The mall as battleground

George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978)- a satirical look at consumerism.

‘It is difficult to comprehend the radical import of Dawn of the Deadwithout briefly considering the significance and history of its setting — the shopping mall. The dawn of the shopping mall age in the 1960s was met with widespread enthusiasm, and mass hysteria was even reported at several newly-opened malls (Morris 405). In recent decades, mall hysteria may be less common, but the shopping mall remains a cultural fascination in capitalist countries, while in cinema, malls have become a staple location for smart-ass American teen movies, like Amy Heckerling’s Clueless (1995). It is easy to underestimate, therefore, the relative novelty, in 1978, of Romero’s simple but inspired idea of setting Dawn of the Dead in a mall.

According to Meaghan Morris, one of the most exciting and attractive aspects of the shopping mall is the contrast between its massive structural stability and the constantly shifting composition of its population (394). In this sense, a mall is like a theatre or a stage: a space demanding action and transformation. Romero certainly recognized the dramatic potential of the mall, which may be regarded as both the epitome of corporate capitalism and — for the same reason — a potential site of resistance to the forces that regulate consumerism.’

from Zombies, Malls, and the Consumerism Debate: George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead

Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture (1900-present), Fall 2002, Volume 1, Issue 2

by Stephen Harper

University of Glasgow