18 February 2012

Shaun of the Dead: Not Gameable.

Hey Shaun, look who it is!
Well fuck-a-doodle-doo!
I know the quote doesn't match the picture, but I've always liked the quote.

Somehow, I need to channel more Shaun of the Dead from my zombie game Aim For The Head, and I have no idea whatsoever how I'd go about doing that. Seriously, no idea at all. This has been a dry period for the part of my brain that usually is pretty good at generating novel ideas, so I'm content to put it here and maybe come back to it someday.

Maybe some sort of mechanic promoting teamplay, interpersonal relationships, that sort of deal would help out. But the thing is, Shaun of the Dead isn't really a zombie movie, it's a bromance movie in zombie clothing. The crux of the movie is the semi-dysfunctional relationship between Shaun and his buddy Ed, and how it resolves in the end. It's also a little sad- Shaun never does manage to reconcile his laziness with Liz, nor his relationship with Ed. Instead, the world changes around him to his benefit. Apparently zombie apocalypses have a way of making adventurous, lively women want to settle down with the slightly sad everman Shaun, and letting you get rid of your best friend by turning him into a zombie that just plays video games all day.

It's a lot deeper than what it lets on, is what I'm trying to say, and even though it's an awful prototype for a game, there's still something about it I'd like to capture.


  1. “ It's also a little sad- Shaun never does manage to reconcile his laziness with Liz, nor his relationship with Ed.”

    Wow, you missed the entire point of the movie. You really don’t see how this is reconciled in the end??

    1. I do see how it's reconciled, but it isn't Shaun that does it.

      Instead of managing the relationship between his two friends by getting them to see the good in each other, or helping Ed get a job, or doing anything other than quietly enabling Ed, the other guy (can't remember his name now) dies, and Ed turns into Shaun's eternal playmate in his garage.

      Instead of working on his relationship by either providing Liz with a fulfilling life, or excitement, or reliability, or anything, they survive the apocalypse and now Liz is turned into a quiet, suburban housewife of some sort who now thinks that sugar in one's tea is exciting. Shaun didn't actually fix his relationship- it's Liz who does the changing.

      The point of the movie seems to be either "Don't bother fixing your relationships or yourself, the world will fix it for you if you wait," or alternately, "Everything will turn out ok in the end, don't worry about it."

      So maybe I'm wrong, but like I said in the article proper, it's a little sad how we don't really see the character of Shaun grow very much. Sure, he takes charge a bit in the middle, but that doesn't mean that suddenly he's a great boyfriend or a strong leader or anything. The bandana and telling people what to do is Hollywood shorthand, not a meaningful change in direction for a character.

      Honestly, if they'd have cut the movie out when the two of them were holding hands after emerging from the basement, it would have been a stronger movie. Although, perhaps, not as silly.

  2. Yes, Shaun does reconcile both situations, either by actively making a change, or by coming to a realization within himself.

    His relationship with Liz is strained because she thinks that Shaun has no ambition, is afraid of conflict, has no leadership skills, and frankly doesn’t care enough about her to make any sort of effort. But what happens when the zombie apocalypse starts? He immediately takes charge and comes up with a plan. Sure, the plan isn’t perfect, and there are many flaws they have to deal with, but he is willing to take charge and contradict people who disagree with him.

    And more importantly, he shows that he really does care about Liz. Before the zombie apocalypse, he plans to “Get Liz back!”, but then he falls asleep instead of doing anything about it. He wants to make a grand gesture by climbing the trellis, but gives up. But once things go south, his first thoughts are about protecting Liz and protecting his mother. He climbs the trellis. He risks himself to save her. He shows her that he really cares about her: not because he’s afraid of losing her, but because he wants to actively protect her. He loves Liz, and he loves his mother, and he makes great efforts to protect them, even at the cost of his own life.

    Meanwhile, Liz has her own issues. She isn’t satisfied with her life. She feels like there’s something else “out there,” and she is upset that Shaun seems to only want to hang out and spend time with friends. But after all of the events of the movie, she isn’t “broken” and she doesn’t “settle”; she realizes the importance of friendship and reliability, and learns to appreciate the simple joy of spending time with someone who you really care about. She also knows that, if problems ever arise, Shaun will be able to step up and deal with it, because he has shown that he is able to take charge when it really matters. She understands that you don’t need to go off and explore the world to have a good life.

    As far as Ed is concerned, Shaun basically comes to the same realization that Liz does: that it’s okay to just want to hang out and spend time with your friends. He spends a lot of time with Ed at the beginning of the movie, but he resents Ed, and feels like Ed doesn’t care about anyone but himself. But once again, he sees that Ed is willing to sacrifice himself to save Shaun, and Ed also realizes that he needs to let Shaun go so that he can live his life. And Shaun is also to find a balance between his relationship and his friendship, albeit a somewhat strange balance.

    And no, you couldn’t end the movie when they emerge from the basement, because then you don’t get the resolution with Liz. Years ago, I had a friend who spent a summer on an Alaskan fishing boat, and he said it was the worst three months of his life. But he told me, “For the rest of my life, I will never feel guilty for sleeping in on a Saturday morning, or having a bowl of cereal while reading the morning paper.” That’s how I see Liz: She has been through the worst, so she learns to appreciate the simple things in life.