Media and the State of Savage Torpor
During Miranda Burgess’s lecture on Wordsworth she explained savage torpor, or zombies, and I could not help but wander off in to thought about the film Warm Bodies. It is by far my favourite zombie media, however while I was feeling guilty about daydreaming I realized I wasn’t lost from the discussion when Ms. Burgess took me out of my trance by her next words.
Ms. Burgess continued on by explaining that Wordsworth thought that savage torpor could be the result of media through its quantity, quality or by the reason it was being used. Let me go into those three categories in slightly more detail.
As discussed in lecture, during Wordsworth’s time there was a shift in technology, which resulted in an astronomical increase of published media. This shift was from a printing press which you had to load each time to the one that completed that function on it’s own. This new printer took half the amount of labour and time to print numerous copies of literature of various sorts. But Wordsworth did not believe this to be a positive progress! I paraphrase from Ms. Burgess’s lecture that Wordsworth believed that an overdose of media could result in savage torpor.
Wordsworth probably like many other authors – thought that his works were better than others, or of a higher quality; and that those of poor quality could have negative results on readers. These negative results were thought of in scientific matters as with the ideas of therapeutic literature. The impression is that some texts may potentially lift people out of depression while others could turn them to zombies. However as we saw in lecture this is all relative to the individual and their opinion on quality, so in truth this point changes the result of media for each person.
I don’t mean reason as discussed in Genesis but the question on why we are engaging with media. This third point wasn’t discussed in as much detail during lecture but I would like to fill in the blanks to some extent. Media can be healthy or detrimental in relation to why people are using it. If one is publishing media for negative purposes those intentions will flow through to the recipient, whereas if media is produced positively it can help move, change or affect the ones it is directed for. (Note the shout out to Spinoza!)
Now how do these three categories relate to the Summit Entertainment film Warm Bodies? (Watch out! Spoilers!)
Although yes this movie is a fabulous comedy, horror and romance it has a deeper message that some viewers were unaware of. The zombies in the film have lost their sense of speech or communication to various extents but during R’s and Julie’s engagement he revives and slowly comes out of his savage torpor state. As a viewer I noticed that through an increase in natural interactions R and the other zombies became human again, but it wasn’t until the flashbacks that I realized why they had gotten into the decrepit state in the first place.
The scene remembered was one in an airport where people were sitting or mulling about. The scene wouldn’t be far off from what you would find today and most people wouldn’t notice the sad truth behind the tiny glowing screens(1). Everyone in the airport was abiding their time by using some form of technological media instead of engaging in real interactions with the humans next to them.
It was incredible the connection I realized upon watching how everyone was engaging with media in huge quantities, of probably poor quality and for bad reasons (boredom to name the most common), which one might claim resulted in the zombie apocalypse! So as I said before, I don’t think I was far off in my short daydream about Warm Bodies during Ms. Burgess’s lecture, but instead right on topic. Wordsworth would have the same view on today’s technology and media as he did during the time of the printing press. Today technology and media have exploded into forms that have to be replaced year after year to offer an increase of media from an increase of suppliers whose main objective is to land the biggest moneybag in their pockets. We are far from media that is of an appropriate quantity so that we can still relate to our senses, we have lost our judgment on quality or of media’s ability to move us, and lastly positive reasons of publication are far from common. To avoid savage torpor in the society we are in, Wordsworth would recommend that we read Preface to Lyrical Ballads and do away with these “ithings” as my mother calls them.
(1) Watsky: Tiny Growing Screens Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAqVmUciDSc (Warning: Explicit content)