A Look at Disney’s TV Movie Halloween: Zombies
Is that a bad thing to bring up and teach children about? No, but also while Zootopia was able to get away with using animals as stand-ins for racial minorities, it felt earned and showed how it could be handled. That is just one thing and fantasy/horror movies have often looked at race and used fantastic creatures as racial stand-ins. Consider for a moment this article about the Netflix movie Bright from 2017.
Many stories have tried using genre to articulate the struggles faced by Othered groups—most fail, often by inflating its subject’s Otherness to the point of inanity. Bright is no exception, although there’s something especially sinister about its framing. The film asks us to believe that orcs—the largest and strongest of its mythical “races”—are the Other.
What this author writes of Bright and how it depicts Orcs as being othered is the same issue with this movie. Zombies (movie) expects its audience to buy into a world where zombies are discriminated against on the basis of them being zombies. If anyone knows anything about zombie fiction, you’d understand why that is a hard pill to swallow. They’re zombies. Maybe this idea could’ve worked if they used a different fantastical creature but even then it didn’t put in a lot of effort.
Further adding onto this issue is that this movie doesn’t seem to know how to handle its discrimination/racism allegory and ends on such a soft note that I’m gonna spoil right here that basically tells any young POC child watching this, it’s better to stay in your place and not upset the status quo and let a White ally lead the charge against things that affect you because you don’t need to stoop down to the level of the White bullies. For a more articulate take, watch Diva of Musical Hell’s video on this.
Fifty years ago in the town of Seabrook, an idiot construction worker spilled lime soda all over a control panel. Turning half the town into zombies. Barely even into the movie and I want to bring something up. These events happened fifty years before this movie and this movie is never stated when it takes place. Therefore, it can be assumed that it’s set in the modern-day thus placing this movie in 2018. Which if that’s the case, this incident happened in 1968. I had to do some checking but a rather famous if not the most famous zombie movie was released that year.
This movie is extremely important for the horror genre and also showing a Black man taking charge with the character of Ben being the leader of the survivors. Looking at it that way is only one thing but also let’s also take it a step further. This move wants to touch upon discrimination. Well, they started the conservation but I’m going to keep it going. One of the most important movements for Black Americans ended that year. The Civil Rights Movement, which lasted from 1954 to 1968.
The civil rights movement was an organized effort by Black Americans to end racial discrimination and gain equal rights under the law. It began in the late 1940s and ended in the late 1960s.
So, do the zombies attempt to fight this injustice and establish equality? No, they don’t because they’re zombies and over time, they learn to control their habits, and instead, a wall is built to separate the living and the undead. Yes, really. They had to know, he’d been President for two years by that point and one of his biggest promises was that freaking wall.
Okay yeah, this movie started life as a pilot in 2011 called Zombies Vs. Cheerleaders. I don’t know if that was in the original script but this aired in 2018 and they just had to know how people were going to react. You can’t put something like this in a movie during the Trump presidency and not expect people to think of it. So, the zombies now live in their own little slum town known simply as Zombietown
There’s also a crazy amount of cheapness in how this movie looks. For all its faults, at least the Isle of the Lost looked real and lived in. This looks as though it was thrown together at the last minute. Speaking of Descendants, the zombie children are taking part in the first-ever integration program.
Before we get to that, there is something that had been bugging me. It was established that the zombies came about fifty years ago and the zombies that we are following are teenagers. Meaning that zombies in this world can reproduce. That raises so many questions about their organisms as from what I’ve read, that shouldn’t be possible but there are so many different takes on zombies’ sexual activity. This more or less aligns with what I’ve read.
Sexual behavior among the reanimated dead is extremely rare. Zombies are not living organisms and therefore do not multiply through sexual reproduction.
Yeah, whatever people want can be done with stories and tweak classic creatures but it seems rather odd to do this with the undead considering that well, they are undead. However, that’s the smallest of small issues when looking at this movie.
That issue is quite minor in the grand scheme of things but it is something that irked me. So, how are the zombies integrated at the new school? They aren’t as there are two separate entrances for human students and zombie students. Taking this further, the zombies are confined to the basement at the beginning of the school year. Okay, we are going to go there. This movie tries to say that it is about fighting discrimination and well by placing the zombie students here, this also calls to mind another thing that minority students have had to face, segregated classrooms.
That image alone speaks volumes to the hardships that Black students faced and this movie wants to try and be about discrimination and placing the zombie students could have been an interesting commentary on this but the idea is played for laughs. This idea could’ve been explored in how it makes the zombies feel left out and robbing them of actually integrating with their new living classmates. But for the most part, it’s played off as a joke. The setup was there but this movie didn’t want to delve deeper because it’s a Disney Channel movie for kids. Well, I feel the need to remind them of a family movie from Disney that tackled similar material much better.
I specifically chose a still from that scene because it speaks volumes to how Zootopia is able to handle its message and sums what the movie is trying to convey in one fell swoop. Also, this movie respects the young audience watching it enough to grasp the weight of its message. Zombies on the other hand does not as the tone of the film that does not support the message that it is trying to convey. It is trying to tackle discrimination, which is a heavy topic and should be handled with care and respect but it tries to have the typical DCOM lightness. This greatly works against the message of the movie, now it doesn’t have to be super serious but there should be a certain level of gravitas when dealing with an issue such as discrimination. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t seem to understand that and the tone and message are often at odds with one another.
Yeah so our lead zombie, Zed sneaks out of the basement to try and try out for the school’s football team. This doesn’t exactly work as a zombie alarm is pulled and well, Addison, our lead human ends up with Zed in a zombie safe house and we get a rather cloying meet-cute.
They are soon discovered by her cousin Bucky that threatens Zed to leave Addison alone. And ooh boy, this particular rant has been boiling inside of me since 2018. In her review, Diva refers to Bucky as the mean girl antagonist but a boy. That is a fair reading on the character but I felt something more with this character that greatly bugged me.
I could be reading into this a bit too much but Bucky as a character comes across in an effeminate manner and not just because he’s a male cheerleader but rather as though his character was meant to be gay coded. And this has not been confirmed but those are the vibes I got from how he walked, talked, and carried himself. Gay coding and Disney villains are nothing new but that doesn’t make it okay either. Look at this excerpt from a Syfy piece about Queer Coding.
….many villains continue to code as gay, either intentionally or by accident. Consider villains from Disney movies, for example, who tend to fall into stereotypes on either side of the dichotomy. Male villains tend to be more effeminate than their hyper-masculine heroic counterparts
This description is quite apt for the character of Bucky. I am not saying that you can’t have LGTBQ villains but rather using this coding is something that does not sit right with me. Also if the movie wanted to truly explore discrimination and how other minority groups discriminate, making Bucky full-on gay would have served that purpose in showing that yes, gay people can also discriminate. This goes back to the idea of not committing. You could say but it’s Disney Channel.
Well yeah about that, in 2014 the sitcom Good Luck Charlie featured a child that had two moms. Last year, Disney+ debuted High School Musical: The Musical: The Series that has a loving gay couple where one of the guys played the character of Sharpay in their school’s production of HSM but it was handled with dignity and respect and never treated him like something less for being gay. And don’t even get me started on my love for Lumity, a fanship from The Owl House involving a bi girl and a lesbian witch.
When a show spun-off from one of the most beloved DCOM franchises is willing to include a gay couple in their first season and treat them like actual characters, there is no excuse. Again, do not misconstrue what I’m saying for gay equals good as you could have a gay villain. And as I have stated throughout, that could have sent a rather important message of people that are discriminated against can discriminate as well. However, this goes back to the idea of the movie not allowing itself to go all the way and instead hides behind this coding, which I find so much more appalling. Yet, that is par the course for how much this movie fumbles.
So yeah, glad to get that off my chest as it’s something that greatly bugged me but is rarely brought up when discussing issues with this film.
Bucky threatens his cousin that he’ll reveal her dark and looming secret. And well, it isn’t revealed until the end of the movie as some way of saying Addison has been put down in the same way as the Zombies but I’m gonna bring it up here.
Addison has white hair. Movie, do you realize the irony in a White character revealing that she has white hair and trying to pass that off as equal to beings being judged for the color of their skin and the actions of those that came before them and always treated as less because they live in a society where the living (aka White) majority hold the power. I really don’t think that you do because unlike the Zombies (mostly), Addison can hide her hair and still blend in with society. Also, having white hair is something that people can quickly get over unlike their preconceived notions of minority groups. The fact that you try to treat having white hair as being the same as being judged for the color of one’s skin. That in so many ways sums up White Privilege is.
White privilege is an institutional (rather than personal) set of benefits granted to those of us who, by race, resemble the people who dominate the powerful positions in our institutions
Applying that last part to Addison is twofold in the world this movie sets up in that she is a living character and as has been seen throughout, the living are meant to be stand-ins for the majority races that have held power and looking at it through the high school lens, the cheerleaders are the most popular students at the high school in the world of this movie and thus have a sense of power. Whether she knows it or not, Addison has power and privilege that the Zombies do not and that goes back to peoples’ preconceived notions.
The funny thing is that I’ve seen the hair being used as oppression actually work with the character of Amity Blight.
In a recent AMA, Owl House creator Dana Terrace revealed that Mrs. Blight has her youngest daughter dye her hair as she likes having a sense of conformity. Which makes a bit of sense and works because even though they’ve only appeared offscreen once via a memory, we get the sense that Amity’s parents are shall we say rough. And tying into something I brought up earlier with my LGTBQ+ rant but Amity is gay and while one may not put it together, this way her parents forcing her to dye her hair is symbolic of her being forced to hide that part of herself. That is something this movie doesn’t do with Addison, even with wearing a wig, she is really no different either way.
As the school year goes on, Zed is allowed to join the football team after a miracle save and thanks to his friend Eliza hacking his Z-Band. I have some choice thoughts on the Z-Band. Okay, the Z-Band is something that was created by humans to keep the zombies from going well full zombie. Yeesh, just another layer of oppression. Seriously, even Zootopia cut the collar stuff out of the draft that was filmed.
No sabotage Eliza, that’s not who we are, that not who I am.
I’m gonna get this out of my system courtesy of this clip of Linkara.
As cathartic as that was, this one line deserves to be broken down even more. Let’s start with one of the biggest sticking points, this line reinforces that minority groups always have to be the bigger person when someone that holds a position of power wrongs them. We have seen throughout this year with the protests that the disenfranchised are tired of having to be the bigger person when they are wronged. There have been so many tweets from Black voices this year saying that they are emotionally exhausted from having to be the bigger person.
Let’s move onto the second part of this line, Addison you can be an ally but you are not part of the zombie community just because you are dating one. Dating someone from a minority group does not automatically make you a part of that group. There’s a difference between being accepted by the group and being part of that group. And Addison you are only in the former category.
Finally, that not who I am part. Good for you but you basically just told Eliza that you are better than her with that one line.
And all these issues are just in the movie, there’s one that goes beyond the movie. Eliza is the only lead zombie that is played by an actor of color.
So here you have a White actress delivering this line to a young Black actress. How did no one catch this?
In the end, led by Zed’s little sister, the zombies and cheerleaders come together to help Bucky. I’m not even gonna get into how you can’t always unteach racism because the movie is almost over. And everyone lives happily together in an integrated society until werewolves were introduced in the sequel that came out this year. And no, I’m not going review that one because this was just so tiring.
What is this feeling?
Fervid as a flame
Does it have a name?
6 thoughts on “A Look at Disney’s TV Movie Halloween: Zombies”
I’ve only seen brief glimpses of this and I just thought it looked pretty bad from just from the surface. I didn’t think it would be this bad.
Oh yeah, I had an inkling it would be bad but I was dumbfounded by how bad it could get.
Hair being used to justify oppression also worked in the Valkyria Chronicles game. Members of the Darcsen ethnic group all have dark hair, and are discriminated against/seen as lessers. But that ties in to the game’s World War 2 inspiration by showing prejudice against people who have genes which differ from the majority of the population. Such allegories can work if they’re written properly. But clearly no thought was put into the writing for this movie.
See, that sounds interesting and thought through. I’m afraid the writers of this movie thought Addison having white hair was a genius idea instead coming off daft like it did.
Oh yeah. If you never played Valkyria Chronicles, you should definitely try to find a copy. It’s for the PS3, and it’s got a great story/gameplay.
Thanks for the suggestion