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What Bugs Me About Zombies

May 2, 2013


Werewolves I get. A dude turns into wolf or wolf-man hybrid and acts like, well, a wolf.

I get vampires. Although the folklore changes with every book and movie made, they remain blood-sucking supernatural creatures.

I don’t get Zombies. They don’t make sense to me. I still find the concept frightening—a walking-dead creature that lumbers toward its victim with single-minded intent. Nonetheless, the whole zombie thing confuses and frustrates me.

What bugs me about zombies most, I suppose, is the supposition that since they are dead, they have a ravenous appetite for fresh, live meat. Why in the Sam Hill do they need to eat? If a zombie doesn’t eat, what happens? Does it die? No, it’s already dead, thus the term “walking dead.” Why does a dead thing have to eat? This has never made any sense to me.

I’ve watched the last couple of seasons of Walking Dead with my sons. (Yeah, boy, there’s quality family time, eh?) I remember watching my first episodes of the series and getting to know the characters as well as the series’ rules, regulations and parameters of zombie behavior. I remember saying to my sons, “You know, if you put a Toshiro Mifune character in there complete with trusty katana and wakizashi (that’s a long and short sword—no samurai leaves home without them), said character would not only have a blast, but he would make short work of the zombie population in no time. And this person would never have to worry about running out of ammo.” Needless to say, I was happy at the introduction of the sword-wielding Michonne. She remains the only thing in Walking Dead that makes any sense to me. (Before this paragraph ends, I should let those who are not familiar with the great Toshiro Mifune know that he was the actor who played the samurai in the Akira Kurosawa movies. Sergio Leone basically ripped off the plot of Yojimbo to make the classic Clint Eastwood spaghetti western Fist Full of Dollars.)

Here’s another thing that bugs me about the Walking Dead world of zombie rules. If a zombie can turn a human by just so much as scratching a person, let alone taking a big honking bite out of him—how come you can literally take a shower in zombie blood and entrails and not get infected? What the heck? Seriously. What the heck? Week after week, the characters in Walking Dead are bathed in varying amounts of zombie gore, even to the point where it’s dripping off of their faces. They hit the showers and are fresh as ever and ready for the next episode.

I know. I’m supposed to put on the hat of “willful suspension of disbelief” and simply enjoy all the overly disgusting special effects and glotchy, splootchy stabbing sounds. I’ve put on the hat of willful suspension of disbelief many times in the past and done it happily and with great reward. But when it comes to zombies, that hat feels more like a dunce cap.

(I have a couple of really good friends who love anything having to do with zombies and have patiently explained to me why I should dig them. I know they will take issue with my words of heresy. I respect these friends immensely, but, sorry,  dudes—this post stands…)

  1. Interesting… Not to add too much fuel to the funeral pire… I found George Romero’s b/w classic an amazing little horror movie, but everything since then (okok with the exception of a few other Romero flicks – and Dead Set, which I found pretty funny) has seemed pretty meanspirited, and ultimately lifeless. I do have some thoughts on the genre – and Walking Dead – which I know will not endear me to fans of the show – but to me it seemed as though it embodies some unconscious meme that’s eating up pop culture, and it has to do with some need to justify shooting one’s fellow citizens if they come, hands outstretched asking for … food. I find that while werewolf and vampire archetypes address sublimated animalistic instincts we, as humans, harbor, that the zombie is a twisted cypher for the underclass, wandering the streets, clothes in tatters, relentlessly begging for … food. It’s as though the zombie metaphor serves to make ok taking out those of us who don’t “fit in” our group. To put a bullet through the head of this little note I add: fear of the zombie revolution is thinly disguised angst over class struggles and the revolution that will not be televised…

  2. Thank you very much for your comment, Artis. I find your analysis of the symbolism associated with Walking Dead and other zombie fare fascinating, unsettling and possibly prescient. I too have been disquieted by the zombie craze and you’ve given voice and shape to exactly what’s been bothering me. When my zombie-loving buddies give me a hard time about my stance, I’ll say, “Oh, yeah? Read Artis’ comment on my blog and put that in your meerschaum pipe and smoke it.” or…something to that effect.

  3. Thanks, Ernie! … I’ll have a sip of cool-aid to that…
    … and I think you are dead on in YOUR writing, : D

  4. Oh please spare me your platitudes Bro. Of course it doesn’t make sense, it’ s absurd, random, most often violent, sometimes scary, weird funny, and always gross to see zombies in action. But this also could define the horror genre as well. Why does it appeal to so many fans? It’s different and repulsive and only a small following at first loved these demons. Everyone who thinks differently loves a niche. I think the real love started with Michael Jackson’s video Thriller and gathered more steam after that. Soon we will be seeing World War Z at theaters. After this I think we will see the niche genre’s decline. It was fun while it lasted. On to the next gross, repulsive, disgusting, and funny thing.

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