Zombies on Wall Street

There are so many metaphors to be found in pop culture’s monsters-of-the-moment—vampires ruthlessly suck the life out of their victims, zombies walk around mindless, killing without bias or reason, witches corrupt our children with their evil ways and then run for congress.

The demonstrators with Occupy Wall Street were encouraged to dress up like “corporate zombies” today while participating in a march in New York’s Financial District.

And zombies aren’t the only pop culture entities making appearances; the usual suspects are all present as well—Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon have both visited along with Russell Simmons, Roseanne Barr and hip-hop artist Lupe Fiasco.

In a piece by Entertainment Weekly today, Kate Ward points out that while of course, “a vague protest isn’t a protest until Hollywood jumps on board,” she also asks the question, “at what point does the Hollywood and culture link weaken the cause?”

I’ve posted on this point before in reference to George Clooney and South Sudan’s successful secession—Hollywood’s ability to draw attention to a cause is a tricky line to walk.  While it certainly pulls headlines, one must consider (as Ward does) when we start seeing more headlines about the costumes or who attends, than about the protest itself, is Hollywood helping or harming the cause?

Though the occupation is gaining steam, especially after 700 protestors were arrested Saturday on the Brooklyn Bridge, the press has generally looked upon the demonstration negatively, portraying the mostly-young protesters as unorganized and without cause.  Something that is, at least in part, true.

Betsy Reed, Executive editor at The Nation, wrote today that the biggest criticism of Occupy Wall Street is in their failure to present demands: “What do these wan, angry young people want, anyway?” But Reed makes a larger point, why is it so important that they ask for demands in the first place?

“Of course, we need policy ideas… But sometimes, you also need a spark. ‘Occupy Wall Street,’ as an idea and an action, is a stroke a brilliance. It’s not poll-tested or focus-grouped, but it expresses perfectly the outrage that is the appropriate response to the maddening political situation we find ourselves in today. It succeeds as symbolic politics: taking back the square is just what we need to do.”

Despite Glenn Beck raving at the fact that Frances Fox Piven and Russell Simmons showed up to “incite the crowd,” warning readers to “prepare to vomit when watching”—”So what are they doing? The neoliberals.” Beck asks, “This is all becoming so very clear. Do you know why they’ve hated us so much? Look at what we have exposed. We have exposed a social justice. We exposed where they are in your churches.”How is Beck not sending out podcasts from a bomb shelter yet?—Occupy Wall Street represents a greater idea.  The gesture is indeed symbolic; there’s so much wrong but most people couldn’t tell you why or who is causing it.  Rather than going to Washington, protesters went to where they believed the real power was held: Wall Street.

Celebrities, zombies, Robert Pattenson literally turning into a bat and flying down Wall Street—these would all make headlines, but the reason for the occupation itself is clear: America is largely controlled not by the White House or Congress but by those who control the almighty dollar.

(Image credit CNN)


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