The Undead and Philosophy: Chicken Soup for the Soulless
Shambling Hordes. Walkers. The Restless Dead. These are some of many terms used to describe a specific kind of undead creature that we know universally as The Zombie. They are rotted corpses somehow reanimated. They are never conventionally beautiful (but sometimes they are alluring despite the fact they will eat our brains), and more often than not inspire dread and repulsion because they are slowly decaying. Fast moving or slow, the fact remains that Zombies are always hungry and always relentless.
Now is the time of the zombie. Zombies have become The Monster of the Decade. They are more popular than even vampires in my opinion, and the growing hordes of media that is spreading through the genre related to them only proves my point further. The dead have risen and they demand to be fed. They are in our movies, our music, our tv shows, books and comics. They are everywhere. They even have Zombie Walks across the country, which is something you don't see any other monster getting.
What draws us so heavily to them? They never need to sleep. They shamble about mindlessly, with only limited intelligence at best. They have no real power other than to feed and to rot. They were once your wife, your husband, your kid, your best friend...
That's just it isn't it? Anyone can be a zombie. Zombies are the common man. Sure you could say the same thing about any supernatural, but it's more likely and easier to become a zombie than it is to be say, a vampire. Most supernaturals don't "spread their curse" as widely as zombies do, probably due to the fear that they would run out of food. Since zombies don't usually retain intelligence enough to understand or care about that fact, they just keep on eating. So within the realm of zombie-possibility we can all be zombies.
And that's part of the fear they generate too. They are mindless. For some of us, to loose our ability to think, to feel, to care about anything but eating, is horrible. Zombies make great statements on our society too. The consuming of everything. The fact they EAT anyone living, regardless of what you make, where you live, what color your skin is, etc. They are the grand equalizer. The weak will become dead, and the strong will survive. That's the only defining line.
George A. Romero brought zombies out of the realms of magic and voodoo and turned them into accessible creatures. He used them to make statements, accidental or not, on our modern world. Sometimes people like to explain where zombies come from, be it magic, virus, mutation or whatever. But in the end, the point really is that the dead fascinate us. There is a need these days to play with the fantasy of the zombie. We want a monster we can kill. A monster who's anonymous enough we can put whatever we want on it, and a monster who is prefect fodder to propel us into thinking about the big questions. The zombie is a catalyst, and a great one, because he is easily molded into whatever we need him to be. Hell, gender doesn't matter either. As long as it was human once.
Because in the end we all will die. We all will rot. We all wonder were our spark goes when we die, and if anything is left behind. What if only the most primal aspect of our natures is the only thing left to reanimate? What if in the end, all we really are is animals when you strip everything else away?
Okay I'll shamble off my soapbox! Here's a list of some of my favourite Zombie stuff out there:
This is an awesome book. It doesn't just look at zombies, there's a bit on vampires too, but it's a great book for giving you things to ponder when it comes to the undead. Such questions you might find in it's pages are:
"Are some of the people we know really Undead—and how could we tell? If the Undead have been programmed to hunt the living, can we blame them? Are vampires more morally responsible than zombies? Is an Undead individual the same person as before his Undeath? Do zombies have minds? Do the Undead have a right to Undeath under the Ninth Amendment, or would it be murder to Unkill them?"
If you want something entertaining, and that will make you think, pick up this book.
Speaking of books, I also enjoyed:
Not only is this book filled with beautiful colorful images of the shambling masses, the writer really knows her stuff. She covers everything from when zombies first entered western culture to the growing movement of zombie walks! It's pretty through. But what do you expect from and X-Editor of Rue Morgue Magazine.
Of course, since the Premiere happened a couple nights ago, we cannot forget this show:
This is the show zombie fans have been waiting for. It's full of zombie win. Everything is well done in this show. I'm kinda unsure how I feel about the deviation they did from the comic in season 1, but I know my husband hated it. He wants his zombies to stay in the realms of the "unknown" and I have to agree. I like my zombie stories to be about the people dealing with the zombies, and one of the neat things to watch is when the living try to figure out why the dead walk. I loved the comic because it never tries to explain why the zombies rose. All you get are the livings questions about it.
And if I had to choose my all time favourite zombie movie (just so you folks don't have to read pages of my favourite zombie stuff) I'll choose the original black and white Night of the Living Dead:
Not only is it a classic, it made very potent statements for it's time. The fact that Romero didn't even intend to make those statements makes it better. In several interviews I've heard him say how he just chose the black man as a lead because he was a good actor. Not because of his skin color. He wasn't trying to make a statement, but despite that he did. There is a sort of innocence about that. To hear him say he chose a man based on his talents alone warms my heart. If only more people in Hollywood did the same.
The Living Dead make us face our own humanity. Forcing us to face ourselves, before they devour us whole. When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth. ~Dawn of the Dead
What about you readers? Do you like your zombies fast or slow? Brain-eating or just all around flesh-eating? I like all of the above myself. I like variety, and I am mostly drawn to a good story when it comes to my zombies over anything else. I want a REASON to be hanging out with the dead. If you give me a good reason, I'll read your book, watch your film, or shamble with you in a Zombie Walk.