Viral “Zomney” Satirical Video on YouTube
At its best, artist leadership is equal parts entertainment and cogent argument. Writer, producer, director Joss Whedon combines them both to comic and gut-punching effect in his viral Oct. 29 video, Whedon on Romney.
It’s all over the blogosphere, the newspapers, twitter, email — not just because it’s funny, but because of its tone-perfect tongue in cheek “endorsement” of Zomney’s perfect plan for zombie apocalypse.
Here’s the final image of the video, a marvelous parody of a campaign ad. The video itself is far more sophisticated and snarky — and, in its own way, a scary prediction of America’s fall from the core value zombies lack — caring about each other. That’s the heart of Whedon’s critique of Romney’s leadership, and also one of the funniest character comments about zombies I’ve ever heard. Whedon hits hard on Romney’s policy proposals, his attitude and his need for brains — or brainless followers.
As of 11:13 on Halloween, the video (posted two days ago) has had 4,365,658 views, only two of them mine. This is the power of media and of Whedon’s sardonic clarity — without pounding home an earnest argument against Romney, he skewers the candidate’s determination to cut programs and further alienate the “47%” with a seemingly respectful and measured call for support — and acceptance of the coming destruction.
He slides into the Halloween satire as if his support is real instead of surreal, talking easily to the camera in his sunny kitchen while apparently cleaning up after a thoughtful breakfast: “Like a lot of liberal Americans, I was excited when Barack Obama took office four years ago. But it’s a very different world now, and Mitt Romney is a very different candidate, one with the vision and determination to cut through business-as-usual politics and finally put this country back on the path to the zombie apocalypse.”
No, it’s not polite — being good satire, it’s not nice at all. But some of his predictions certainly ring true — minus the brain-eating zombies, plus the consequences of cutting programs and eliminating constitutional protections that keep democracy, the middle class, and the national infrastructure functional.
Responses to the Video
According to Slate.com, the new Zomney ad “can’t go wrong.” Celebrities who want to have their voices heard in the political arena should simply do what they do best. “If you’re Joss Whedon, frame your political views in the context of a zombie apocalypse.”
In addition to links and summaries, there have been many clever responses that deserve note, although many are just staged excuses to repeat the message.
The Zombie Rights Campaign (ZRC) expresses indignation that Whedon would “air his Living Supremacist dirty laundry again in such a high profile fashion, especially in a naked attempt to influence a major election.” The ZRC sets the record straight: “Zombies are not an apocalypse to be avoided, but a vibrant cultural and biological subgrouping of Americans (and other global citizens, of course!).” And it goes on, arguing fundamentally that “being a Zombie is not a crime.” Fun satire satirizing satire. Oh, the meta indignation! Oh, the spin!
The New Zealand Herald and other international journals posted a link, and David Lavery, on the website/journal Critical Studies in Television, analyzes the American obsession with zombies and gleefully praises Whedon’s expansion of the genre into a reminder that “a Republican victory could result in much worse than war with Iran, eradication of the Affordable Care act, and extermination of women’s reproductive freedom.”
Lavery analyzes other clever critiques of Romney that turn the Republican’s rhetoric against him, and closes by saying, “Whedon is entirely, fantastically serious. Trust him. The man knows apocalypses.”
Creative Followership, Leadership Challenges
Here is a powerful demonstration of the way a media leader has the power to make us look at real policies and real politik in a new way.
After all, Whedon is the man who at the end of his groundbreaking series Buffy the Vampire Slayer infused all the potential warrior girls in the world with full heroic power in one of the most dramatic feminist moments on TV. Whedon knows the power of story, and his work skillfully celebrates the qualities that make us want to resist the hypnotic destruction of vampires, the mindless starvation of zombies, and the seduction of demons.
And Romney is a businessman leader whose careless words and smug dismissiveness have brought us an understanding of his privileged status (i.e. over the 47%) and his leadership blinders (for example, the “binders of women” misrepresentation).
I’ve written about Romnesia and leadership, and Obama’s strategic use of the term, but here we have an irresistable Halloweenie bridge –Zomnesia –the way a ravenous hunger for more more more (brains or money or power) obscures any memory of the ways our human connection and shared community hold us together as a nation.
The various undead communities thriving in today’s political economy suffer from Zomnesia: an insatiable greed that overwrites awareness of heart and mind, so that the infected forget that their gifts grew out of community support, and are meant to serve that community in return.
“Zomney: He Needs Brains” or Zombie Leadership, Redux
Zombie leadership, if such a thing exists, has three requirements to thrive:
1. Its hunger must be satisfied at whatever cost — usually feeding off its followers, and sending them into the world to spread the word: greed is good.
2. It depends on our fear to make us more suggestible.
3. It can only survive if the healthy are divided into small, more vulnerable groups.