“You weren’t very nice, but I’m sorry you’re dead”
The park is “such a peaceful place,” according to Timmy Robinson’s mother in Andrew Currie’s Fido (2007), but lurking within its pristine bushes and lush flower gardens are sinister secrets. Happy events are supposed to take place in community parks, but in Willard, the park has become a space of abjection, as well as the location for casual baseball games, a common pastime that is normally the mainstay of Western recreation. In this narrative, the park, the players, the game, and even the ball have become abject objects, tainted with blood.
The baseball abjectification begins when Timmy’s dad is too busy to play ball with him, and heads out one Saturday morning to hit golf balls on the driving range. Strike one for Mr. Robinson. Timmy enlists their Zombie, Fido, to play with him instead. Fido is not very coordinated and seems unable to catch the ball, so Timmy tells him, “You play like a girl,” and later in exasperation, “If you can’t catch it, you gotta go fetch it” (Fido). These two references, likening Fido to a girl or female who is an “other” in patriarchal thinking, and a pet, alluding to the animalistic and lower-than-human, set the stage for a drama that will turn the game of baseball upside down.
Timmy has invited a Zombie — an abject non-human creature who threatens the good citizens of Willard with their Zombified “alienated and/or dehumanized state of being” (Ross), to enter into the prosaic ball game with him. Baseball symbolizes all that is ordinary, safe, and comforting to the stereotypical American family. Timmy’s baseball gets lost in the bushes and trapped under the walker of Mrs. Henderson, who is spying on someone to whom she declares, “Disgusting” and “If your mother could see you now” (Fido). These sentiments foreshadow words that will ironically personify herself. Her character is the cranky hypocrite, a stereotyped grouchy old woman, who has scolded Timmy earlier in the film by ordering him to put his bike away, even though she has no authority to do so. That and her spying also characterize her as a nosey-parker, busy-body type who invades others’ spaces without their permission, making her an abject person even before she becomes a Zombie. When she hits Fido with her walker, unhooking his collar, her grumpy intrusiveness unleashes a monster that devours her, fully transforming her into a non-human. An arm is severed from her bloody body, just the sort of body part that is needed for a nice game of baseball. Her pitching days are over, and the bloody baseball, left as an abject token at the scene of Fido’s transgression, marks the spot where events crossed over into left field.
The happenings that lead up to the “baseball game” illustrate how the Zombie trope challenges society’s status quo, and thereby questions our way of looking at and experiencing life (Webb and Byrnard 96-97). The roles of the elderly, women, children, and fathers are addressed by the baseball-themed abjection. The use of a walker to attack a repulsive non-dead creature such as Fido places a tool of helplessness in older people as a weapon of bloody destruction that unleashes a monster. Death and life are interwoven into the fabric of the abjectified park and community themes, as people are eaten and Zombified in flower gardens while picnicking and during innocent recreation. Family values are held under the spotlight, as friendship with a Zombie becomes more meaningful than a father/son relationship. A child’s ability to exhibit wisdom, as in Timmy’s case, is greater than the adults in this story. Timmy demonstrates distaste as he chops off Mrs. Henderson’s head with a shovel, and apologizes to her as he buries her body. “You weren’t very nice, but I’m sorry you’re dead” (Fido), is a simple, mature statement of fact — the kind of honesty many adults find elusive. A child becomes a major player in an adult world.
Why do we tolerate such nincompoops as Mrs. Henderson? What makes Timmy’s dad so insensitive to his son? Why is a Zombie nicer to Timmy than his dad? What makes people so mean? By characterizing Fido as “normal” and baseball as “undead,” the text forces us to examine both what is the norm and who is really alive. In the words of Julia Kristeva in The Power of Horror, “the abject simultaneously beseeches and pulverizes the subject” (5), which beautifully describes the park, the game of baseball, and the actual baseball itself in this film. The park is pretty, eliciting feelings of comfort and relaxation, but suddenly becomes the scene for Zombies running around eating people. Throwing a baseball is such a droll and commonplace activity, yet in Fido it turns into a bloody pawn in an ugly cannibalistic attack. The very nature of baseball as an institution is unparalleled, yet in Currie’s film the desecration is complete, as though one’s favorite team has been literally massacred by the opposition in the first inning.
Timmy disposes of the Zombied Mrs. Henderson in an apparently lovely, but now abjectified flower bed, demonstrating what ugly realities might lurk under the surface of cultural niceties. Fido continues to prove his loyalty and devotion, attracting admiration from Mrs. Robinson and foul jealousy from Mr. Robinson. One dark night, Mr. Bottoms, the security czar for ZomCom, discovers the bloody baseball and hits a home run by connecting Fido and Timmy to the crime. Mr. Bottoms tells Timmy, “Because you made friends with a Zombie, a lot of nice people are dead,” and “Yessir, these problems are all about containment” (Fido). Life and death seem to be a game, and the containment of the Zombies behind the wire mesh fence is reminiscent of a baseball diamond with the players out on the field.
Timmy’s father, in a heart-to-heart moment, shares with Timmy that he’s not interested in feelings but in “being alive,” and lectures him about how he should not pay attention to his childish emotions. Strike two for Mr. Robinson. Instead of an appropriate gift for a young boy — such as a baseball mitt — he gives Timmy a gun. In another sterling case of abject imagery, Mr. Robinson directs Timmy to put the gun in his school backpack and “don’t forget the bullets” (Fido). The standard carrying case for a school boy — and the place where weapons in contemporary times are smuggled into schools to cause terrible harm — is used by a father to “contain” a gun. Mr. Robinson has made Timmy’s backpack a receptacle for death, thus turning his childhood school experience into an abject scene of repulsion. Strike three, Mr. Robinson — we knew you were out.
Finally at the end of the narrative after Mr. Robinson has had his funeral, Mrs. Robinson throws a party in their backyard. Fido is firmly established as the “man of the house,” and the Bottoms family arrives with Mr. “Zombie” Bottoms in tow. Timmy asks Cindy if she wants to play ball, demonstrating that all the abjectification in the film has created new awareness in him. He now appreciates that “others,” such as girls, might be good baseball teammates. Even Mr. Bottoms, now a tamed un-dead human is welcome to join the game. Timmy throws the ball to Fido, who in turn tosses it back in perfect form. Timmy remarks, “Nice catch!” (Fido). Fido’s coordination has developed through his humanization, so he no longer has to fetch. The game of baseball has transmogrified from bloody abjection to become all inclusive: girls, boys, Zombied humans, and humanized Zombies can all share in the sense of community that is engendered through participation in America’s pastime. Currie has ripped apart this pastime, spilled its guts out on the field, examined all of its players and moves, and at least made it to first base by creating a new set of rules that catches all his characters in a new game plan.
Kristeva, Julia. The Power of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia University Press, 1982.
Ross, Reagan. “Notes on Abjection.” e-mail message. Oct. 19, 2009.
Webb, Jen and Sam Byrnand. “Some Kind of Virus: The Zombie as Body and as Trope.” Body and Society. (2008) 14. 83-98.