Monday, November 14, 2011

Deconstruction: Night of the Living Dead Christian 6

A brief digression on snacks...

Welcome to the detailed (and, unfortunately, spoiler-rich) review of Night of the Living Dead Christian. For a briefer review that doesn't give anything away, read the main review. If you're curious, here's a discussion of why I'm doing this.

This is a rather long bit of reaction, so I'm breaking it up into sections. Hopefully that will allow for more bite-sized discussions. So, now that you've all been fairly warned, we'll pick up the deconstruction after the jump:

To recap: Our Heroes have escaped from Dr Bokor's Church of Zombies, and helped a member of that congregation begin to defect, thus adding a Recovering Zombie to their ranks.

We now hit a brief side-conversation about where the guys should go to get a snack. I'm not honestly sure how disturbed I should be by this. The gist of it is that as a group composed almost entirely of single males (and a token android), none of them can actually prepare food. This comes off as a bit sexist - apparently it's a woman's place to prepare food - but I've noted before that this sort of sexism isn't particularly flattering to the men, either: in the absence of their wives, apparently not one of them can so much as prepare scrambled eggs or macaroni and cheese. Since Narrator-Matt is the only one who still has his wife around, they decided to retire to his house.

I realize this is very short, but tomorrow's section is going to be quite long. So it's best to break this off here, I think. I'd say more about it, but again I'm not entirely sure how to react to it.


  1. Hey Michael--

    Did you take this as a joke poking fun at sexist husbands? Because that's what it was meant to be....


  2. ...Yes and no? I mean, I really wasn't sure how to take it. You're acquainted with Poe's Law, right? That was kind of my problem. This section did indeed have the effect of making the men look like a bunch of incompetents. And that was certainly in keeping with the general tone of the book (it being a farce, I mean) and the characters' earlier behavior. But I still wasn't sure that that was the intended effect.

    To be honest I think the Christian Fiction label may be working against you here, at least with me. I've seen too many sincere, serious arguments about the sacred roles of men and women in the Biblical model for marriage, or the need for "modesty" in a proper Christian girl or woman - arguments that make men look just as dumb and incompetent as Narrator-Matt looks here, if not more so. They're utter [expletive deleted], of course, but the people advancing those arguments are completely, even frighteningly, serious about them.

    That being the case, and this being an explicitly "Christian" book, I really couldn't tell if you were poking fun at your characters, or if you were making assumptions that seemed logical given a particular view of the Proper Roles Of Godly Men And Women.

  3. Matt: Did you take this as a joke poking fun at sexist husbands? Because that's what it was meant to be....

    For whatever it's worth, I did. Unfortunately, the joke was eventually ruined for me by a lot of the other stuff that happened with the women in the book. I couldn't read the parts with Lara and Luther's-wife-whose-name-currently-escapes-me without seeing the bits of the Bible where women are instructed to take abuse with good grace in order to show Jesus to their husbands. I think that I understood that you were trying to make a joke, but that particular joke is colored by way too much cultural baggage.

    It's tough. I think I'll have to re-visit the whole treatment of women in the book without so many histrionics and more of an eye towards, "This is how I perceived it, this is what Matt said he was trying to do, and this is why I don't quite see intention and outcome matching up." That sounds like work, though.

  4. Ha ha ha. Well, I did not know about Poe's Law until this very moment. Which is to say, I had experienced it but did not know that it had a name. Of COURSE it came up in a discussion about creationism. Oy.

    I think it's safe to say that, at least in the Christian community, I would be considered liberal when it comes to women's roles. I have heard, seen and experienced some really sad, ridiculous, sexist things in the church, for sure, and usually coming from exactly what you're talking about... the "woman's role in scripture" issues, which conveniently ignore lots of things (women as the culmination of creation, for instance; Mary as the lynchpin in the incarnation; the prophetesses in Acts) and wrong-headedly exaggerate others. Now, I've seen the opposite also, and have seen some beautiful, amazing ways where women have been treated as equals with men without commentary or a second thought.

    But I've never seen -- even in fundamentalist cults -- the extreme where men are unable to open up a bag of Cheetos. So from my point of view that seemed like an obvious exaggeration meant to be funny. But then again, here's me as a cultural insider to the Christian community, making a joke about the Christian community.

    And, Geds, I totally hear you about the abuse issue. I don't think the Bible says that women should take abuse from their husbands to show them Jesus, though I can't deny there are CHRISTIANS who say that. I hope they're a small minority now, but they're out there. It's an emotional issue (as well it should be), and part of the reason I chose it (aside from personal experience of friends in those situations making it an important issue to me) was that I assumed it was an issue that pretty much everyone could agree on... spousal abuse is wrong.

    Don't worry about doing work. The book is meant to be fun. :)

  5. Okay, thinking about this a little more... I feel sad about how ridiculous the Christian community must come across that Poe's Law even applies in a situation like this.

    I feel like I should apologize on behalf of all Christendom. Sorry. We've done poorly by women plenty of times in our history, and continue to do so today. I hope we're growing and that you rarely experience that as reality in the future.

  6. Two thoughts here:

    1. I'm not sure you're an insider to the Christian community. As a practical matter, I'm not sure any such thing exists. I think the joke probably made perfect sense as an insider to your Christian community.

    2. By the same token, I don't think you should feel compelled to apologize for all of Christendom. (Any more than all Christians should be required to apologize for the existence of Fred Phelps. Yes, his views are at least nominally Christian, but I think we're all adult enough to recognize that any group with a decent sample size is going to have its lunatic fringe - and for various reasons, the crazy ones are the ones you most hear from, or hear about.) Christians are a large and varied group, and many Christian communities are extremely progressive in all sorts of areas. Heck, just on my blogroll you'll find several Christians who are actively trying to promote a loving, inclusive, tolerant sort of faith, and in many cases trying to push back against (or just make fun of - that works, too) the more regressive, oppressive, and harmful strains of their religion.

    Bear in mind also that all of these reviews are something that I wrote on first reading the book. They're very much my initial impressions. So yes, on the first reading I really wasn't sure what to make of this - owing in large part to the cultural baggage associated with any discussion of gender roles - but it's entirely possible that the humor might have been clearer on a second reading of the book.


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