Given that it’s Women’s History Month, many sci-fi fans like to look at some of the female powerhouses of the genre—Buffy, Ripley, Sarah Connor, etc. However, for today’s Throwback Thursday—a look at sci-fi of the past—let’s examine an overlooked female protagonist, Dr. Sarah Bowman from George A. Romero’s 1985 zombie flick, ‘Day of the Dead’.
Played by Lori Cardile, Sarah is the lone female sheltered in an underground government facility in Florida. But while ‘Day of the Dead’ may not necessarily pass the Bechdel test, there are moments from the female perspective as she deals with the aggressive sexism that surrounds her. Sarah is far from a damsel in distress. She’s smart, headstrong and holds her ground in the midst of a conflict between differing ideologies when it comes to zombies.
The facility shelters both scientists and soldiers. The scientists study zombies (including one in particular named Bub) to try to save the undead. The soldiers have obvious objections. While both sides are justified, the ultimate horror is that each camp has a maniacal leader. Dr. Logan (Richard Liberty) performs some pretty screwed up experiments and has the gall to put a gun in Bub’s hand. Captain Rhodes (Joseph Pilato) is a horrendous military man, treating those who disagree with him exactly like a hoard of zombies.
Sarah proves pragmatic, saving those who deserve to be saved with a levelheadedness that Rick Grimes could probably use. The movie is gritty and hints at the evolution of the undead into something far more dangerous. However, once the (spoiler alert, I guess) final massive invasion happens, the movie borders on being silly. We have zombies trudging in who are clowns, ballet dancers (plodding en pointe), brides and grooms. It’s as if every special event was happening when everyone became infected. It doesn’t take too much away from the movie. It just reminds you that this isn’t ‘The Walking Dead’. It’s just a fun zombie movie.