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Personalising the Apocalypse: Frontier Mythology and Genre Hybridity in Maggie

Carter, M (2017) Personalising the Apocalypse: Frontier Mythology and Genre Hybridity in Maggie. Studia Filmoznawcze (Film Studies). ISSN 0860-116X

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Abstract

An independent US-Swiss co-production released by Lionsgate Films and Roadside Attractions, Maggie (2015) is marketed as a post-apocalyptic Horror drama and appears most obviously as a zombie-apocalypse film. It soon becomes apparent, however, that Maggie differs markedly from other, more traditional zombie-apocalypse films. It blends recognisable elements from several mainstream genres and, though largely conforming to the well-known conventions of so-called classical realism, echoes some of the alternative narrative strategies traditionally associated with independent American and European cinemas. Although rich with interpretive possibilities, this article shall touch on a less overt, some might even say fringe aspect of Maggie’s narrative; namely, its engagement with a number of aspects of America’s frontier mythology. This might seem a strange connection to make at first since the frontier myth as a popular cultural referent is most often associated with the Hollywood Western, and the Western is clearly not Maggie’s most recognisable narrative schema. However, the myth’s association with the Western, while historically dominant, is far from exclusive and it would also be a mistake to deny the myth’s links to other film genres through the related connections that exist between categories of films that, on the surface, seem to have little to do with one another. This is especially so in a film as “genre confused” as Maggie. To be clear, this article does not claim Maggie to be a Western, at least not in any traditional sense that we might understand it. Rather, it interprets Maggie as a part of a more general trend in contemporary cinema typified by the hybridisation of the codes and conventions of numerous genres and subgenres; especially, but not exclusively, those that bring an international perspective to bear on traditional genre categories. In the case of Maggie, this works to undermine audience expectations through a process of inversion and deconstruction that reconfigures the erstwhile familiarity of the zombie-apocalypse’s popular-cultural terrain. For, in referencing the Western and its related frontier mythology in the way that it does, Maggie demonstrates the adaptability and continued relevance of both in relation to the complex dynamics of contemporary global film genres. It is within this context that Maggie references the Western and, in so doing, highlights the continuing influence of frontier mythology in contemporary popular culture.

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