The Thing About Zombies

What would Black Friday be without zombies?

Fast zombies, slow zombies, voodoo zombies, plague zombies, cordyceps fungus zombies, radioactive and inexplicably rising from the grave zombies? It doesn’t matter. The thing about zombies that is most important to remember is that they’re relentless in the pursuit of their only goal: Feed.

Copyright: memoangeles / 123RF Stock Photo

Ah, the hordes of Black Friday shoppers out looking for deals.

It doesn’t matter if they’re the shambling, apparently mindless masses of the original classic Night of the Living Dead, the fast, corporate created, T-Virus infested mutating  zombies of Resident Evil, or the sinister, talking zombies of Return of the Living Dead. You can’t reason with them. You can’t trust them. They want to eat you (or sometimes just your brains) and they will stop at nothing to do it. It’s kill or be killed with this type of zombie.

It’s a powerful metaphor for shortsighted self-interest, especially consumerist self-interest.

Sometimes there’s something in the zombie that’s still reachable. The zombies in Shawn of the Dead still maintain some level of basic personality. Shawn’s dad calms from a feeding frenzy when he manages to turn off the blaring music in his beloved Jag. Shawn’s Mom appears docile until someone threatens Shawn (her little Pickle.) These zombies eventually become something like tamed (though not really domesticated.) A few precautions taken, and they’re back at work in the service industry.

The movie Fido takes that one step farther. Zombies have control collars and mow the lawn. The next door neighbor keeps his zombi-fied wife at home and reminds her not to bite. Children are taught to shoot in elementary school. Don’t shoot zombies in the chest. Headshots are the very best.

That situation is unusual in the genre. For the most part, zombies kill. Humans die horribly at their hands. Everyone will eventually either be a zombie or be zombie food. There’s no real hope of escape.

I love the zombies that can articulate their inhumanity the best. Why do you eat people? Not people. Brains. It’s the only thing that stops the pain of being dead and it doesn’t matter who it hurts so long as the zombie in question gets what it needs. It’s consumerism as drug addict if you will.

I know you’re in there, Tina. I can smell your brains, Zombie Freddie tells his hiding girlfriend. If you loved me, you’d let me eat your brains.

Some zombies try to control their urges. Julie is very picky about whose brains she’s willing to eat in Return of the Living Dead 3 – to the point of self-mutilation to try to keep her urge to feed in check. Ultimately, she and her infected boyfriend climb into the crematorium rather than lose the battle against their urge to feed.

In the I, Zombie TV show aren’t all ravaging, mindless, eaters. A good number of them are just trying to hide and stay alive. Some go so far as to destroy zombies that have gone mindless, even if it’s for their own selfish reasons. Blaine is literally creating the market for his “gourmet brains on demand” catering service (read: high-class drug dealer), but he’s very careful not to let it go too far. After all, if a bite infects, and someone escapes, the zombie plague could wipe out the entire food source, and worse, bring the government crashing down on his criminal enterprise.

Conversely, the main character, Liv, is trying to do some good and make some sense out of this seemingly senseless and potentially self-destructive urge to eat brains. She gets brains from seemingly ethical sources (morgue autopsies) and tries to find justice for the murder victims that ultimately keep her alive and thinking. There’s a balance at play. How can she stay alive (undead?) and find a cure.

In Warm Bodies, the balance is between feeling and unfeeling, connection and disconnection. Zombies are disconnected from the people around them. They’re seeking some way to fill the void left by the absence of other people in their lives and this urge to fill the void is what fuels the need to eat the flesh of the living, especially the brains.

The book highlights this theme, spending much more time on Zombie culture and society than the movie did. R and M share brains when they find them, passing them around like a joint. In the book, when R keeps the brain of Julie’s boyfriend for himself (basically bogarting it so he can savor all the feelings of connection to her), it’s a violation of the friendship between R & M. Completely disconnecting turns you into one of the boney zombies that the other zombies fear and avoid, so far gone there’s no hope. Only reconnecting to other people can cure the zombie condition.

Maybe that’s why I turn off my electronics and avoid the malls on Black Friday. The roommate and I did some work around the house. We did have to go out to pick up some things we needed for the house projects. We kept it to a quick jaunt to the hardware store to get just what we needed and returned home immediately after.

No hordes of zombie shoppers for us.

We did have to move the triffid (Triff-Ed, the overly large potted palm) from its usual location while we ripped up the carpet in that bedroom. Ed needed repotting badly. Luckily, the root bound mass in his old pot was the worst monster we saw today.

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