Although actor, writer, and comedian Simon Pegg titled his memoir Nerd Do Well, he has frequently voiced a preference for “geek” over “nerd.” In 2007, he defined the difference for talk show host Jonathan Ross, arguing that “geek” implies “an enthusiast” rather than “the specky idiot” implied by the word “nerd.” And indeed, the unbridled enthusiasm for pop culture that defines modern geekdom runs through much of Pegg’s most notable work. The turn-of-the-millennium British sitcom Spaced, which marked Pegg’s first major onscreen collaboration with his real-life best friend Nick Frost, is rife with references to the geek touchstones of the latter decades of the twentieth century: Star Wars, The Matrix, Evil Dead II, The X-Files, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to name just a few. Pegg and Frost’s big screen collaborations have followed suit: Shaun of the Dead pays tribute to George Romero’s zombie splatter fests, Hot Fuzz affectionately tweaks the buddy-action nonsense of cult films like Point Break, and The World’s End is a comic twist on Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style alien takeover movies. But the 2011 road movie Paul – which marked Frost’s debut as Pegg’s co-writer as well as co-star – is perhaps the comic duo’s most affectionate take on geekdom.
Tag: Simon Pegg
Shaun of the Dead – 2004 – dir. Edgar Wright
Now for a more natural apocalypse film. Perhaps the most natural apocalypse film for an apocalypse that most likely isn’t happening but feels like it could. Not a parody of the zombie apocalypse genre but rather an entry that just so happens to be a comedy, Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead presents pre- and post-zombie apocalypse life as uncannily similar. Its comically bleak set-up turns into a twisted sort of positivity. “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” by REM would fit if not for the fact it’s a complete cliche and Wright has much better taste in soundtrack selections than that (the movie owns “Don’t Stop Me Now”, and also makes good use of Prince’s Batman soundtrack… as a weapon).
In trying to pinpoint the appeal of the 2007 comedy Hot Fuzz, critics and fans are likely to come up with the phrase “British humor” to encapsulate it, but that catch-all term (like “alternative rock” or “ethnic food”) is so broad as to have hardly any meaning at all. When “British humor” can stretch to accommodate everything from feel-good exports like The Full Monty and Saving Grace to subversive comic firecrackers like Monty Python’s Life of Brian and the terrifying, short-lived TV sketch show Jam, something is probably amiss. So if we can’t cite “British humor” as an endorsement of Hot Fuzz, how can we describe its appeal?
2004’s Shaun of the Dead, the superior British horror-comedy that broke stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in America, is clearly proud to take its cues from George Romero’s hugely influential zombie films. (Its title is an obvious pun on Romero’s 1978 horror touchstone Dawn of the Dead.) Zombies are fast-moving and ferocious in several recent movies, but Wright and Pegg (who also co-wrote Shaun‘s screenplay) choose to mine Romero’s traditionally slow-moving, moaning flesh-eaters for scares and laughs. More importantly, they know that what makes Romero’s zombies timeless is that they are never just zombies; Romero uses his monsters as vehicles for social critique, whether covertly satirizing mindless consumerism (in the original Dawn of the Dead) or class injustice (in the recent Land of the Dead). The same may be said of the shambling undead who populate Shaun, though the concerns of its filmmakers are more intimate than they are sweeping. Pegg has described Shaun as a film about turning thirty; it offers a particularly apocalyptic vision of the end of a prolonged adolescence.