Surrealism of Death through a Digital Medium

Dead Set presents reality shown through different mediums (reality tv show/news/reality of the tv room) by exemplifying postmodern horror with the zombies disrupting everyday life. There’s irony/self awareness in Dead Set from the fact that there is a reality tv show within a tv show, using different mediums to mock digital culture and the blurred lines of what is perceived to be “truth” and what is curated to look like the truth. The first appearance of the zombie in the show seemed almost ironic from a 2019 perspective because of the abundance of zombies in our digital culture (from The Walking Dead to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – which is a clash of modern lit with postmodern horror) that in my perspective, the sudden appearance of zombies coupled with its self-awareness that the viewers are watching a tv show of a tv network producing a reality tv show made it quite unbelievable due to its overloaded with its digital mediums and elements of postmodern horror.
What I found the most fascinating was how rules are created and changed depending on the different simulations of reality the characters are in. In the tv network building, the horror of that space is the uncomfortable gaze of the male tv network producer and the significance of eviction night that ensues chaos from people. In the reality tv show, “getting a red card” is the worst case scenario, and being evicted is the horror. In the news, the horror is the uncertainty of the reason behind the riots and the fact that people are getting killed. All three of these simulations are then encompassed by the “true” reality of zombies roaming about and attacking people, and this truth literally clashes into the space of the tv network and the reality tv show, illustrating how different simulations create different realities. When Kelly bursts into the house where Big Brother happens, the people in the tv show clap thinking she is a new guest. Even the attack of the zombies is ridiculed and seen as a Big Brother challenge due to the fact that these people are trapped in the “reality” of this tv show and this is their world. There is a surrealistic element when death is presented through a digital medium as it distances people from recognizing the truth of circumstances or to be in touch with their reality, removing empathy and violating the boundaries of rationality and irrationality.
My favorite quote that stuck out to me from the first two episodes was when one of the characters, with disappointment that there are actual zombies and they’re not being filmed anymore, states,  “Does this mean we’re not on telly anymore?”
Dead Set downright mocks pop culture with that quote.

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  • Charlie Brooker’s and Annabelle Jones’ Dead Set, aired in 2008, is a five part horror mini series about a fictionalized set of the reality tv show Big Brother. These five episodes detail a zombie outbreak, leaving the people stranded inside the Big Brother House, seemingly a safe haven to the outside chaos. What I find really interesting about this mini series is the cultural context at the time that it was aired. In 2008, Big Brother was at its peak, with millions of avid watchers and followers. However, nowadays the viewing rates of the show have dropped and thus, watching Dead Set today, 10 years after the show was aired, people may not understand all of what the producers were aiming for. For example, until I looked up the show after watching the first two episodes, I did not realize that much of the cast in the House, besides Kelly and a few others, is actually made up of people from previous Big Brother seasons. Something that Yeonjae mentions in her post is that the events in the first episode “made it quite unbelievable due to its overloaded with its digital mediums and elements of postmodern horror.” While I agree with her statement, I think it’s important to note the cultural context that would have made a show like this have an impact in 2008. Seeing one of your favorite reality stars dying in a zombie attack, in my opinion, would blur the line between reality and fiction. In addition, in 2008 many other apocalyptic-like tv shows and movies were being released and so the end of the world was on many people’s minds. This notion also makes me wonder – are there movies and shows today that seem so realistic that might seem dated and over the top years from now?

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