Discussion Questions for “Night of the Living Dead”

Write a paragraph or two in response to each of the following prompts.

The main protagonist of “Night of the Living Dead,” Ben (Duane Jones) is the first Black lead in a major American horror film. How would you describe Ben as a character? How does he dress and act? What are his main traits? What defines him as uniquely heroic in the face of the zombie apocalypse?

We first encounter the character of Ben when he meets Barbara at the farmhouse. Describe their interaction in some detail. How does this scene establish their relationship to each other and to the zombies? In what ways might this scene have cut against white audience expectations in the late 1960s?

Consider the film’s narrative device of using radio and television news broadcasts to explain what’s happening and to escalate the tension? How are the zombies described by newscasters? What current events would this reporting have brought to mind for viewers in 1968?

Writer-director George A. Romero wrote the script without any thinking about the race of characters and said he cast Duane Jones as the lead simply because he was the best actor for the part. How does this apparently inherent “color-blindness” affect the film? What is present or absent that might be handled differently in a more overtly race-conscious production? What finally does the film explicitly and/or implicitly say about race?

Published by Chuck Caruso

writer of dark fiction (crime, horror & western noir), literary & textual scholar (american gothic, noir, po-co, sf), and cultural critic

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