While watching the first couple episodes of “Dead Set” I was thinking about Jeffrey Cohen’s article, “Monster Culture” and the role that the zombies play on this show. First, I thought about what makes zombies inherently scary and, based on Cohen’s theses, I believe they fit into at least three categories. Zombies are a cultural body, they’re the harbinger of category crisis and they dwell at the gates of difference. They’re a cultural body because they represent people’s fear of invasion and disease. Maybe it’s a fear of foreign invasion or a fear of non-white people since the fighters and survivors in most of these films are usually all American or predominantly white. Examples of movies like this include “Zombieland” and “Shaun of the Dead.”
Zombies are harbingers of category crisis because they’re walking contradictions. Being the “living dead” defies the categories we know of and creates fear. This is what also causes them to dwell at the gates of difference because they’re dead cannibals, with deformed faces and little intelligence. They’re the opposite of a normal human being and just looking at them is terrifying enough and the fact that they’re sole purpose is to eat and kill humans doesn’t help.
What’s interesting about the zombies on “Dead Set” is that while their sole purpose is to eat and kill people, they’re focused on killing the people on the reality tv show “Big Brother.” The creators of this show purposely placed zombies on this set to disrupt this popular reality show in the most extreme way. This could mean a couple of things. One, the creators are trying to make a point about what reality tv is doing to humanity. Maybe they believe that reality tv or tv in general is turning us into zombies; single-minded and slow. Two, the creators are critiquing reality tv and believe that it needs to be destroyed and they’re using zombies as the tool to do that.
The Big Brother characters aren’t placed in the best light. They’re vain, insecure and obsessed with performing for the camera. The behind the scenes look at the show reveals how fake reality tv is. There’s heavy editing which manufactures drama for the audience and the contestants are being over the top so they can stand out and be popular. I believe the creators turn Cohen’s first thesis on its head. Usually humanity is the “hero” that kills the monster but I believe that on “Dead Set” reality tv is the real monster, the cultural body that needs to be destroyed, and the zombies are actually the “heroes” of the show who will kill the monster. To be honest I’m not mad at that idea. If reality tv died tomorrow, I wouldn’t really care, I think I’d actually be happy.