One Man's Plan: Zombies stole my mind
This image released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a public service poster on Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic. "The zombies are coming!" says the Homeland Security Department. Tongue firmly in cheek, the U.S. government urged citizens Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012, to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, part of a public health campaign to encourage better preparation for genuine disasters and emergencies. The theory: If you're prepared for a zombie attack, the same preparations will help you during a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake or terrorist attack. (AP Photo/ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
A bicyclist and jogger pass a group of zombies posing for pictures on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2010. The stunt was part of a campaign in 26 cities worldwide promoting the Halloween premiere of the AMC television series "The Walking Dead." (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
I miss the zombies. It’s been almost two months, and I miss their plodding gait, their gurgling moans and their unwavering quest for feasting on all things living. The Walking Dead, the greatest hour of zombie-themed televised entertainment in the history of the world, is in mid-season hiatus, not to return until February, and I can’t take the waiting.
Based on a series of graphic novels of the same title, The Walking Dead concerns the misadventures of Sheriff Rick Grimes and his ever-dwindling band of stressed-out survivors. They’ve stuck together in the searing heat of the Georgia summers while hordes of virus-infected fellow citizens make their lives miserable. Rick and crew have endured lies, deception, double-crosses, infidelity, abandonment, spousal abuse, matricide, lack of food, water, gas, bullets and sleep, and, of course, nonstop harassment from their former neighbors, families, co-workers and friends who are determined to eat them.
Everything’s better with zombies. Transform any boring situation into a laugh-riot in a snap by just inserting a simple word! Consider the following paragraph: “I went to the hospital the other day to visit my cousin Gina, who just gave birth to a baby. I took the bus home and sat next to a vegan. He seemed lonely.” Add “zombie,” and you have the start of a compelling story. “I went to the hospital the other day to visit my cousin Gina, who just gave birth to a zombie baby. I took the bus home and sat next to a vegan zombie. He seemed lonely.”
Thrusting zombie-ness into everyday life means instant danger! Except if the zombie waiting for his cross-town transfer refuses to wear leather or eat meat, dairy or eggs. There’s nothing lonelier than a vegan zombie on a public bus.
There are countless zombie-themed films to help me wait it out like a holed-up survivor of an apocalyptic attack – the catalogue is vast. For every 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead, there are so many others, like Shaun of the Dead, Dead Clowns, Dead Summer, Fast Zombies with Guns, Redneck Zombies, Zombieland, the aptly named They Must Eat, and the closest the genre comes to documentary, the fabled 1959 classic Teenage Zombies.
Or I could skip the cinema and hunker down in the Xbox bunker to satiate my hunger for zombie tomfoolery, playing endless hours of Left 4 Dead 2, Burn Zombie Burn! or Lollipop Chainsaw (“An action game which stars a chainsaw-wielding cheerleader who must rid her high school of zombies”) until Rick and his winnowed band of survivors returns to my Sunday night TV screen, welcoming me with entrail-soaked arms and sad faces.
Perhaps I’m being too low-brow with these ghoulish distractions and a good book is what I need. There, too, I can find a bookmobile’s worth of zombie novels, everything from Max Brooks’s Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z to acclaimed novelist Colson Whitehead’s Zone One, in which the protagonist, Mark Spitz, balances his zombie-killing duties with the ennui that comes with any post-societal collapse at the mouths of those who want to dine on his flesh. And if I finish those, there’s always Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the 2009 novel that’s exactly as it’s described, right down to the Bennett sisters slashing a roomful of corseted attackers to death (again) with razor-sharp knives.
I can’t explain my obsession with zombies, much less everyone else’s. Our culture’s so saturated that even dilettantes of the living dead know that A) zombies can infect you with a single bite, B) you’ll die from that bite and reanimate as a zombie, C) you’ll cast off any concern for personal hygiene once this happens, and D) you will be really, really slow, like your older sister who hasn’t owned sneakers since Reagan’s second term slow. There are examples of running zombies, like the ones chasing Will Smith and his dog across zombie-infected Manhattan in I Am Legend. Fast zombies upset the natural order of things, like when old people buy family-planning supplies. Slower zombies and celibate gammies are better.
Maybe we conjure so many zombie stories as a way to tackle our fear of humankind’s haphazard advancement (aka, zombies a result of government scientists goofing around on our dime) to distrust of technology or even fear of socialism (comrades, like the zombies on the front lawn, don’t go to church or care about our freedoms). Or maybe it’s a manifestation of our deep-seated desire to live without rules. If you survive the first wave of flesh-eating monsters, like Rick and his desperate cohorts, your only rule is to STAY ALIVE, so why not liberate that Mustang for a spin or eat Mallomars for breakfast or burn your AP history textbook or IRS audit notice to keep warm. We live under a pretty strict social order and need an excuse to throw it all away – outlasting undead throngs is as good a reason as any.
I’m not sure which is nerdier – proclaiming my love of zombie culture or sounding like Dr. Joyce Brothers while doing it. But I don’t care. In just a few weeks, Rick, Glen, Michonne, Merle, Maggie and the rest of them will be back, and I’ll be taking notes. Because if (when) the zombies come for me, I’ll be ready, even for the vegan ones.
(Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his columns at timoshea.blogspot.com.)