Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Zombies Ain't Sexy, But......

Dead Man's Bones--"My Body's A Zombie For You" (mp3)

I'm still trying to figure out this zombie thing.

Last night, I finished the sixth and final episode (of this first season) of The Walking Dead, a satisfying, well-acted, at times surprising, AMC show that has caught my interest when so many shows have not.

But, I've got to wonder, how long can it play out? After a mere six episodes, a good half or more of the people once living are now dead. And each episode is built around the same plot: trying to survive in between the last zombie attack and the next zombie attack. Of course, there's more to it than that; our characters are human, and they grapple with all of the issues of being human--lust, violence, love, envy, selfishness, and, most of all in this case, trying to remain human in every sense of the word in a world that has lost every vestige of humanity.

The zombie world, the zombie battle, is far less complicated than, say, the vampire world. They keep coming; you keep running.

But what, exactly, are the rules? I mean, there have to be zombie rules. According to my only source, The Walking Dead, once infected, you can go from alive to zombie in as little as three minutes or as long as 8 hours. Once zombified, your brain doesn't work, but your brain stem does, which means that you can walk around as if you are in a trance. Apparently, though only your stem works, you can respond to outside stimulus of your senses. Zombies see, and attack. Zombies smell, and attack. Zombies hear noises and attack. Your only goal is to eat human flesh, or any flesh, for that matter. You are a simple creature.

Vampires have a wealth of supernatural abilities and weaknesses, depending. Ability to turn into bats, travel at high speeds, live forever, sexy eyes to woo women, etc. The only thing zombies got is that they are still moving around when they shouldn't be. And not very well. Zombies don't run, and even the way they walk is about the equivalent of your grandfather or a really drunk friend. Really drunk.

And you don't interact with zombies. If, for example, when you wake up into a world of zombies you see your first half carcass crawling across the grass of a park, you might feel the briefest moment of pity for it, but then, perhaps even before it turns towards you, you realize that it is only crawling in hopes of taking a bite out of someone like you. And then you shoot it in the head. Certainly, you don't fall in love with them, don't want them to turn you into one of them for eternity. Don't feel conflicted. No, zombies aren't sexy. They're blunt and sloppy and inarticulate and gross. They stink the way a vampire should stink.

But zombies have one thing that, at least so far, vampires don't have--there are shitloads upon shitloads of them. They may not be clever, urbane, and seductive, but they are around every corner and in every field. They breed like rabbits.

And that's the rule that I don't understand. In The Walking Dead, as in most versions of zombie lore, there are tons and tons of zombies everywhere and very few people left who aren't. What in the world are all those zombies going to eat, and what happens to them if they can't find anything? I understand that if they have no food supply they will journey farther and farther to find it, but what if they don't? Don't zombies die? Oh yeah, they're already dead.

Here's what else zombies have going for them: they give us a potential glimpse of our future. In a world of increasing scarcity, zombies can stand in for whatever horde it is that is fueling your nightmares, depending on the demands of your viewpoint--AIDS-infected citizens, people of another religion looking to topple yours, illegal immigrants, people who want to trick or treat in your white, suburban neighborhood, today's supposedly-uneducated youth, mass consumers, invading armies, Americans who ain't what Americans used to be, or simply the people who want what you've got, be it water or a decent standard of living.

See, though a viewer wouldn't dare articulate it for fear of sounding overdramatic and pompous, I will. I think that zombies awaken a generalized, core fear in all of us--that there are more of them than there are of us and that there isn't a whole hell of a lot that we can do about it. And that they are coming.


Billy said...

Excellent post. I'm a zombie-phile who loved The Walking Dead but didn't really think it was all THAT well-acted or put-together. The chance to watch a legitimate zombie TV show superseded such minor quibbles, however.

A friend of mine has said this: "Vampires are Republican. Zombies are Democrat." For a conservative or libertarian type, I can see how that statement makes perfect sense.

Vampires are the rare elite. Better than everyone else. With fine tastes and that snotty sense of superiority. We humans glamorize and idolize them. Even as we admit they're kinda freaky and scary, we kinda sorta want to be one, or at least sleep with one.

Zombies? Nobody wants to be one. There's too many. They're uber-moronic. They're a waste of flesh. They exist only to suck out tax dollars and cram voting booths with ignorance.

troutking said...

Hmm, I thought Democrats were elitist and urbane, at least according to the zombies who listen to Rush and Glenn...

On another note, Zombies can be good, too: a tasty drink and the fifth best band of the 1st British Invasion.

Anonymous said...

Zombies remind me of that line from Thoreau: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Zombies strike me that way, as a metaphor for how most people walk through life. Well, without the brain-eating part, of course.

Thom Anon said...

For an extensive list of Rules for Surviving a Zombie Attack, see the movie Zombieland (seriously, it's really good. Not as good as Shaun of the Dead, but still worth streaming on Netflix):

1. Cardio
2. The Double Tap
3. Beware of Bathrooms
4. Wear Seat Belts
5. No Attachments
6. The “Skillet”
7. Travel Light
8. Get a Kick Ass Partner
9. With your Bare Hands
10. Don’t Swing Low
11. Use Your Foot
12. Bounty Paper Towels
13. Shake it Off
14. Always carry a change of underwear
15. Bowling Ball
16. Opportunity Knocks
17. Don’t be a hero (later crossed out to be a hero)
18. Limber Up
19. Break it Up
20. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, unless it’s a sprint, then sprint
21. Avoid Strip Clubs
22. When in doubt Know your way out
23. Zipplock
24. Use your thumbs
25. Shoot First
26. A little sun screen never hurt anybody
27. Incoming!
28. Double-Knot your Shoes
29. The Buddy System
30. Pack your stain stick
31. Check the back seat
32. Enjoy the little things
33. Swiss army Knife