Zombie consumerism in “White Noise”
When humankind turns directionless and destination less, when confusion confounds the society, when people act and react as if they are in world created out of hallucinations, when muddle-headed thinking becomes the accepted reasoning of lifestyles, take it for granted that they are the best candidates for and the ardent supporters of zombie consumerism. Phillip Mahoney in article Mass Psychology and the Analysis of the Zombie: From Suggestion to Contagion in the book Generation Zombie: Essays on the Living Dead in Modern Culture (2011) writes “What is important is that, for now “zombie” effectively operates as an “empty signifier,” capable of calling into existence an active, global front dividing those who respond to the call—in “whatever” fashion—and those who do not”(p.126). This is a situation of fiasco and confrontation, created out of the gifts of the materialistic civilization, the mad race for aggrandizement for wealth and heading towards the purposeless goal of more and more purchases, whether an individual genuinely needs those commodities or not!
The subject matter (plot) of White Noise and the issues dealt with under the nomenclature of Zombie consumerism are more or less identical, just like the alternative beats of the same heart. Zombie Consumerism is an all-embracing concept and it can be part of any field of activity. When an individual buys goods just for the sake of shopping, without any rhyme or reason, without the genuine want, he becomes part of the zombie consumerism. Zombies do not belong to the world of imagination alone. They represent something culturally current. It can be anything, social unrest, social awakening, weird movies, science fiction, and they hold the mirror to show the picture of the prevailing conditions in the society. Zombie is intimately related to sustainability. It moves in tandem with the changing psychological conditions of humankind as a whole, or highlights the peculiar social, cultural developments in a particular country which later spreads all over the world through the medium of fiction, movie, print and electronic media. Consumerism in all cases is the intimate and inseparable part of zombie culture as its sustaining base is popular support.
When zombie consumerism is discussed, mall is an inseparable part of it. It is the main action stage for consumptive hunger of the unthinking zombie where a heaven for the living is promised, at cheap prices. An individual does not think whether he wants a particular item or not but buys because it is cheap and others are buying it. Soon the product becomes trendy but no one is sure, whether it serves any genuine purpose, yet without possessing it, the consumer thinks that the life remains incomplete. Consumerism is like the marathon race, where thousands run merely for the sake of participation and to get a participation certificate. The popularity of the zombie films is on the increase since 1930s. There is something in their content that creates an unending appeal for the viewers of any culture. Zombie characters have stood the test of time. Take for example movie monster in “Frankenstein” or Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. The television market too has joined the bandwagon of zombie movies.
White Noise is the eighth novel by Don DeLillo that overtly and covertly highlights the zombie culture. It is classified as part of the postmodern literature just as zombie consumerism is part of the modern lifestyles. The story of the novel is about a man who believes in the concept of pure race, which Adolph Hitler advocated during his reign of terror. The hero of the novel marries five times to four women and his sole purpose is to breed children and grandchildren. Most of the details in the book highlight the miserable and confused existence of the humankind in the present day and the challenging gory events like a catastrophic plane crash, chemical spill and the advancing, life-threatening black cloud, simulated evacuation, drug dealings, dangerous side effects of the drugs, killings and sex, rampart consumerism, underground conspiracies and human-made disasters etc. Such topics represent the concept of zombie culture.
- Boluk, Stephanie (Ed.) Lenz, Wylie (Ed.) (2011) Generation Zombie: Essays on the Living Dead in Modern Culture. McFarland & Co Inc.; New York; English
- DeLillo, Don. White Noise (novel) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia <en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Noise_(novel)> Accessed on March 29, 2014