livia Gershon on Colonialism and the Birth of the Zombie Movie @LiviaGershon @JSTOR_Daily

Livia Gershon discusses the origins of the zombie movie here for JSTOR Daily. She notes:

George Romero created the modern zombie as metaphor for contagious disease and consumerism. But, as film scholar Jennifer Fay writes, the first feature-length zombie movie emerged from a different kind of metaphor—Haitians’ longstanding association of the living dead with slavery and exploited labor.

When White Zombie premiered in 1932, Fay writes, the United States was in the seventeenth year of its occupation of Haiti and was facing mass strikes and demonstrations that would lead to its full withdrawal two years later. The movie focuses on white characters—the titular zombie is an American woman stolen from her husband on her wedding night by a rival with the help of the voodoo-practicing European plantation owner, Murder Legendre (played by horror icon Bela Legosi). But the backdrop of the action is occupied Haiti as described by US journalist and occultist W. B. Seabrook.


Read more here.