Episode 206: Epidemiology

 ​Loki100

Epidemiology: Community: Season 2, Episode 6

Monsters crawl out of our subconscious, giving shape to our amorphous fears and insecurities. By giving these fears form, we can then place them in a narrative to triumph over, and exorcise them from our souls. Our most ancient literary traditions are little more than tales of the struggle to overcome the monsters prowling at our subconscious.

Although a curious thing happens with monsters. They become detached from their original context and their original metaphors. Vampires might represent a parasitic aristocratic class in the 1800s, but two centuries of time later they are simply generic monsters. For zombies, this decoupling has happened only relatively recently. When George Romero created the zombie (as this review is about Romero zombies, as opposed to other types of zombies, he is the creator), it represented a very specific critique of American society. The world of the zombies was roughly divided into three parts, the protagonists who are simply people trying to cope with their new situation, a hostile class of plutocrats attempting to secure their own resources and territory, and the zombies themselves, brainless consumers.

Romero was very clear in his critique of capitalism in America. The protagonists were hammered relentlessly by brainless consumers on one side, and sociopaths selfishly seeking their own gain on the other. And in true Romero fashion, it was a situation that quite literally killed everyone. This metaphor has remained strongly tied to zombies, fromResident Evil's perspective on the insanity of corporate profiteering at all costs, to Shaun of the Dead's view of how menial jobs reduce all those who have them to the status of zombies. It is only fairly recently that zombies have made the transition from a specific subconscious fear to being simply generic monsters. The Walking Dead, for example, has no concerns about representing larger aspects of society.

Greendale is a society unto itself, and Community is less concerned about showing the fundamental forces of the society of an entire nation, instead it chooses to focus on how the small scale forces of Greendale reposition those who attend it. Often the focus of these episodes is Jeff, whose inherent cynicism and self-interest, tend to make him uniquely resistant to Greendale's charms. But every single member of the study group has been forced to look into the mirror and realize that who they are is not who they were and either embrace their present self, or attempt to backslide. Britta did it in "Geography of Global Conflict," Shirley in "Urban Matrimony and Sandwich Arts," and Troy in "Epidemiology."

Prior to arriving at Greendale, Troy was the most popular kid in his school. Quarterback, Prom King, noted party animal, person who caused all the women to swoon. Arriving in Greendale realigned his path. He was average and unimportant, and began, by accident, to explore an identity outside of his "cool" persona. The opening of the episode is designed to show just how far he has fallen. When approaching two women, he has no game, no skill and they find nothing about him desirable. It is a debacle that, after some coaching from Jeff, leads him to reassess his life and attempt to return to his formerly cool persona.

This is, of course, a complete failure. His "Sexy Dracula" costume is far, far less cool and certainly less attractive than his Ripley costume. It looks exactly like what it is, something he cobbled together in a public bathroom. Clearly Troy can't even regress to his previous self anymore, it is merely a matter of accepting this fundamental truth.

The zombies are, quite literally, the mass of Greendale students attempting to make everyone a part of it. It works as a perfect externalization of Troy's internal dilemma. Does he give up his persona and join Greendale, or maintain it and escape? At the most crucial moment of choice for him, when trapped in the basement where escape is an actual possibility, instead, he fully commits to Greendale, telling Abed, "I love you." Instead of finding freedom, he finds the Dean and reenters the library intent upon saving everyone, a plan which initially fails miserably since it relied upon cardboard armor. Thematically he had to become a zombie, completely, fully and totally surrendering to Grendale, even as he saved the school from the zombies.

This episode manages to be a pitch perfect zombie movie. From the initial infection that everyone thinks is weird, but unimportant, to moving from multiple spaces that are thought to be "safe" but ultimately are compromised, to the ridiculously simple goal (turning the thermostat down). It is almost funny how easily you can streamline a zombie movie to the point where it is only 22 minutes long.

Stray Observations

  • Once more every character's costume is a reflection of their personalities, insecurities, and roles I've already talked about Troy, but Britta is a shapeless and yet adorable T-Rex, Jeff is wearing a David Beckham costume that he picked just so he could wear a nice suit, Abed is an Alien, Annie is wearing something girly, innocent, and a little naughty, Pierce is wearing a captain Kirk costume that he thinks is cool, but is actually only cool in an ironic hipster sense. Chang is dressed as Peggy Fleming, and he seams to have only chosen that costume just to prove everyone at Greendale is secretly racist. Shirley is Glenda the Good Witch, but they all think she's Miss Piggy, which reflects the fact that the study group often seems to not be able to understand Shirley. I'm not certain if the Dean has any larger ideas behind his Lady Gaga costume, other than that, of course, the Dean would like Lady Gaga.
  • ABBA is the perfect score to a zombie movie. It really does work perfectly.
  • That scene with the cat is a classic horror movie parody.
  • George Takei is awesome.
  • I love how seamlessly Jeff goes from zombie texting to just regular texting.
  • "Better have a plan B!"

Notes from the commentary

  • Originally the music was supposed to be "Ghostbusters." I am glad they changed it. ABBA was the most expensive and they basically spent their entire music budget on getting it.
  • According to Dan Harmon, there is an African-Americans tradition to refer to all vampires as "Dracula."
  • They think Rich is an asshole for locking himself in with them while infected, but not Britta, because it is something that Britta would do.
  • Ken Joeng's favorite moment in the whole series is the zombie hamster attack.
  • The cat was a joke Dan Harmon wanted to write for fifteen years. He put it in a draft ofMonster House.

***In addition to having a weird expertise in Vampires, I also have a weird expertise in zombies. If anyone cares I can write a rundown of the genre. Originally this was about twice as long and involved talking about almost every zombie movie ever made. As well as Beowulf for some reason.***

 

Discussion:

  • Lovely review, and a nice exploration of the thematic implications for Troy's big plot.

    Jeff is pretty interesting in this episode, too: he's what Troy aspires to be at first, but he gets consumed by Greendale as well. It's a nice detail that he has the loudest reaction upon being bitten as well, as he is the one most resistant to committing to Greendale.
    And Pierce isn't even bitten; in fact, he's the one who starts the whole deansaster.
    Hmmm. I smell an analysis here.

    I'm glad Dan finally got to do his cat joke.

  • It's interesting how you compare Troy to Jeff within the episode. That got me thinking that Troy and Jeff both went through the same thing in regards to Greendale. Neither really saw themselves as fitting in and thought they were above the school. Troy gave in much sooner, but this episode demonstrated a crisis of faith. It's interesting how Troy keeps on trying to revert to an early stage of his personal development, despite the fact he realizes that change would be more appropriate.

    Early in the series, he tries to be the ladies man-jock-prom king who is too cool for tap dancing, before Abed gets him to give in to his inner nerdiness. Here, he tries to go back to the person he used to be before fully committing to Greendale. In season three, we see him fight off maturity and picking a major by doubling down on his nerdy exploits, before eventually deciding it is time to grow up, pick a major, take down the Dreamatorium, and move into an actual bedroom. Like Jeff, he is very resistant to change and threatens to backslide if any sneaks up on him. However, he has shown a willingness to try and become the person he's meant to be.

  • Like Jeff, he is very resistant to change and threatens to backslide if
    any sneaks up on him. However, he has shown a willingness to try and
    become the person he's meant to be.

    Good points. Troy basically says as much to Jeff at the end of "Football, Feminism and You."

    It really hit me for the first time watching "Epidemiology" that the show wouldn't be entirely focused on Jeff anymore. He goes down to the zombies looking pretty foolish, while Troy survives to be the hero. I was like "Wait, what? That wouldn't happen in S1." It's an important part of the S2 transition.

  • I would be up for reading the extended directors cut of this review. 

    I watched this episode the other day and I was amazed by how much they were able to get out of a 22 minute episode. Nothing felt rushed or left out. That could be due to playing off the audience's presumed familiarity with the zombie genre, but they managed to hit every major beat without making it feel crammed in at all.

  • This might drop out of my top ten after I add in my season three rankings, but I still love this episode. Zombie Annie and zombie Jeff crack my shit up every time.
    AND fishstick:
    http://www.fishsticktheatre.co…

  • Good review, very interesting perspective.

    The guy who directed this episode is the same guy who directed the Lucasfilm WWII dogfighting movie Red Tails. #CommunityFunFacts

  •  YOU PUNCHED A LADY BEE!!!
     
    Wonderful review! Like others, I'd be interested in reading the director's cut.

    I have to run to teach now, but I'll be back later with more.

  • SpongyandBruised

    There's still a little part of me that can't accept the reality of this, but it's the nitpicky part, and he's kind of an asshole.

  • i am down to hear about zombies! especially your take on the differences between the traditional concept and what has become the standard via romero's films' influence.

    i fucking love that cat joke with all of my heart and soul.

    as for the dean's costume: a person who is known for their flamboyant outfits and very public persona… lady gaga is the dean.

  • Loki100

    I think you are on to something… have we ever seen Lady Gaga and Jim Rash at the same time?

  • only in my dreams. and not on dry land.

  • Wow, that was quite a perspective on Troy's arc in this episode.  Thank you.  This is probably the clearest-cut beginning of "Power of Imagination" Troy (duh-doy, since the phrase comes from this episode), but putting it in the context of the literary significance of zombies certainly taught me something new.  

    Donald Glover is just fantastic in that final sequence, too, from his triumphant entrance to: "I don't know why I thought this would work…" and "Okay, okay! I've been bit, y'all! Congrats. You did what zombies do…"  Looking at it now, in the context of his season 3 arc, it also strikes me as notable that he comes in in full playing-dress-up, Constable-Reggie mode, somehow believing that would be effective, but we also see his burgeoning practical side and leadership potential in that he immediately recognizes (I mean, sure it doesn't take a lot to recognize it when the zombies are pulling your cardboard armor off you, but still) that it won't work and uses all the other tools at his disposal–determination, strength, etc–to get across the room and still accomplish his goal and save the student body.  And, of course, the moment between Abed and Troy before Abed bites him certainly gets played out in several ways again in season 3.  

    I've said this before–as recently as yesterday, in fact–but this episode is one of the best uses of music in a show whose use of music is never less than excellent.  I mentioned, of course, immediately feeling uneasy on hearing the opening of "Mamma Mia" even in a totally separate context in a different country, but I also can never hear the beginning of "Fernando" without feeling that emotional swelling feeling I felt the first time when they cut to the shot of the air conditioning blowing through the vent (that vent is an 8th character at this point) and zombie Annie waking up.  I'd say it's weird that hearing an ABBA song from a zombie movie could make me get emotional, but it's Community, so it's not weird at all.

    Finally, I remember there were at least one or two other Lady Gagas in the Halloween episodes of the other NBC sitcoms that night and Oscar-winner Jim Rash owned them all. He was pulling. it. off.

  • One of the more striking things about this episode was how well each ABBA song worked in the context of the episode. They weren't just playing them at random, but each one worked in conjunction with the action the way a normal score would in a zombie movie. Gimme, Gimme, Gimme was used during a propulsive action scene, Fernando was the big, sweeping, emotional climax, etc. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for the meetings where the crew figured out what songs would fit best where. 

  • If I remember correctly from the commentary, they didn't decide on using ABBA until very last minute and it all came together very quickly.  It ended up working perfectly.

  • Well that is just outstanding. I've Mamma Mia on stage, and I promise you that some of the songs in Epidemiology are used in a better and more sensible way than the ones in the musical that was written specifically for the songs. 

  • Totally agreed about the use of ABBA. I like all those songs way more now than before I saw the episode.

    In the room full of zombies, I realized how much the beginning of "Mamma Mia" sounds like the Jabba's Palace music from Return of the Jedi. The "There's something in the air tonight…" line from "Fernando" remains the most uplifting moment in Community, for me. The third act is the only part of this ep I love, but I love it a lot. Especially for all the Troy stuff you mentioned. "Congrats. You did what zombies do." is so funny.

  • I'd say it's weird that hearing an ABBA song from a zombie movie could make me get emotional, but it's Community, so it's not weird at all.

    This was among the first episodes of the show I saw, and I was completely unprepared to experience chills upon hearing ABBA (ABBA? ABBA, of all things?) in a zombie storyline. That was how I knew the show must have some kind of strange devil power.

  • This was so elaborate and awesome. Can you write my junior exit paper? (Edit) I can't tell you how hard I laughed at the cat scene

  • In yet another installation of "Walking NPR didn't get the reference but still thought the joke was hilarious" I'm pretty much completely un-versed in the horror movie genre and the cat scene still cracks me up to an absurd degree. I'm glad it didn't make it in Monster House so that we got it here.

  • I don't think I got the cat scene the first time I saw it. Or at least I didn't see the value in it. It's really funny once I get the absurdity of it, but placed in the middle of a tense scene, it was a very odd comic counter-weight. Which is the point, of course, and why I now find myself chuckling compulsively at how it doesn't belong.

  • I bought Dawn of the Dead on Saturday! That's got Zombies in it!

  • Loki100

    Which version?

  • it's a blu-ray with the theatrical, director's and Dario Argento's cuts.

  • Man, DotD blew me away and I'm not normally much of a horror movie fan.

  • I actually love all of Romero's "Living Dead" movies, even the new ones (although Survival was bad.)

  • Loki100

    I haven't seen past "Land of the Dead"

  • Diary of the Dead utilizes the handheld camera format to a surprisingly great degree. It's also got some very good commentary on society's over-reliance on the media, social networks and technology, and of course, there's the signature Romero theme – modern desensitization to violence.

    Survival of the Dead, on the other hand, is entirely uninspired (a real step back from the unique themes of "Land" and the format of "Diary"), and the ideas about how people begin to do bad things as the apocalypse happens is trite and underdeveloped. It kind of felt like Romero was phoning it in. However, I believe that if he does make more he'll try to listen to criticisms and try new things – he strikes me as that kind of person.

  • The_Tuna

    Zombie genre rundown! Zombie genre rundown!

    Also, what I really love about this episode is just how ballsy it is. They had an honest-to-god zombie attack on a network sitcom. Just, wow. What's more, the ending implied that they were about to kill everyone (including the uninfected Dean) before they saw that the AC had been turned on. I mean, wow.

    Anyways, this episode is a little ridiculous and the end is a bit of a cop-out character wise re: Troy and Abed's dynamic, but it's just so daring, well shot and the soundtrack is so great that I can't do anything but love it.

    The cat scene is, as you say, a classic parody, and just gets funnier every time I see it.

    I also appreciate that all of the characters are actually genre savvy enough to recognize the zombies for what they are, even to the point of "You gotta destroy the brain!" Always irks me in contemporary zombie media when characters have no concept of what a zombie is given that the genre has become so prolific.

  • Thanks for the review, Loki! Random question: Is someone's real name Kevin, and if so, did you use the personalized George Takei voicemail?

  • Great review. All 6 of the reviews so far have been so different, but all really good.

    Your insight into Troy really pairs up with LloydBraun's series-long chart of Troy's character arc. It's very cool how much (and how stealthily) the show can demonstrate a character's growth through an adventure/horror spoof that still works as adventure and horror. Everything you pointed out about Troy comes out under pressure, without all the hugging and learning. (Though the "I love you." "I know." from Empire is very sweet and funny.)

    I really like your zombie movie checklist as applied to the ep, and I very much want to read your "director's cut" history of zombie movies.

  • sll03

    Awesome review, Loki! Great analysis of Troy and how his waning 'cool guy' persona was something he slowly had to come to terms with over the course of the episode. I hereby award you 10 Sexy Draculas out of 10!

    As an aside, I know a certain amount of reality needs to be suspended when viewing Epidemiology, but it just makes me smile uncontrollably. How could I not with all of this stuff going on:

    1. customized Hallow'een credits
    2. Miss Piggy/Glinda the Good Witch 
    3."Just been proven racist by the Racist Prover!"
    4. The ABBA soundtrack finally being put to good use 
    5. "Leonard, you better back that pumpkin ass up or I'm gonna make a pie."
    5. "Ya bit?! Huh?! YA BIT!?"
    6. Britta as a T-Rex and Annie as Little Red Riding Hood = adorable overload
    7. "They can make us sick by biting us, the banana said so!"
    8. "HAMSTER!!!!!!!"
    9. Crazy, possibly-being-thrown cat
    10. "Make me proud. Be the first black man to make it to the end."
    11. "Okay, okay, I've been bit, y'all! Damn. Congrats, you did what zombies do."
    12. Troy and Abed being zooooooombies!

  • Sensational point on Troy's perspective in this whole episode.  Particularly the tug between joining the zombie masses and standing on his own. Magnificent. It also represents his inherent goodness in the group, rising as a secondary leader in contrast to Jeff "NOW IS WAY PAST GETTING OUT OF HERE..TIME™" as the main study group leader. I have nothing of substance to add except my own perceptions on everyone's costume choice:

    1.  Jeff as David Beckham– confirmed as Jeff's choice solely to make him look good and pick up chicks in the S3 Halloween episode.  Also interesting how he has a soccer ball to complete his ensemble when he criticizes the foosball enthusiasts later for being just as tacky in their prop usage.

    2.  Annie as Little Red Riding Hood– awesome how this is in league with your main point about monster tales.  I always felt Vampires represented Aristocratic repression of sexual desires (strike in the night, phallic obsession with the exposed necklines of victims) manifesting as monstrous beings bent on feasting against their original human will (I don't want to bite you but I have no soul anymore!).  And here we have Annie, looking for her Big Bad Wolf as she lives off on her own above the Dildopolis.  Embracing the monsters of the night, undeterred.  And in S3 I guess she ends up becoming that Werewolf that feeds on selfish vampires.  Full Circle.

    3.   Britta as T-Rex–  given her history with that horrid transient in a dinosaur costume and the molestation cries that her parents didn't believe, adds this sad layer over her adorability here.  Also makes me go back to S1 and wonder what equally terrible backstory her Squirrel costume might have (beyond it simply being Gillian's choice).

    Britta (Age Six-Eight): WAAAAHHHHHH!!!
    Britta's Parents:  What's wrong?
    Britta:  I went to feed this lost squirrel an acorn and it bit me!
    Parents:  Britta, we told you before, the animals out there aren't lost.  You have to stop daydreaming you're the savior of the woods.– they don't need your help.  Your brothers don't act this way!  Now we're going to have to take you to the hospital for a Tinnitus Vaccination and call Animal Control to "take care" of the squirrel.
    Britta: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

    If it makes you feel better Britta, I'll always see you as Gamera, friend to all children.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi…

    4.  Shirley/Pierce:  Same motif as last year, and just as aptly played, agreed.  Poor Pierce ends up a spectacle again as Patient Zero and Shirley at least finally gets someone to see her for who see really IS… pretending to be, lol.

    5.  Troy/Abed– According to Sepinwall's review of this episode, originally the show workers were set with Troy and Abed as a Hotdog and Bun, effectively utilizing the costume later for Troy's protective armor against the zombies in the end game.  But the writer who came up with the idea wasn't sure if it was an old memory/writing idea being inadvertently copied again or something actually original, so they had to drop it. 

    Either way, this is a natural progression of their friendship.  The stage of living together has been put off to avoid Giant Cookie status, but we still get a mini-explosion from Eddie Murphy and Batman teaming up this halloween.  Just be glad you didn't come as Robin, Troy.  Not even a sexy Dracula Robin would bring in the ladies.

    6.  Ben Chang as Peggy Fleming– He's been ousted from his position of power and no longer has a high road or tall tower from which to sling his crap upon others.  Now everyone's free to ignore him.  I guess this is his way of compensating.  HAHA you don't know/get me and now I've got something over on you again!  Ben Chang is back! 

    Jeezz, Chang.  Not even Britta would do that for Halloween, and she bashed a globe outside a Mock UN conference in a cage solely to raise awareness of her protesting self, FFS. /comfort Chang.

  • Great review. I didn't really think that Epidemology lent itself to reviewing, but you've obviously proved me wrong. All of your insights about zombies are quite excellent, and I don't really have much to add.

  • Thanks for the excellent write-up. I had to watch it twice to make sure that it wasn't something I didn't drunkenly dream up, because the Abba soundtrack was just too surreal. Then I had to do that again with the Valentine's episode.

    •  
    • Loki100

      Zombies – The Cut Paragraphs
      (Note these paragraphs were cut for having absolutely nothing to do with Community)

      It is no coincidence that monsters populate the oldest human literature. Beowulf fights no less than three in one of the earliest English-language works, each one representing a specific concern of the newly immigrated Anglo and Saxon cultures. Grendel might be a fearsome beast, but he also is the terror of the nation over the hill. The ending of Beowulf explicitly has the Swedes rallying against the Geats, and a paramount fear of all cultures in the 8th century was that the next nation over would invade, bringing war and death and destruction, exactly like Grendel.

      Conceptually, Zombies were incredibly popular in the early 20th century. Spiritualism and interest in the supernatural hit a high water mark in that time period, and on the back of a wave of Haitian immigrants and several popular books about Haiti, the American people became fascinated with Voodoo and zombies, in particular. The first zombie film was White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi. It set the conventions and precedents for the zombie genre for up until Romero created an entirely different monster and named it "zombie." In White Zombie, the zombies are not dead, merely mind controlled. Voodoo is rendered as a form of mesmerism, or hypnosis (another thing quite popular in the time period). In an odd degree of historical coincidence, White Zombie is about the effect of capitalism. Lugosi is a factory owner and utilizes voodoo to create a supremely efficient work force that wants nothing in return. The entire movie is about race, almost indecipherably so. The titular white zombie is an American woman whom Lugosi kidnaps and attempts to convert. His entire workforce is made up of black Haitians, and the movie itself vacillates between condemning white exploitation of black workers, while also rather strongly making the case that white people are inherently better. Latter movies, such as I Walked With a Zombie also prominently feature their white leads being superior at Voodoo than actual Voodoo practitioners.

      Most of the zombie movies of the '30s and '40s followed this mold. White Voodoo priests, with zombism being some sort of medical condition (often hypnosis), and most importantly no one being actually dead. Sometimes they had a perspective on imperialism and colonialism, but often not. The '50s started to change those tropes that had accumulated in the genre.

      Zombies of Mora Tau is a fantastic movie that did more to advance the genre than anything other than Romero. Set on the coast of Africa, it depicts an expedition to find a cursed treasure. Previous expeditions had attempted and failed to secure it, resulting in total casualties. This movie presents zombies as actual dead bodies which are cursed to protect the treasure for all eternity. It also adds the idea of communicability to the genre. For the first time one zombie can create another zombie by killing a person. It is entirely a mystical process and lacks the biting that is so tied to modern zombies.

      Another, odd, entry in the '50s zombie genre is Teenage Zombies. First and foremost it is memorable because it has a zombie gorilla in it. But zombies, as a genre, are inherently tied to a critique of capitalism going back to White Zombie, through Romero, and even still some contemporary movies. But, superficially, the mindless conformity of a mass population would seem to better reflect Cold War fears of Communism. And yet, Teenage Zombies that actually used zombies as a metaphor for Communism. Some American teenagers filled with good morals and a can-do attitude accidentally stumble onto a Communist plot to turn Americans into zombies. Lots of hard to follow complicated stuff happens, but it ends with those meddling kids and their gorilla having foiled the evil Communist plot. Once more in this film zombies are, essentially, hypnotized people, rather than shambling corpses.

      Nothing in all of these movies/books/folklore factor into the work of George Romero at all. They aren't precedents, and they aren't building to anything, and they are mostly forgotten except by people like me who are academically inclined towards horror.

    • Loki100

      Night of the Living Dead does have two precedents, one most likely accidental and the other very intentional. The first is the serialized story by H.P. Lovecraft, "Herbert West: Reanimator." This story is about a doctor who utilizes science to reanimate corpses which turn out to be shambling, violent monsters. It was Lovecraft at his most mercenary, strictly writing it for the money and while it features some of his flourishes, it is pretty poorly written. According to Lovecraft, he wrote it as a parody of Frankenstein, another story that is tangentially related to the development of the zombie genre. But contained within "Herbert West: Reanimator" are the seeds of virtually everything Romero would later do.

      The second influence, which was direct and universal, was I Am Legend, the most influential vampire novel after Dracula. Author Richard Matheson created a post-apocalyptic world that was overrun with vampires with only one human left alive. In a moment of sheer brilliance, Matheson completely jettisoned the supernatural, and focused on how vampirism would be achievable scientifically. The end result is a fantastic story that completely changed the history of vampires as a genre and wound up creating the modern concept of zombies.

      As a young filmmaker in '60s Pittsburgh, George Romero wanted to adapt I Am Legend to the screen. But, obviously, he couldn't afford the rights. Instead he decided to take everything he liked from the book, and make a film of that, Night of the Living Dead. One which was set at the beginning of the plague, rather than when there is but one survivor. He stripped down vampires to their essential components, they are dead, they feed on the living, and they transmit their condition by bites. He then cast some local actors, most importantly of which was Duane Jones. There are lots of different stories about this particular casting with Romero saying Jones was just the best actor, while Jones claimed that he almost rewrote the script (or at least his lines) to be less stereotypical. But whatever the backstory, it is an incredibly pivotal performance to, in that time period, have a strong, African American man leading the survivors. Which really crystallizes the nascent themes of the movie (about authoritarianism and about othering people). Romero went in the least Hollywood direction possible with his film, brutally killing every character, with Jones's death being an indescribable tragedy done by people who think that it is just fun sport. The resulting film was a smashing success, making $42 million on a $100,000 budget. And it resulted in just about the entire production team becoming highly sought after Hollywood commodities, as well as the creation of an entirely new kind of monster.

      It would be ten years exactly before Romero released another zombie movie, Dawn of the Dead. While Night of the Living Dead had some interesting, if undeveloped, themes running through it, Dawn of the Dead was never anything less than a harsh critique of capitalism. He set it in a mall, essentially a temple to capitalist spending, and the zombies are attracted to it because they do not know anything else. I covered most of this in my actual review, so see that for some analysis of the plutocratic class and the zombies.

    • Another zombie film of interest — which came out a year or two before Night of the Living Dead, making it one of the last of the voodoo-based zombie films — is Hammer's Plague of the Zombies. As in White Zombie, capitalist exploitation is the name of the game in that film, too, since it's about people being brought back from the dead to work a mine in Cornwall.