The Year Of The Mask: The United States Of Zombieland

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Oh, America. I wish I could tell you that this was still America, but I’ve come to realize that you can’t have a country without people. And there are no people here. No, my friends. This is now the United States of Zombieland. It’s amazing how quickly things can go from bad to total shitstorm.
—Columbus, “Zombieland”

I know zombies aren’t technically considered “comic book culture”—well, unless you count The Walking Dead and any number of rotting versions of your favorite superheroes that had become so popular since the debut of Marvel Zombies in 2005 and the DC Comics crossover event Blackest Night in 2009.

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Batman needs to make an appearance around this post somewhere

Why zombies? Was it all a metaphor for a pop-culture that was running out of ideas and regurgitating the same characters and tropes over and over again in endless variations of the “Collector’s Item First Issue?” Did it reflect the growing “us versus them” mentality that began to crop up with more frequency in fan circles?

But enough about that. Let’s talk about something really important.

As the Holidays were fast swooping in at the end of November 2012, some were worrying about the Mayan Apocalypse and maniac shooters…but others (true patriots) were concerned about a far bigger threat.

The War On Twinkies.

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The Thanksgiving season started with the “threat” of “All American” products such as Twinkies and Wonder Bread being taken away from our gaping maws forever:

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The conservative interwebs, of course, blamed it on the unions:

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Let’s ignore the obvious here: that Twinkies, Wonder Bread, and the other Hostess brethren were probably not the best food to address our nation’s health problems.

Instead, let us note that according to the Narrative, Hostess products = “Traditional American Values.”

Twinkie The Kid is a cowboy, most of their products incorporate red, white and blue colors, and of course, there’s the Nostalgia Factor:

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So in the Narrative, anybody who would stand in the way of Hostess bread and pastries production is therefore “anti-American”…and, in a way, anti-childhood:

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At the same time, unions and consumer groups were protesting against “Black Friday,” and its relatively new sister “Gray Thursday” (the latter forcing people to work on Thanksgiving instead of spending it with their families):

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…but that of course didn’t stop the literal mobs of shoppers:

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What could be more all-American than shopping on Black Friday? If the unions and others were opposed to that, they must have been “Commies,” right? Thank God “Thor” Chris Hemsworth and his pals were gonna save us from the Commies in Red Dawn that weekend:

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As an added sync, the South Park Thanksgiving episode that year was a parody of Thor:

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At stake during this episode? A shortage of turkey stuffing. Which is almost as bad as a shortage of Twinkies.

While the sight of copious hordes of shoppers beating each other up on Black Friday reassured us that everything was okay (yeah, it sorta looked like those hordes beating each other up for gas in the Northeast only a few weeks previously during Hurricane Sandy, but this one was cool), we were reminded as a nation to stay on the alert: sites like Drudge, Fox News and others warned us that there is not only a War on Christmas, but a new War on Thanksgiving!

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And let’s face it—there was just a big war going on back then on everything that makes America, America, right? The war on Twinkies, the war on forcing minimum wagers to work on Thanksgiving, Paul McCartney’s war on the poultry industry by asking Americans not to eat turkeys—not to mention the entire Twilight Of The Action Movie Gods that we’ve addressed in the last installment of Year Of The Mask (hitting Ragnarok proportions).

And then finally—the most ominous omen of all:

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That’s right: J.R. Ewing himself, the arrogant, no-apologies lovable sociopath capitalist icon of the 1980s, passed away on November 21. Or rather, Dallas actor Larry Hagman did—died in, of all places: Dallas, Texas.

In other words: we lost Twinkies, we lost J.R.—the “American Dream” as we know it was over. Certainly, a respected media outlet like Drudge understood the significance of the event in the Narrative. It was truly “The End.”

So was it any coincidence that in the post-apocalyptic movie Zombieland, cowboy-hatted “Tallahassee” seeks the ultimate form of sustenance and symbol of a civilized, pre-undead America—the Twinkie:

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Here’s a Zombieland/Black Friday photo gallery for you to enjoy…can you spot the real zombies?

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While Zombieland came out in 2009, zombies were enjoying quite the renaissance in 2012—thanks in no small part to one of the most popular TV shows that year, The Walking Dead (which has since spawned so many real-world “zombie freakout” crimes I could do a series of posts just on that).

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When I was at San Diego Comic-Con that Summer, there were wall-to-wall TWD merch and undead cosplayers…but, as with the frenzied shoppers of Black Friday, the “shambling mindless masses” trope had more than enough reality to it when applied to the mega-consumer fanboys and fangirls crammed like willing battery chickens at the convention center.

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It was a tough 2012…but thank God it was almost over.

It…was almost over, right? After all the killings, the Apocalypse-tinged pop-culture death-porn, the increasing partisan ugliness stomping its way all over the Internet and the country?

NO. IT. WAS. NOT.