• Sign up for new title announcements and special offers.

  • Pretend We′re Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Pop Culture

    Author(s):
    Pages: 232
    Illustrations: 18 b&w photos
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
  • Cloth: $89.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-3733-1
  • Paperback: $24.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-3745-4
  • Quantity
  • Add To Bag
  • Acknowledgments vii

    Introduction: Capitalist Monsters 1

    1. Serial Killers: Murder Can Be Work 13

    2. Mad Doctors: Professional Middle-Class Jobs Make You Loose Your Mind 53

    3. The Undead: A Haunted Whiteness 89

    4. Robots: Love Machines of the World Unite 123

    5. Mass Media: Monsters of the Culture Industry 151

    Notes 185

    Bibliography 199

    Filmography 207

    Index 211
  • Pretend We’re Dead is a convincing, accessible work that will interest everyone from academics and media analysts who like offbeat criticism to horror lovers who like to watch zombies eat brains.”

    Pretend We’re Dead is a great read and is ultimately convincing with its claim that ‘The history of capitalism can be told as a monster story from beginning to end’. It will be an exceptionally useful book for those who teach courses on pop culture, cultural studies, horror, and sf. The language is very accessible and should appeal both to undergraduates and graduate students.”

    Pretend We’re Dead provides a brilliant map for locating everyday monsters before they can swallow us whole.”

    “[A] sophisticated and rewarding Marxist analysis of the horror movie. . . . Where Newitz differs from any other writer on horror that I’ve read is in her insistence that her distinctively American, anti-capitalist tradition of horror begins not with the Enlightenment and its discontents, which find form in the European Gothic novel of the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but rather with the naturalist novel of the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This is a startling and, at first sight, highly contentious position, but it’s one that Newitz argues rather brilliantly.”

    “[A] terrific survey of ‘monster’ movies of the last 20 or so years and pop culture well before that, and focusing on cannibals, robots, and serial killers. . . . [F]ascinating stuff. . . . [G]roundbreaking material. . . .”

    “[A] welcome addition to this recent literature. . . . [I]t is certainly a book to recommend to undergraduates and a useful entrée to materialist critiques of the fantastic.”

    “[Newitz’s] work skillfully builds upon and reorients, the kind of approach that Wood and Pirie initiated. . . . [I]nsightful readings and involving prose style. . . .”

    “Annalee Newitz blames capitalism. In Pretend We're Dead, the Wired writer asserts that this system so alienates us from each other and our true selves that we create—and consume, and become—ever-more-shocking pop-culture symbols of our own misery, from the zombies on Night of the Living Dead to Ted Bundy to vampire games.”

    “Annalee Newitz has succeeded in forging a new and exciting pathway into thinking about monsters in American culture. Though the conclusions it draws are dark and, frankly, quite bleak in terms of our future in a capitalist world, Newitz manages her material in a way that is passionate and engrossing.”

    “Annalee Newitz’s engagingly written and accessible Pretend We’re Dead takes a very different approach to the feminist psychoanalysis of such benchmark studies as Barbara Creed’s The Monstrous-Feminine and Carol Clover’s Men, Women and Chainsaws . . . . Pretend We’re Dead is a thoughtful and well-argued critique of capitalist fantasies.”

    “Given the effectively marginal status of Newitz’s position, a great point in her favor is the straightforwardness of her arguments. She does not complicate them unnecessarily by resorting to obscure language or taking long detours through theoretical debate. A working journalist as well as an academic, she is precise and direct in assimilating complex ideas into her discussion. . . .”

    “Like the work of Slovenian theorist Slavoj Zizek, which it sometimes resembles, Pretend We’re Dead is a book that conveys rich insights about our society through inventive examination of specific films. And it’s fun to read as well, whether you could give a crap about horror movies or not.”

    “Ms. Newitz's discussion spares no contemporary horror icon. From serial killers and mad doctors to the annoying undead, robots, and mass media monsters -- all are fodder for her unwavering gaze. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you will agree or disagree, but one thing you won't be able to do is put the book down easily, or read it just once.”

    “Much of what [Newitz] has to say about robots and fears of automation is well taken both as social commentary and as close reading of particular texts.”

    “Newitz . . . considers the flesh-eating undead as symbols of racial oppression—a credible reading, given the genre’s Afro-Caribbean roots. . . . [F]resh. . . imaginative. . . .”

    “Newitz has constructed a text which is very reader-friendly, written in an accessible and pleasant language, which will easily appeal to both genre fans and students. As well, by utilizing Marxist, postcolonial, feminist, and cultural theories to study American horror film and literature, this book will certainly be attractive to scholars across a number of disciplines. Pretend We're Dead provides refreshing insights into American horror film by excavating questions of class and economics from the grave, and challenging the American myth of classlessness and economic equality.”

    “Newitz should be congratulated for managing to make these (let’s face it) silly stories seem important and, at the same time, make highbrow cultural theory seem accessible, without ever overdoing it or falling into formulaic reductionism. It is not every writer who could mention Jean Baudrillard and Wes Craven in the same sentence and not come off sounding pretentious. . . . Newitz helps us look beyond the fake blood and spooky music to ask what really scares us, to examine the ways the culture industry uses our fears to turn a buck, and to consider why we keep coming back for more.”

    “Newitz skillfully guides the reader through over a hundred years worth of pop culture monsters that reflect the horrors of capitalism in the United States. . . . Newitz’s argument is stimulating but her knowledge of horror films is what really drew me in. . . . Finally a book to link all my nightmares with my politics.”

    “Newitz supplies a completely unique analysis, one that should elicit the attention of economists, anthropologists, cinema freaks and serial killers alike. . . . With a book like this, just perusing the bibliography is gratifying in itself. The sheer variety of resources Newitz turned to for this thing is impressive indeed. Who would have imagined seeing The Red Badge of Courage in the same bibliography as Michael Heim's The Erotic Ontology of Cyberspace?”

    “Newitz’s book is eminently timely and readable.”

    “The monsters display a surprising range of economic commentary and Newitz does a find job of finding and distinguishing between the different anxieties that monster stories register.”

    “The point here is zombies, or maybe vampires. And also capitalism. Which may seem like two entirely unrelated topics, but Annalee Newitz may change your mind. . . .”

    "[Newitz's] vast knowledge of cultural criticism, which she incorporates without a hint of ego, makes it work. Shifting seamlessly from a blow-by-blow account of Videodrome to a discussion of Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, Pretend We’re Dead is like an extended conversation with that U. of C. friend who, despite being frighteningly comfortable breathing the rarefied air of high theory, will still go see Snakes on a Plane with you."

    Reviews

  • Pretend We’re Dead is a convincing, accessible work that will interest everyone from academics and media analysts who like offbeat criticism to horror lovers who like to watch zombies eat brains.”

    Pretend We’re Dead is a great read and is ultimately convincing with its claim that ‘The history of capitalism can be told as a monster story from beginning to end’. It will be an exceptionally useful book for those who teach courses on pop culture, cultural studies, horror, and sf. The language is very accessible and should appeal both to undergraduates and graduate students.”

    Pretend We’re Dead provides a brilliant map for locating everyday monsters before they can swallow us whole.”

    “[A] sophisticated and rewarding Marxist analysis of the horror movie. . . . Where Newitz differs from any other writer on horror that I’ve read is in her insistence that her distinctively American, anti-capitalist tradition of horror begins not with the Enlightenment and its discontents, which find form in the European Gothic novel of the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but rather with the naturalist novel of the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This is a startling and, at first sight, highly contentious position, but it’s one that Newitz argues rather brilliantly.”

    “[A] terrific survey of ‘monster’ movies of the last 20 or so years and pop culture well before that, and focusing on cannibals, robots, and serial killers. . . . [F]ascinating stuff. . . . [G]roundbreaking material. . . .”

    “[A] welcome addition to this recent literature. . . . [I]t is certainly a book to recommend to undergraduates and a useful entrée to materialist critiques of the fantastic.”

    “[Newitz’s] work skillfully builds upon and reorients, the kind of approach that Wood and Pirie initiated. . . . [I]nsightful readings and involving prose style. . . .”

    “Annalee Newitz blames capitalism. In Pretend We're Dead, the Wired writer asserts that this system so alienates us from each other and our true selves that we create—and consume, and become—ever-more-shocking pop-culture symbols of our own misery, from the zombies on Night of the Living Dead to Ted Bundy to vampire games.”

    “Annalee Newitz has succeeded in forging a new and exciting pathway into thinking about monsters in American culture. Though the conclusions it draws are dark and, frankly, quite bleak in terms of our future in a capitalist world, Newitz manages her material in a way that is passionate and engrossing.”

    “Annalee Newitz’s engagingly written and accessible Pretend We’re Dead takes a very different approach to the feminist psychoanalysis of such benchmark studies as Barbara Creed’s The Monstrous-Feminine and Carol Clover’s Men, Women and Chainsaws . . . . Pretend We’re Dead is a thoughtful and well-argued critique of capitalist fantasies.”

    “Given the effectively marginal status of Newitz’s position, a great point in her favor is the straightforwardness of her arguments. She does not complicate them unnecessarily by resorting to obscure language or taking long detours through theoretical debate. A working journalist as well as an academic, she is precise and direct in assimilating complex ideas into her discussion. . . .”

    “Like the work of Slovenian theorist Slavoj Zizek, which it sometimes resembles, Pretend We’re Dead is a book that conveys rich insights about our society through inventive examination of specific films. And it’s fun to read as well, whether you could give a crap about horror movies or not.”

    “Ms. Newitz's discussion spares no contemporary horror icon. From serial killers and mad doctors to the annoying undead, robots, and mass media monsters -- all are fodder for her unwavering gaze. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you will agree or disagree, but one thing you won't be able to do is put the book down easily, or read it just once.”

    “Much of what [Newitz] has to say about robots and fears of automation is well taken both as social commentary and as close reading of particular texts.”

    “Newitz . . . considers the flesh-eating undead as symbols of racial oppression—a credible reading, given the genre’s Afro-Caribbean roots. . . . [F]resh. . . imaginative. . . .”

    “Newitz has constructed a text which is very reader-friendly, written in an accessible and pleasant language, which will easily appeal to both genre fans and students. As well, by utilizing Marxist, postcolonial, feminist, and cultural theories to study American horror film and literature, this book will certainly be attractive to scholars across a number of disciplines. Pretend We're Dead provides refreshing insights into American horror film by excavating questions of class and economics from the grave, and challenging the American myth of classlessness and economic equality.”

    “Newitz should be congratulated for managing to make these (let’s face it) silly stories seem important and, at the same time, make highbrow cultural theory seem accessible, without ever overdoing it or falling into formulaic reductionism. It is not every writer who could mention Jean Baudrillard and Wes Craven in the same sentence and not come off sounding pretentious. . . . Newitz helps us look beyond the fake blood and spooky music to ask what really scares us, to examine the ways the culture industry uses our fears to turn a buck, and to consider why we keep coming back for more.”

    “Newitz skillfully guides the reader through over a hundred years worth of pop culture monsters that reflect the horrors of capitalism in the United States. . . . Newitz’s argument is stimulating but her knowledge of horror films is what really drew me in. . . . Finally a book to link all my nightmares with my politics.”

    “Newitz supplies a completely unique analysis, one that should elicit the attention of economists, anthropologists, cinema freaks and serial killers alike. . . . With a book like this, just perusing the bibliography is gratifying in itself. The sheer variety of resources Newitz turned to for this thing is impressive indeed. Who would have imagined seeing The Red Badge of Courage in the same bibliography as Michael Heim's The Erotic Ontology of Cyberspace?”

    “Newitz’s book is eminently timely and readable.”

    “The monsters display a surprising range of economic commentary and Newitz does a find job of finding and distinguishing between the different anxieties that monster stories register.”

    “The point here is zombies, or maybe vampires. And also capitalism. Which may seem like two entirely unrelated topics, but Annalee Newitz may change your mind. . . .”

    "[Newitz's] vast knowledge of cultural criticism, which she incorporates without a hint of ego, makes it work. Shifting seamlessly from a blow-by-blow account of Videodrome to a discussion of Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, Pretend We’re Dead is like an extended conversation with that U. of C. friend who, despite being frighteningly comfortable breathing the rarefied air of high theory, will still go see Snakes on a Plane with you."

  • Pretend We're Dead sets our monsters free of the dank laboratory of psychosexual studies and sends them rampaging across the landscape of economic reality. A sweeping, liberating, and wonderfully readable book.” — Gerard Jones, author of Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book

    “Of all the modern (and postmodern) culture commentators, Annalee Newitz has the perfect blend of a fan’s unabashed enthusiasm and a true critic’s engaged, iconoclastic insights and questions. Casual and smart, bold yet breezy, Pretend We’re Dead won’t just make you take a second look at the landscape of modern horror—it’ll make you look at modern consumerist life (and death) with fresh eyes.” — James Rocchi, editor in chief of cinematical.com and film critic for CBS-5 San Francisco

  • Permission to Photocopy (coursepacks)

    If you are requesting permission to photocopy material for classroom use, please contact the Copyright Clearance Center at copyright.com;

    If the Copyright Clearance Center cannot grant permission, you may request permission from our Copyrights & Permissions Manager (use Contact Information listed below).

    Permission to Reprint

    If you are requesting permission to reprint DUP material (journal or book selection) in another book or in any other format, contact our Copyrights & Permissions Manager (use Contact Information listed below).

    Images/Art

    Many images/art used in material copyrighted by Duke University Press are controlled, not by the Press, but by the owner of the image. Please check the credit line adjacent to the illustration, as well as the front and back matter of the book for a list of credits. You must obtain permission directly from the owner of the image. Occasionally, Duke University Press controls the rights to maps or other drawings. Please direct permission requests for these images to permissions@dukeupress.edu.
    For book covers to accompany reviews, please contact the publicity department.

    Subsidiary Rights/Foreign Translations

    If you're interested in a Duke University Press book for subsidiary rights/translations, please contact permissions@dukeupress.edu. Include the book title/author, rights sought, and estimated print run.

    Disability Requests

    Instructions for requesting an electronic text on behalf of a student with disabilities are available here.

    Rights & Permissions Contact Information

    Email: permissions@dukeupress.edu
    Email contact for coursepacks: asstpermissions@dukeupress.edu
    Fax: 919-688-4574
    Mail:
    Duke University Press
    Rights and Permissions
    905 W. Main Street
    Suite 18B
    Durham, NC 27701

    For all requests please include:
    1. Author's name. If book has an editor that is different from the article author, include editor's name also.
    2. Title of the journal article or book chapter and title of journal or title of book
    3. Page numbers (if excerpting, provide specifics)
    For coursepacks, please also note: The number of copies requested, the school and professor requesting
    For reprints and subsidiary rights, please also note: Your volume title, publication date, publisher, print run, page count, rights sought
  • Description

    In Pretend We’re Dead, Annalee Newitz argues that the slimy zombies and gore-soaked murderers who have stormed through American film and literature over the past century embody the violent contradictions of capitalism. Ravaged by overwork, alienated by corporate conformity, and mutilated by the unfettered lust for profit, fictional monsters act out the problems with an economic system that seems designed to eat people whole.

    Newitz looks at representations of serial killers, mad doctors, the undead, cyborgs, and unfortunates mutated by their involvement with the mass media industry. Whether considering the serial killer who turns murder into a kind of labor by mass producing dead bodies, or the hack writers and bloodthirsty actresses trapped inside Hollywood’s profit-mad storytelling machine, she reveals that each creature has its own tale to tell about how a freewheeling market economy turns human beings into monstrosities.

    Newitz tracks the monsters spawned by capitalism through b movies, Hollywood blockbusters, pulp fiction, and American literary classics, looking at their manifestations in works such as Norman Mailer’s “true life novel” The Executioner’s Song; the short stories of Isaac Asimov and H. P. Lovecraft; the cyberpunk novels of William Gibson and Marge Piercy; true-crime books about the serial killers Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer; and movies including Modern Times (1936), Donovan’s Brain (1953), Night of the Living Dead (1968), RoboCop (1987), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), and Artificial Intelligence: AI (2001). Newitz shows that as literature and film tell it, the story of American capitalism since the late nineteenth century is a tale of body-mangling, soul-crushing horror.

    About The Author(s)

    Annalee Newitz is a contributing editor at Wired magazine and a freelance writer in San Francisco. She is the former culture editor at the San Francisco Bay Guardian and was the recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship in 2002–03. She is a coeditor of White Trash: Race and Class in America and Bad Subjects: Political Education for Everyday Life. She has written for New York magazine, and numerous other publications, including The Believer, salon.com, and Popular Science. Newitz has a Ph.D. in English and American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

Explore More
Share

Create a reading list or add to an existing list. Sign-in or register now to continue.


Contact Us

  • Duke University Press
  • 905 W. Main St. Ste 18-B
  • Durham, NC 27701
  • U.S. phone (toll-free): 888-651-0122
  • International: 1-919-688-5134
  • orders@dukeupress.edu