Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Zombie Apocalypse

by Juliet

I was only six years old when George Romero’s zombies first shambled* across the screen in his groundbreaking film, Night of the Living Dead. I caught it some years later on TV late one night, back when a local show called Creature Features broadcast such things. I would never be the same.

There were the zombies in all their glory: decomposing flesh, empty eyes, black and splintered teeth, hands outstretched in incessant need and want. Upon seeing the little zombie girl chewing on an appendage of her victim, I could just about smell the rot and decay. I didn’t eat for a week.

So I’m with everyone else jumping on the zombie apocalypse (ZA) bandwagon in fiction and film– let’s face it, this is just good, clean, American fun. Enough with the sensitive vampires already, let’s get to the good stuff: We’re not just talking apocalypse, but ZOMBIE apocalypse.

The standard narrative of a ZA story paints our current civilization as fragile and unsustainable. When faced with such a massive and unprecedented threat as shambling, half-rotted flesh-eating semi-functional idiots, most of us apparently lose the ability to shoot and use knives, and simply fall to the ground and allow our brains to be eaten. That is a recipe for some awesome movie-making.

But truth to tell, technological fail might just bring us one step close to the ZA. It speaks to our mordant fears that we will inadvertently –or worse, purposefully-- develop zombies through a process of technology gone wrong. Even now, we think, there might be some secret government project that will introduce a germ or a critical DNA alteration, and next thing we know we’ll be headed down that shambling path toward the final ZA.

Zombies are, essentially, not only a result of the apocalypse, but are in themselves apocalyptic. They signal the end of the world as we know it.

With vampires, there’s no apocalypse. They have taste – they live in gentile Southern Gothic mansions with lovely furniture and wine cellars and usually exhibit a genuine flair for decorating in shabby chic. And they’re not at all interested in the end of the world, for then who would they suck on?

My real problem with the ZA is …wait for it… the sex. I mean, vampirism is pretty much about the sex, and as far as I’m concerned it has been so ever since Frank Langella was a WAY sexy Dracula, back when sex scenes morphed into a kind of lava-lampesque swirl of on-screen colors.
But Zombies….? Eeeehhhh. Actually, disturbingly, a simple Google search terms up way more than I ever wanted to know about zombie porn (“why were you looking, then?” is what you’re probably thinking. Suffice it to say that I suffer for my art.)

I’m just saying, if we have to share our actual post-apocalyptic world with a creature, I believe I’d opt for something that didn’t involve rotting flesh, since we’ll probably have enough of that with gangrene and whatnot once the antibiotics are all used up.

(Just FYI for all you scaredy-cats out there, the zombie apocalypse is highly unlikely to actually happen. Don’t believe me? Check out “7 scientific reasons the outbreak would fail” Main reason: It’s hard to spread diseases by biting. Who knew?)

But be honest: Do you secretly want a ZA? Oh, the simplicity of it. The end of political robo calls – any robo calls, in fact. The ability –indeed, the requirement—to shoot things and blow shit up.
That’s some powerful motivation, American-style.

*As noted by venerable Zombie Boy Steve Hockensmith, there would be no zombie stories at all without the word “shambled”


Sophie Littlefield said...

so you *know* i immediately went and googled zombie porn, something I had surprisingly never done before. Did you see the UK safe sex ad featuring zombies? love it!!

Steve Hockensmith said...

Great post! One quibble, though. The ZA would not bring about the end of robo calls. Robo calls are a sign that the ZA is already happening.

Unknown said...

J--I admire you *so much*! You sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice...forcing yourself to look at *shudder* Victorian porn, now Zombie porn, ;)

Juliet Blackwell said...

Soph--keep your eyes on your work, girlfriend.
Steve -- Ack! Why didn't *I* think of that! You're right!!! And thanks for the Twitter tip, that "lurch" should have been singled out, as well.
Lisa-- No admiration necessary. I do what it takes, yessirree, that's my motto.

Unknown said...

I'm not hoping for a ZA, but I'm planning on it. I recently purchased two machetes at Pete's hardware in Castro Valley. Last year I bought a Mossberg 500 pistol-grip shotgun and buy a box of shells every payday. My 'earthquake' kit doubles a my ZA kit, breathing masks, goggles to go over my glasses, camo hat, shirt and pants, steel toe work boots, fire starter kit, I hope this post doesn't start a run on these items at Wal-mart and cause a shortage then a panic then government intervention... which causes the ZA.

L.G.C. Smith said...

Thanks, Juliet, I now understand why the ZA fascination has the legs it does. I still don't find zombies remotely interesting. I'd rather have a natural disaster apocalypse if we have to have one.

Brian, I hadn't realized 'earthquake' kits came in gendered versions, but when I compare your dude kit to mine, which is heavy on hygiene supplies, food, and creating cozy places to hang out, it's obvious. I'll throw in a machete, and you throw in a roll of TP and, lo, balance.