Thoughts about “Pontypool”

Pontypool, to me, is a movie that talks about knowledge and the burden of it. Our learning experiences contribute to our stockpile of knowledge which later influences our decisions. In the case of this film, that knowledge grew to a monstrous form that it can hold a person captive to it. This can be seen through the metaphor presented by the strange mechanic involved in the film’s zombie transformation. Once a person utters an infected English word which he/she understands, that person will later turn into a zombie. The English language, considered by many to be the universal language, can be a metaphor to truths that are usually considered to be universal or absolute. Whenever we take in a fact, we can say that, in a way, we eventually find ourselves trapped by it. Appealing or not, since we understood that fact we do not or cannot dispute it. Our actions and decisions would then revolve around that fact, which would then turn that fact into something that would haunt us for the rest of our lives. For example, remember your first experience about death and how much it traumatized you and compare that to imagining being a person that will never know or understand what death means or what it entails. Death has its negative aspects which affects a person’s decision-making. Surely because of it, people are a lot more careful with what they do. Even daredevils make calculated risks whenever they do their stunts because of it. People develop phobias which are derivative to the fear of death, like the fear of heights, for one. Knowledge is usually seen as a good thing, that some people ought to be praised for having a lot of it, but Pontypool turns that into an abject, into something worth fearing to have. Imagine being a part of the movie and you started repeating a word you just said, knowing what it means to know that word, and knowing what would happen next. Imagining yourself in the shoes of Grant or Sydney in the midst of the chaos will make you wish you never knew or heard some things.

 

But a few philosophy lessons taught me that knowledge is something which is always better to have, no matter how unappealing it is. And, in this gender-stereotypical movie, Grant, the masculine male, not only actively dealt with the zombies but he also fought fire with fire by using the abject knowledge against itself, dangerously testing out words in order to confirm his theory. Near the end of the film, our protagonists find out that the way to combat the virus is to destroy one’s own knowledge of things, to reassign words to different, far-fetched meanings. By then I wondered, if everyone followed that theory and were able to go back to their tweaked state of normalcy, should the “monster” be considered destroyed or should it be considered sealed-off, waiting for another opportune time?

 

Again, I see Pontypool as a gender-stereotypical movie. Following the lectures, we have two main protagonists, Grant and Sydney, who are portrayed precisely to their gender’s stereotype. Grant is the masculine male, the active pursuer who looks the monster in the eye and tries to fight it. Sydney, on the other hand, is the feminine female, the passive receiver who gives in to the monster and accepts whatever may come after. Grant is the rough “take no prisoners” kind of guy whilst Sydney is sensitive “take it easy on the police officers” kind of gal. Sydney may not like Grant’s methods at first but she eventually ends up becoming attracted to him, since stereotypical females should like strong males. Also notice that the victimization that happened to the males were toned down compared to females in the film. We only get to hear Ken’s narration of the grisly events that were happening around him whilst we get to see the infected Laurel repeatedly punish herself as her host is trying to spread its infection. We never got to see any other gore besides Laurel’s. Also, Grant may have been a down-on-his-luck announcer but Sydney just came from a divorce and has her children to think about in the midst of the outbreak. Even though this is the case with this movie, Linda Williams and her article tells us that women can also identify themselves through the feminine monster and can find empowerment through the fearsome, manipulative power it has over its victims. For one, the film’s virus should be considered feminine because of its passive nature. Like “vagina dentata”, it only bites when it is being penetrated. In the case of this film, the virus only triggers once a specifically infected word is said and understood.

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