Saturday, March 23, 2013

Zombies and Why I Love Them

Anyone who knows me knows it was only a matter of time until I blogged about zombies. 

I am, after all, obsessed with The Walking Dead. Ob. Sessed. 

When I'm bored these days I often end up mentally planning my response to a zombie infestation. I'll be on the train and my mind will start wandering until suddenly I'm locating possible weapons, the most defensible location, an avenue of escape and the best way back to Banjoville so I can save my kid.  When I'm cleaning my house I'm not thinking about what I'm doing.  Pfft. No way.  When I'm at the grocery store, I'm not really reading that food label. Noooohohohoho.  I'm figuring out:
  1. how to fortify my house or whether I should relocate after Zombipocalypse;
  2. how to keep my fortified sanctuary warm in the winter without ringing the dinner bell for the friendly neighbourhood dead-heads;
  3. how much food I would have to stockpile; 
  4. who I would save;
  5. where to go to get some useful weapons; etc.

I know, I know, that sounds like I'm taking the fast train to crazy town but it fills the time while I commute or drive or, you know...whatever. 

I just realized today that all my zombie-prepping plans are fundamentally flawed - I've only ever accounted for slow zombies. In case you've been living in a pop-culture cave for the last 30 or so years, there are two kinds of zombies: slow ones (a la George Romero's Living Dead movies or the Walking Dead) and fast ones (a la 28 Days Later and 2004's Dawn of the Dead remake). 

Slow zombies are scary because they're tireless - oh and they're dead, they're ugly and they want to eat you for breakfast - but fast ones?  Let's just say I'll take a persistent shambling corpse exhibiting a slow Cerebellar Ataxia Gait over a crazy flesh eating Usain Bolt any day.


I haven't always been interested in zombies but over the years I've become fascinated with them.  I began by wondering whether these are just titillatingly horrifying tales or if there's some social commentary in there somewhere.  Surprisingly enough, there quite often is - a message I mean.  Peter Dendle, an associate professor teaching in the US wrote a book called The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia.  He said,  "Zombie movies tap into our apocalyptic fears and anxieties very effectively.  They de-romanticize the connections between human beings and reduce humanity to its lowest common denominator, focusing on power relations in their most brutal human form. It's 'I will exert my will over you.' It's very Nietzscheian." 

*cough* I'm sorry Peter, but I think half of my readers had an aneurysm when you said the word zombies in the same breath as Nietzsche.

Why do I love zombies and zombie stories? Well, because despite the fact that they are monster tales they tell a very human story every single time.  The Zombipocalypse's backdrop of brother eating brother provides an especially bleak backdrop against which to examine how people live, learn, cope, fight, love, die, and maybe even evolve when everything has gone to hell.  Depending on how the story is told, the audience may end up rooting for humanity's survival or despairing at our failings, sometimes at the top of our lungs.
My favourite zombie stories:
1. The Walking Dead:  As I said, I love this show but it is not for the faint of heart.  In one recent episode three of the main characters drive by a hiker who then spends the entire episode trying to catch up - coming close but never quite making it.  Later, they drive back to their home base and pass through a pretty gory scene showing the hiker has been attacked by zombies and killed.  They don't even blink!  Instead they stop, back up and casually open the door to pick up his pack just in case he was carrying anything useful before heading home.  Eep!
2. Warm Bodies: This book was a great, light read.  I could go on and on but I don't want to spoil it for any of you who haven't read it go and read it already.
3. 28 Days Later: OMGOMGOMG! This was the first "fast zombie" movie I ever saw although I'm not sure the monsters in this movie really qualify as zombies.  28 Days Later was scary as hell. I covered my eyes constantly and I loved every minute of it. Let's just say I took up running soon after watching it.
4. Zombieland: This movie was a really funny Zombipocalypse story. I still mourn the demise of the Twinkie, not because I ever liked them but because of the role they played in this story.

5. World War Z: I think I read through this entire book without stopping to sleep.  I liked the format because it is a bit unusual: it's a collection of eye-witness accounts talking about the rise of the zombies and the battles fought by the living to survive and I thought Max Brooks did a good job using different voices in his writing while telling a cohesive story. I am a bit worried about the movie that's coming out later this year but the book is well worth reading.
6. Dawn of the Dead (2004):  It was one of the few times in my life I've thought a remake got it right and improved on the original.

Despite my love of zombies, I don't write about them...or at least I haven't yet.  Stay tuned.


  1. Great post. Next time you can list the worst zombies in pop culture. In that case, who could forget the late-career Piers Anthony creation Zora Zombie, who, with the force of true love and a little magic, is restored almost to the state of a living woman...except she isn't. She's dead. And she and her beau are gonna have sex. And...blarg. I can't remember which Xanth book this was, but it was where I gave up on P.A. forever, sickened and horrified beyond belief.

  2. Hmm...was that Dragon on a Pedestal? I can't remember either. I remember feeling nauseated too even though she's supposedly equivalent to someone who has just kicked it. Eeew. I like your suggestion of listing the worst Zombies. Gawds, there are just so many of them!

  3. Zombies: They've been written to death. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) Worst Zombie movie of all time (and maybe the worst movie of all-time: - - The Junk Picker