The Walking Dead, a popular graphic novel turned TV show, is one of the fore-runners in the contemporary zombie writing. In the world of The Walking Dead, a small group of survivors, led by a Sheriff, fight to survive in a post-apocalyptic zombie-populated world. The zombies, called “walkers” are decaying corpses with insatiable hunger. The Walking Dead’s zombies eat the flesh of humans and animals alike. When they are feeding, they are so distracted by their hunger that they often miss the chance for fresh human meat as the heroes make hasty exits. In fact the “walkers” of The Walking Dead seem to be unmotivated by anything other than hunger. Many scenes in the television show depict the “walkers” in a kind of suspended animation until a human passes. The infection that caused the zombie-like condition, however, lies dormant in all of the survivors. Upon death, even those who initially survived the pandemic will reanimate. The notion that every living person has living within them the potential to be a “walker” is important. While not all the survivors in The Walking Dead are “good” people, everyone has the potential to becoming an unthinking, unfeeling, consuming reanimated corpse.
Other zombie films, such as the 2004 horror/comedy Shaun of the Dead by writer/director Edgar Wright, are more direct in playing up the mindless way with which we make our way through our daily lives. Protagonist Shaun wakes up the morning of the zombie apocalypse and heads to the local convenience store to grab a drink. Along the way, he passes obvious signs of mayhem. He slips in a puddle of blood in the convenience store, complains there is no newspaper for sale, shrugs off a zombie he thinks is pan-handling, and doesn’t notice his neighbor’s dead body on the front steps. Shaun flops in front of the TV, flipping past news reports of a crisis, and sips his Diet Coke. Shaun’s obliviousness begs the question: if the zombie apocalypse happened, would we notice?
As Columbus, protagonist of the 2009 blockbuster film we Zombieland ponders “why am I alive when everyone else around me has turned to meat,” we wonder what it is about our world that we find so unfulfilling. In Zombieland, a virus mutates from mad cow disease to a strain that infects humans. Columbus survives by keeping to a list of rules. The first two rules on his list are quite telling. Rule number one is “cardio.” Columbus warns us that a lack of connection with your physical self will ultimately lead to your death. His second rule addresses common sense: double-tap (always shoot a zombie twice). The two most basic rules in this movie tell us to avoid becoming a “human happy meal,” you need to be connected to the body and the mind, to be healthy and to think. Yet in Zombieland, the undead rule and the living are on the run.
So what does it all mean? Check back next time for the final installment of The Zombie Papers.