Blowback From a Reader
And he will regret hitting send.
This arrived in my inbox on Monday. It concerned a column I wrote a couple of weeks ago castigating living actors playing roles of zombies — thus not only unethically appropriating the identities of the actual living dead, but taking money out of the putrid, desiccated flesh of the zombie-actor community. My only concern in writing the piece was that — in a day when so many actors are under fire for portraying characters of unmatching ethnicities, sexualities, physical disabilities, religions, neuroatypicalities and so on — I feared I was belaboring the obvious. I expected no pushback whatsoever.
And yet the following was sent to me in a state of dudgeon so high, I found myself remarking, “Wow, that is a lot of dudgeon. So much dungeon. Of considerable height.”
You judge for yourself. Here is the correspondence from Jared Rush, who represents Jody Barden, the scombie* actor I took to task.
On this Thanksgiving week, I am very thankful for my friend and client, Jody Bardin, who time and time again shows his value and embraces his craft as an actor when he is on set. I am not thankful for columnist Bob Garfield, who not only misquoted my client in a recent interview but has the audacity to attack his craft and dedication to it. When Jody signed on to be in R.L. Stines’ Zombie Town, he not only gave his all as an Actor, but you would not be able to distinguish Jody from a real Zombie.
That is what actors do, and Jody does it successfully; and Mr. Garfield wants to say that Jody is taking jobs away from Zombies, but not one Zombie has a leg to stand on, compared to my client and what he brings to the table, where most Zombies could not even reach the table and from my understanding, not one Zombie dragged themselves to be in the film. [emphasis mine – BG]
As a background actor, Jody gives everything knowing of the possibility that his scenes could be cut from a film; and in case you are wondering, the scenes that Mr. Garfield is speaking about were cut, which makes me think that Mr. Garfield is trying to create a story rather than report one. Jody Bardin is the real deal, and he might not be a real Zombie, or an Ambulance Driver, or a member of the Russian mob, but he is an actor and that is what they do. They pretend, just like Mr. Garfield pretends to care about Zombie Rights and that Zombie Lives Matter, but he is just saying that to get attention, likes, and more subscribers!
Third Man Entertainment
Please do not get me wrong. I do not wish to seem defensive or churlish. As a professional journalist for many decades, I do not take criticism lightly. Disappointing a reader, in every case, triggers concern, sends me back to my notes and most of all leads to deep introspection. I believe anything less evinces the sort of disrespect for the audience that no author can justify, and no reader should ever face. And so here is my redirect.
Dear Mr. Rush:
I am in receipt of your missive dated November 20, 2023. Why don’t you just go fuck yourself?
Isn’t it bad enough that you and your colleague deprive patriotic Zombie Americans of their livelihoods, but now you heap insult upon injury with such inflammatory, ad hominem language as “most” and “pretend” and “about.” You think just because I am an 8-time New York Times Worst Selling Author, I somehow have no feelings, or dictionary? I can read comfortably at a 10th-grade level, thank you very much, and I can also read between the lines. As the late, NON-Proteus Syndrome-afflicted actor John Hurt (in the role of Proteus-Syndrome-afflicted John Merrick) famously exclaimed in The Elephant Man, “I am not an animal. I am a human being!” So let’s tone down the rhetoric a notch, shall we? You groomer.
It seems to be your contention that Jody Bardin’s crime of appropriation is somehow lessened, or even negated based on three factors:
He does a fabulous job imitating zombies. Let's begin there, because it is utterly irrelevant. Shall we pardon Son of Sam because he was a dedicated and quite successful serial killer? Shall we forgive Big Tobacco for murdering more than a billion smokers because cigarettes happen to be super cool? Shall we remove the fatwa against the inventors of cheese spray and the Kenner EZ-Bake Oven (assuming such decrees have been issued, as obviously they should be)?
“He is an actor, and that is what they do.” Ahem: Bill Cosby, Tim Allen, Robert Blake, Stephen Fry, Yasmin Bleeth, Felicity Huffman, Tom Sizemore, Charles S. Dutton, Christian Slater, Nick Nolte, Robert Downey Jr., Randy Quaid, Jeffrey Jones, Danny Masterson. Shall I go on? Actors do many things, including crime, Crypto commercials and ordering off-menu. Not a set of standards I’d advertise, if I were you.
If Zombies want to act so much, why don’t they just try harder? The victim blaming and blatant bigotry in that question is beyond belief. Are you completely lacking in empathy? If you have it in your heart, imagine being a Zombie. So, just for starters: dead. That’s already a challenge. Now you crave the brain tissue of non-Zombies, which makes you a killer. You have to assume that uncontrollable parasitism exacts a psychic toll. Man, when I was 12, I found a broken gumball machine in an F.W. Woolworth store and it kept turning and turning, dispensing gum without putting more pennies in the slot. I walked away with about 200 gumballs for 1 cent, and I live with that guilt every day of my life. I know how Torquemada and Monte Hall had to feel.
Mr. Rush, none of your arguments hold up to even an iota of scrutiny. But you also miss the most heinous inequity of all: When you’re a Zombie, everyone is afraid of you. They don’t want to collaborate on a show; they want to double-tap you with a 9mm. Nobody wants to sidle up next to you at the craft-services table or run lines with you between scenes. The reason these craven and immoral producers hire Jody Bardin is so they don’t have to work with real Zombies. That’s called discrimination. Apartheid. (The Late) Jim Crow. If I ever need help getting Medicaid or a cameo in The Bob Garfield Story: Humanitarian Sex Object, I guess I won’t call you.
People like you are like the Proud Boys at Charlottesville: “Zombies will not replace us.” You are actually worse. You are worse than Mark Zuckerberg. You are worse than Paul Gosar. You are worse than Olive Garden. EVEN IF YOU DON’T FILL UP ON BREAD.
Thanks again for taking the time to comment.
P.S. Please don't forget to share and subscribe!
*scombie = scab zombie
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