Michelle Levigne

A recovering Trekker and Cleveland Indians fan, Michelle Levigne works full-time as a freelance editor. Current projects include the upcoming print version of her SF series, “The Chorillan Cycle,” from OakTara, Arthurian fantasy, “The Zygradon Chronicles,” at Uncial Press, and the YA fantasy series “The Hunt,” at Writers Exchange, Australia. Heavy influences in her life include Bill Cosby, Isaac Airfreight, and Marvel Comics. Website: www.Mlevigne.com.

Wouldn't You Like To Be A Zombie, Too?

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Let me start by saying I am not a rabid Jane Austen fan. I’ve read only Persuasion. Sense and Sensibility is still sitting in my to-be-read bookrack (yes, I have a three-tier rack, not a pile or a single shelf.) I have seen Mansfield Park, two versions of Emma, and two of Pride and Prejudice. In the raging debate over the Colin Firth version versus Kiera Knightly’s, I have to say, “Kiera, stick with Elizabeth Swan, not Bennet. Stay with the pirates!”

My lack of expertise in all things Jane being stated (and that includes the fictional Becoming Jane and Miss Austen Regrets on A&E), I will now proceed to try to analyze this: How do you describe the marriage of a piece of beloved, classic literature with a B-movie horror plot that comes out being . . . amusing?

When I first ran across Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on Amazon, I thought it had to be a joke. A tasteless joke. Brainless. (Which is ironic, because there’s nothing a zombie likes better than a fresh brain.)

Can anybody tell me why vampires and zombies and other assorted creatures of the slimy, rotting, nightmare-ridden darkness are so popular nowadays? Why do we keep revisiting these areas in literature and movies? How many times are they going to remake Halloween and Night of the Living Dead and Texas Chainsaw Massacre and . . . get the picture?

Why do people find vampires sexy? Why are they portrayed as heroic and lovable? People, this is a creature that wants to suck your blood and/or turn you into a demonic nightmare creature—and not because it wants to give you the “gift” of eternal pseudo-life. Ever heard the saying Misery loves company?

Someone speculated that we revisit our nightmares to make ourselves stronger and braver. Kind of like someone with an inner ear imbalance who keeps getting on the highest, fastest, twistiest roller coaster he can find, despite the torture to his body and the unpleasantness he might visit on the people surrounding him. Can we say stupid, masochistic, and just plain gross? (Kinda like zombies . . .)

What really bugs me is when these celebrations of death and destruction and evil become entertaining, humorous even. Where is the dividing line between enjoying being frightened and becoming desensitized to it?

Many people say that art reflects the tastes, mindset, and values of society. But art also influences the way people think and the things they want to do, the way they want to be, and how they treat one another. How many people see something on TV and in the movies and want to copy it? Watching all that violence as entertainment takes away the horror and disgust that people should feel toward rape, murder, and destruction; nuclear warfare and biological weapons; slavery of children and objectifying of other people—which makes it easier to do them harm.

At least PP&Z (sorry, I just can’t keep writing that long title over and over) doesn’t make the zombies attractive or sympathetic. You don’t see some young woman running out to the leader of the zombies, offering herself to him as his eternal bride. The zombies are painted exactly as they are (or would be, if zombies existed): disgusting, dangerous, to be annihilated rather than coddled, and caused by a plague that strikes the innocent as well as the stupid and careless. (Kind of like AIDS.) The Bennet sisters are trained as warriors to fight zombies, with an Oriental code of honor.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest . . . my favorite bits:

The layering of Oriental culture: clothing, food, warrior training, architecture, philosophy—on English society. How come whenever we need warriors, everyone turns into a Ninja or a Shaolin monk?

When Mr. Darcy first snubs Elizabeth, her reaction is to reach for her knife (her sword didn’t go with her ball gown) to challenge him to battle—unfortunately, zombies attack the party and distract her.

Boot-licking Mr. Collins marries Charlotte—who is becoming a zombie. Elizabeth is the only one who realizes what is happening. No one else notices that the bride is pale and oozing sores and developing disgusting habits. That could be a comment on a lot of people in our society who only see what they want. And in the same vein, Mr. Darcy, as a warrior, cripples Mr. Wickham for running off with Lydia, who is then doomed to spend the rest of her life tending him. I’m a firm believer that jerks should get what they deserve. So sue me!

Instead of the battle of words when Lady Catherine demands Elizabeth to promise not to marry Mr. Darcy, it’s a battle of swords. And Elizabeth gets the better of the old bat (who is famous for slaying zombies), sparing her life only because she knows Mr. Darcy would be upset otherwise.

And when Elizabeth and Darcy declare their love for each other, they run into a field full of grazing zombies and share their first battle. How romantic!

If Jane Austen were alive today . . . would her agent sue Mr. Smith for plagiarism? Or would she have gleefully collaborated in this amalgam that allows her wit and insight into the pettiness and blindness of society to shine through, perhaps even more clearly than the original? I appreciated that the author did not dwell on the rotting flesh and disgusting actions of the zombies but on the people who fought to defend the world from them. Maybe what we need are more Elizabeth Bennets to see the zombies among us and leap out there with swords—whether in actions or words—and stop them before they make all of us zombies too.