Pretty, Dead: Sociosexuality, Rationality and the Transition into Zom-Being

In Steve Jones & Shaka McGlotten (eds.), Zombies and Sexuality: Essays on Desire and the Living Dead. McFarland. pp. 180-198 (2014)
Abstract
The undead have been evoked in philosophical hypotheses regarding consciousness, but such discussions often come across as abstract academic exercises, inapplicable to personal experience. Movie zombies illuminate these somewhat opaque philosophical debates via storytelling devices – narrative, characterization, dialogue and so forth – which approach experience and consciousness in an instinctively accessible manner. This chapter focuses on a particular strand of the subgenre: transition narratives, in which human protagonists gradually turn into zombies. Transition stories typically centralize social relationships; affiliations and interactions with other beings that give her (human) life meaning. These narratives routinely posit that consciousness and sociosexuality are intertwined aspects of experience that distinguish human from zombie, foregrounding a core romantic coupling and charting its decline as the protagonist transforms into a flesh-eating monster. These notions are explored via an indicative case study: Pretty Dead (2013). The film brings two views on the self – intuitive and empirical – into direct conflict, questioning their compatibility. The protagonist’s sociosexual decline is employed to illustrate that a) there is a troubling disjuncture between rationalist-theoretical conceptions of selfhood and selfhood as it is experienced in the real, social realm, and b) there is a natural bridge between personal, introspective self-knowledge and external social selfhood. By depicting a form of selfhood that defies rationalist logic (zom-being), transitional zombie films not only animate philosophical debates about consciousness, but also challenge their viewers to develop new conceptual (theoretical and imaginative) vocabularies via which to describe and engage with both selfhood and sociosexuality.
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