Let’s talk about the zombie apocalypse.

Classes started at my university today, and even though I’m not even teaching on Mondays, right about now I’m really relating to that song in Fight Club, “Where Is My Mind?”  (See my post from the beginning of the spring semester, “This is my brain on the first day of classes.”)  So in honor of not having a functioning brain—but also because I’ve been working on this particular project lately—let’s talk a little bit about my zombie apocalypse story.  I’ve been going to a creative writing group and getting some awesome feedback, but I’d love to hear your thoughts as well on a key issue: the title.  My working title for the story, which I eventually want to turn into a screenplay, is “Sam and Adrian in the zombie apocalypse.”  That’s nice for helping me find my Word document, but that’s about the extent of its usefulness.  Here are some other titles I’ve considered:

  • “Jungleland,” as in the Bruce Springsteen song.  It evokes the proper sense of chaos, but that song is very much about a city, and my story takes place mostly on rural roads and in a small town, so the title may be misleading.
  • “The Pursuit of Happiness,” an ironic reference to the central plot device: a man is running out of his antidepressant medication and is searching for more in a world where there are no doctors and most pharmacies have been depleted by looters.  But this title could also be confusing; I can just see audience members grumbling, “I thought this was the movie where Will Smith solves the Rubix cube!”
  • “The Road to Hibbing” because roughly the last half of the story takes place in Hibbing, Minnesota, the hometown of Bob Dylan and also of one of my protagonists.  (The first half is about getting there.)  The title accurately describes what happens, but I think it sounds a bit too whimsical.  It also makes me feel like Irish ballads should be playing during the movie trailer.  That’s not really the musical tone I’m going for.
  • “Life Is Hard,” which is going to be a recurring line in the story.  (It also gives a very subtle nod to a line from a Bob Dylan song: “Life is sad, life is a bust.”)  Effective, but a bit heavy-handed, perhaps?
  • “Sam’s Town,” as in the Killers album.  The name of my character who grew up in Hibbing and returns to his hometown is Sam, so again, an accurate description.  However, this title might lead to more disgruntled viewers—this time, people who were expecting to see a Killers tribute (though I do like the idea of using one or two Killers songs on the soundtrack, along with Dylan and Springsteen).  A similar option would be “Sam’s Home”; I like this one because it can be interpreted two different ways.  I think of this story/screenplay as, among other things, a supernatural twist on the “30-ish guy moving back in with his parents” plot, and “Sam’s Home” riffs on that a bit.

Titles are important, so I’ll probably be thinking about this for a while.  I’d love your feedback on these suggestions, along with other title ideas you may have.

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corporate stultification and the strange world of male aggression

What do the movies Fight Club, The Matrix, and Office Space have in common?  Two things, actually: They all came out in 1999, and they all offer possible responses to what many people perceived as the soul-killing materialism of 1990s corporate culture.  I watched Fight Club for the first time tonight, and the other two movies quickly popped into my mind.  They all start out with an easily recognizable Average Guy who is slowly–or quickly–dying on the inside as a result of his meaningless job in a company where everybody wears ugly ties and works in a cubicle.  Then comes the inciting incident, widely differing though it may be in each of these movies, and then a spiraling series of chaotic events that bring into vivid life that Goo Goo Dolls line (written in 1998) that says “you bleed just to know you’re alive.”  In Fight Club, the blood is quite literal, whereas The Matrix is strangely bloodless for an action movie, and in Office Space the violence is displaced onto a copy machine.  (The most violent scene of that movie is also the funniest.)  But they’re all about angry men trying to figure out what they’re angry at.

I used the word “men” deliberately.  Women are mostly peripheral in all three of these films, even though each has a token female “main” character.  They are all three about men admiring, envying, conspiring with, competing with, and beating the crap out of other men…and The Man.  I find it a bit troubling that women seem so extraneous and expendable in these worlds, but then again, I’m not sure if I, as a woman, would want to be part of them.  I’m content to be a fascinated and sometimes repelled onlooker.

Of the three movies, The Matrix is easily my least favorite, not only because, as I mentioned above, the violence is unconvincing (not that I’m a fan of violence for its own sake, but if you’re going to put it in a movie, it should look and feel real), but also because humor is important to me, and The Matrix takes itself way too seriously.  Still, I think you need all three of these films to get a comprehensive picture of how male filmmakers tried to respond to the 90s at the end of the 90s.

Now it’s your turn to chime in: Have I been inaccurate in my recollections of The Matrix or Office Space?  (It’s been about a year since I saw either of them.)  Can you think of any other parallels among the three movies?  Am I missing any movies that could fit into this paradigm?  Let me know what you’re thinking.