What’s So Great About Zombies?

As it is Friday, I have spent most of my energy over the course of the past four days. My reserves are low and I’ve lucked into an “E” day schedule which means I will teach only one class during the first four periods, but four classes over the last four. This means that I will likely spend the first half of the day in a state of energy preservation so that I can unload the metaphorical clip at the end of the day. I am in what I (and others, I am sure) call “zombie mode.” My mind is not sharp. My thoughts are not clear.

Only Brad Pitt (okay, maybe Tom Cruise) could look so dashing in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

Only Brad Pitt (okay, maybe Tom Cruise) could look so dashing in the midst of a zombie apocalypse.

When Lynnette and I watched Breaking Dawn pt. II, we were treated to two trailers for movies prominently featuring zombies. The first was World War Z starring Brad Pitt. It’s one of those trailers whose aesthetic is chaos. The only things I was able to perceive clearly were Brad Pitt’s face and wide shots of landscapes. It appears as though the filmmakers consciously avoided close-up shots of the zombies, opting instead for a mass climbing upon itself in the search of non-zombies to consume. World War Z is based on a book I will likely never read and is a movie that I will likely never see unless I happen upon it on tv or Netflix years from now. I am, however, really excited to see SNL’s Taran Killam’s impersonation of Pitt in a sketch parodying the film.

It's clever, I'll give it that.

It’s clever, I’ll give it that.

The second zombie film was Warm Bodies, which ostensibly appears to be a zombie romance. The trailer for this film was much more expository in regards to its plot. A zombie falls in love and slowly regains its/his humanity. Then a bunch of other zombies begin to regain their humanity, too. I see the parallels. The spread of the zombie disease is akin to the spread of love is akin to the way a meme goes viral. I can appreciate that. There was a legitimately funny scene as the male zombie instructs his human love interest to act dead. When she overdoes it, he tell her to play less dead. Good stuff. This is another movie I will likely never see unless the stars align and I catch this on tv when Mad is 6 years old and hopefully she’ll be old enough to understand the whole zombie thing and I won’t have to field questions like “Why he eating her face?” Honestly, that’s a tough question to answer.

Okay, these zombies are fine.

Okay, these zombies are fine.

Which is to say, that I don’t understand the fascination with zombies. I’ve always appreciated their sporadic appearance in popular culture, the most famous of which is America’s Best Zombie Dance Crew from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” I’ve always appreciated the simplicity of the zombie archetype in that it makes for easy comparisons.

Case in point: When Lynnette was still working at Kapiolani, she was coming off something like two 12-hour night shifts in two days. She got home at 8 in the morning and took a shower. I likely coerced her into some form of pop-pop (I know, the fact that I’m calling it that shows you that I’m not ready). When we got up later – probably some time near lunch – we went out. I think I looked at her when we were sitting in the car and I noticed the dark bags under her eyes. I probably asked her if she was tired or something. This happened a long time ago, I confess I don’t remember all of it clearly. What I do know for sure is that I started singing the chorus of The Cranberries’ “Zombie,” complete with the “Zombeh, zombeh, zom-beh, eh, eh, eh, ooh-oooooh.” It was a joke. I meant for it to inspire laughs. Instead, it inspired Lynnette to go on a make up shopping spree that has never quite ended. She has never let me live this down. Was it worth it? Lynnette, don’t read the next two sentences! Yes. Yes, it was.

Zombies aren't bacon: they don't make everything better.

Zombies aren’t like bacon: they don’t make everything better.

I suppose the current zombie fetish is a logical escalation recent popular culture. Twilight brought about the vampire renaissance in the same way that comic book-themed films ejaculated all over popular culture. There’s been a small robot resurgence masked in part by Transformers and its nostalgic qualities. Aliens were huge in 90s. J.K. Rowling revived magic, and Percy Jackson attempted to mine the Greek gods. Zombies are a part of that science-fiction-y realm of popular culture. It makes sense that they’d be exploited in a similar fashion. I don’t know what’s next, but I know that when it happens, I’ll feel stupid for not being able to see it coming.

I suppose I can see why women might be drawn to a film like Warm Bodies. Aside from featuring a somewhat transcendent love story, it features a male zombie who is attractive in the Edward Cullen undead manner who is the rarest of all males: the guy who loves a woman for her brain. Who cares if it’s literally? But in general, the idea of zombies doesn’t interest me because they’re no complexity to them. While World War Z might address the complexities created by a zombie epidemic, zombies themselves have a single motivation behind their actions, and it doesn’t do anything for me.

I’ve never seen an episode of The Walking Dead despite the internet’s claim that it’s interesting television. I likely never will. I guess the problem is that I’d rather watch a story featuring characters whose behaviors are predicated on some kind of deep-seated psychological issues. This is likely why I have always found Batman more interesting than Iron Man even though they’re essentially the same character. Zombies behave more like a tidal wave or tornado than humans. They’re antagonists with faces, but they’re all the same face with the same single-minded motivation behind them. Chuck Klosterman wrote (I couldn’t find the link) that there’s a similarity between zombies and the wave of responsibilities humans face like an email inbox or phone messages: they are relentless. I can certainly see that. But I guess if that’s the parallel, then it’s also true that I’d rather not have to deal with either situation.

Zombies are easy and they are also monotonous. If I’m going to spend an hour or two trying to escape my own life, I don’t want to be reminded of it, even metaphorically.

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