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Ghouls Just Wanna Have Fun (Part IV), Zombies in the City

The remainder of this essay will suggest what meanings are created by the site-specificity of the 2011 Toronto Zombie Walk. What follows is an analysis of the performance through an examination of its route and its environs. The aim is to discuss that, true to the event’s promotional material, the walk is “fun.” Through an exploration of the route, I will discuss how the Walk makes fun, street-by-street and turn-by-turn. This analysis will provide an example of how the environment of any performance–its physical and locational semiotics–serve as a foundation for the theatrical experience. The Toronto Zombie Walk transforms the city into a theatrical space, resulting in a meaningful and fun dialogue between the individual, the city, the performance, the public and private spaces as well as the space-turned-performance space. The result is a contemporary, urban, site-specific, zombie-themed, carnivalesque performance.

Zombies in the City

With a number of recent zombie films shot in Toronto, and official Zombie Walks dating back to 2003, Toronto has become familiar with zombie imagery. At the same time, the circumstances and imagery surrounding a fictional zombie uprising are becoming shockingly common and relate-able in urban existence. As Kyle Bishop (2010) suggests, “Scenes depicting deserted metropolitan streets, abandoned human corpses, and gangs of lawless vigilantes have become more common than ever, appearing on the nightly news as often as on the movie screen” (11). With images of the June 2010 anti-G20 riots still fresh in the minds of Torontonians, and recent Occupy Toronto movements garnering media attention, the poignancy of a hoard claiming the streets as their own stirs memories, as well as political and social viewpoints in the citizenry. In a post-SARS, post-H1N1 large urban centre like Toronto, the performance of a viral zombie epidemic recalls the horrors of rapidly-spreading maladies and resulting panic in congested cities. The image of a sick city is an image of terror. In zombie literature and film, a viral zombie uprising “encapsulates the elements of an epidemic that should arouse the greatest amount of dread and anxiety from individuals” (Drezner 100). This breed of fun is one which plays with mindsets and memories, prompting the audience to re-view the meanings attached to shared experiences, gatherings and energy exchange in common spaces, as well as how media covers urban events.

G20 Clown Protest

G20 Clown Protest cc: flickr.com/photos/chrishuggins

The Zombie Walk challenges what Toronto has defined as “acceptable” and “official” processional performances. As the most highly populated city in Canada, Toronto is home to a number of large parades. Millions of people attend the three biggest annual parades: Pride Toronto, Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival Toronto and The Toronto Santa Claus Parade (toronto.ca, Art and Culture in Toronto). These parades are a celebration of fun in the city, providing spectators an opportunity to celebrate together and to perform together. The city provides space, security and promotion of the events and reaps the financial and cultural benefits from the influx of people into the city core. These three official processions are deeply entrenched in the ideologies of the culture, and can be likened to medieval official feasts, which “sanctioned the existing pattern of things and reinforced it…asserted all that was stable, unchanging, perennial: the existing hierarchy, the existing religious, political, and moral values” (Bakhtin 9). In contrast, the medieval carnival and Zombie Walk serve to temporarily suspend these hierarchies, questioning and subverting cultural norms and attitudes. Juxtaposing the Zombie Walk with the official Toronto parades is an examination of parades in general–their function in society, the fun they promote and how they reflect and mediate dominant ideologies.

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This entry was posted on February 7, 2012 by in performings, writings and tagged , , , , , .

What’s all this?

I've created this site to document and share research and activities related to my Masters of Arts program. It's partially a blog, partially a journal, partially whatever you want it to be. Feel free to have a good look around at what I'm reading, seeing, writing and thinking about. I'd love to see/hear your comments.

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