(SPOILERS) World War Z questions inside.
July 1, 2013 8:26 AM   Subscribe

(SPOILERS) World War Z questions inside.

Read the book, saw the movie.

While reading the book I heard from a few sources that the plot is a rather unpleasant, pro Israel, allegory for the Zionist/Arab struggle (hence the World War Z title). I didn't really find this to be the case however after seeing the movie I wonder if there is perhaps something to it all.

In the movie Jerusalem is the last city standing after the Zombies show up, it is made clear that this is because of Israel's experience dealing with Palestinians. The movie then shows the Israelis being altruistic and letting outsiders, mostly Palestinian, through the wall into the safe city. The Palestinians are then clearly shown to cause the downfall of the city as soon as they get in.

Am I crazy or was this a completely obvious and disgusting confirmation of the Zionist/Arab struggle hypothesis I was told about while reading the book?
posted by Cosine to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've always heard that the book is about the Iraq war, not the Arab Israeli conflict. That reading (Iraq) makes much more sense to me.
posted by emkelley at 8:40 AM on July 1, 2013

I mean, that's one reading. What are you really asking? Whether it's an intentional parallel? I'm not sure that's an answerable question.

This was one of the few parts of the film I liked, FWIW.
posted by eugenen at 8:41 AM on July 1, 2013

Z is for Zombie. That's all you really need to know. The Israelis are shown letting in everyone who's not undead.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:43 AM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ideefixe: The movie makes it pretty clear that only Israel has it's shit together, then it tries to be nice and let Arabs in, but those Arabs then immediately bring on the downfall of everything.

Did no one else see that? I felt it, I find pieces online that felt it, I just want to know what Mefites felt.

Movie was god-awful btw.
posted by Cosine at 8:46 AM on July 1, 2013

Thought the movie was pretty good, and that you're reading too much into this. North Korea was doing better than anyone. Israel was second best, and was open to anyone coming in, and I don't remember anything from that scene that explicitely said the people who caused the invasion were non-Israeli.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:57 AM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also: The Z stands for zombie.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:57 AM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Didn't see the movie, heard it was awful. The book says that Israel was the only country to be properly prepared due to a cultural trend towards paranoia after the Holocaust and especially the yom kippur war.

They unilaterally invite in all Palestinians to shelter behind the wall. The "Israeli Civil war" is started by ultra-orthodox Jews who were upset at the repatriation of Palestinians and the surrender of Jerusalem (which is tactically indefensible).

The book, (which I consider the "real" story) uses Israel to make the point that irrationally paranoid people clinging to outmoded beliefs are their own worst enemy, a theme repeated throughout. The Palestinian boy almost doesn't take the offered refuge for fear that it's an Israeli "trick". The ultra-orthodox start a war over what they see as a religious betrayal. Neither considers the much more pressing, immediate threat of zombies.
posted by nickhb at 9:01 AM on July 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

nickhb: Thanks! I wanted to review the book after the movie but someone else has my copy. Your description jogged my memory. Probably also explains why I found the zionist accusations baseless while reading the book.

That is not at all how it happens in the movie, they make it very clear that when then allow people into Jerusalem the Palestinians (by dress and head coverings it's made pretty clear these are not Israelis) are overcome by joy and begin singing and chanting, which draws Zeke in and wrecks everything for everyone.

(skip the movie, it really has zero to do with the book (I wanted to see... ANYTHING else but was outvoted))
posted by Cosine at 9:07 AM on July 1, 2013

Setting aside the Palestinian component, it's a common trope in zombie movies that some of the survivors approach the threat very differently than the protagonist, leading to everyone's downfall. This goes all the way back to Night of the Living Dead, where Ben struggles with the other survivors about the best strategy to deal with the situation.

So, I would say this wasn't deliberate, so much as just an example of the trope.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:50 AM on July 1, 2013

I read the book quite a while ago and really enjoyed it; saw the movie just the other day and it was... not good. There were some good moments, but the whole thing pretty much went off the rails pretty quickly.

I hear what you are saying about the movie's take on how things went down in Jerusalem, and also felt uneasy about that. It's hard to say if that was an intentional political statement, or if it was just more of the clumsiness that afflicted the whole movie.

The other thing about it that made no sense to me: if you are so paranoid that you would build that wall, you would also be sufficiently paranoid to be monitoring it obsessively for any sign of a breach. But they were not monitoring the wall, and so got caught by surprise. So, in that moment, you can see it as the the noise of the Palestinians that brings the downfall -- but you can also see it as the Israelis becoming so consumed with controlling the influx of Palestinians that they lose sight of the real threat (and perhaps there's also a touch of an indictment of them for their hubris in thinking the wall is so impenetrable that they don't need to keep watch).

But, honestly, if the filmmakers were trying to make any statement, they did it pretty incoherently. The whole thing was a hot mess.
posted by fikri at 9:51 AM on July 1, 2013

Am I crazy or was this a completely obvious and disgusting confirmation of the Zionist/Arab struggle hypothesis I was told about while reading the book?

It's unlikely that this was intentional. The book and the movie were written by different people. The book was written by Max Brooks alone; the movie's story was written by J. Michael Straczynski and Matthew Michael Carnahan, and then the screenplay was written by Carnahan, Drew Goddard, and Damon Lindelof.

A few people have made the observation that Brooks's original work seems to have a Zionist bent to it, but even if so, it would only really apply to the sections of the book that cover that part of the world and its role in global politics. Other parts of the book don't really touch on it. You could take that part of the book to be something reflective of Brooks's mild political leanings (I don't really think it's portrayed strongly enough to come down one way or the other), but the rest of the book is not really about any one thing besides zombies.

From a screenwriting perspective, it's much less likely that the four people who worked on the story said, "Well, let's make sure there's a scene in which Israel is awesome and Palestinians just come in and fuck everything up, because that is a political message that is wise to send in a movie that's already grotesquely over budget and really needs to have as many people as possible come see it," and much more likely that they said, "Welp, Israel is a huge powderkeg where Stuff Happens and our audience probably knows that, so we can have a big chaotic thing happening there."

This makes more sense as a hypothesis if you consider that they cut a lot of content because they were afraid of making the movie too political.

In short: The answer to your question is no.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:29 AM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Those Arabs then immediately bring on the downfall of everything. "
No, the loud people singing bring on the downfall. I just saw it yesterday.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:34 AM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'd say that the film goes out of its way to show lots of different people noisily singing and shoutily celebrating their 'salvation', which brings about their ultimate downfall. Any intended message, such as it is, is probably something along the lines of counting chickens before they're hatched. And: "Zombies? STFU!"
posted by hydatius at 10:47 AM on July 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Regarding the book, nickhb has it, in my opinion. It's strange to me that the book would be thought of as pro-Zionist, because I think Brooks pretty clearly points out the fundamentalist errors made on both sides. If anything, the book argues that both sides need to work/live together to a much greater extent than they do today.

It's almost not fair to discuss the book in the same breath as the movie, as it seems like they threw the entire book plot out the window. Poor book, to be associated with a movie that draws nothing from it.
posted by lillygog at 10:47 AM on July 1, 2013

Can't speak about the movie, but the book uses Israel as an example of a state that is familiar enough with and paranoid enough about truly existential threats that they are willing to take dramatic steps (including giving up Jerusalem, unlike in the movie) to protect themselves.

Yes, in the book people Max Brooks likes tend to survive while bad ends come to those he doesn't (the Karl Rove allegorical character ends up literally shoveling manure). I don't think there's a Zionist message there beyond the author deciding it was more plausible (due to politics, history, relative wealth, infrastructure, etc.) for Israel to adapt and survive while the arab states are consumed by the zombie hordes.

The book's narrative structure is based more than anything else on oral history books like Studs Terkle's The Good War. This was never going to survive the transition into an action movie. Probably the only way to do it would have been to make a mockumentary more in the style of an Errol Morris film, like The Fog of War.
posted by Wretch729 at 11:23 AM on July 1, 2013

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