Critics vs Zombies

I call it the perfect storm.

If you look around, you might notice that there’s more zombies about than usual. The movie Zombieland, AMC’s The Walking Dead, the zombie-themed Halloween episode of Community, four separate shelves of paper and hardback novels at Powell’s Books, and a plethora of video games - Plants vs Zombies, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2, Dead Nation, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES 1N IT!!!1 (not joking), and Barbie Horse Adventures: Dead By Dawn (joking).

Zombie-oriented pop culture is everywhere these days, it seems. Nobody really noticed when it showed up, but bit-by-bit it infected more and more seemingly unlikely forms of media (the comedy show about a community college? The video game about cowboys?) until there arose a great and massive horde of zombie media that severely outnumbered the unzombied parties, which are, at this point, consist only of 19th century Romantic literature and the movie How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Oh, wait. Look out, Stella, Romantic literature is a zombie!

A lot of critics, particularly in the gaming arena where zombies have become the most prevalent, have criticized the abundance of zombie stuff on the market right now. They say it’s a cop out – people looking to spruce up their video game (or some long dead author’s book) have taken to pushing the zombie button in a vain attempt to make what they’re doing trendy and interesting.

You know what I say? I say that when zombies are routinely shoehorned into cultural products of virtually any genre, just for the hell of it, then there are almost enough zombies in our pop culture.

You’ve got to understand, this is the sort of thing I’ve been waiting for since high school. Me and Alexander and Brent loved zombies. We bought the zombie board games and played the original Dead Rising in spite of its severe commitment to sucking, and we agreed that the running zombies in the new Dawn of the Dead were way better than garden variety zombies, and we had our Zompocalypse Escape Plan memorized, prepared, and practically rehearsed*, in spite of the fact that we were barely able to organize our own prom night.

*Alexander and Brent, who both had guns in their houses, would secure as many firearms and family members as they could, efficiently dispatch the infected family members, and then make their way to my house. Once they had killed any of my infected family, I would beat cheeks to the Salem Library – a solid concrete building with very few entrances – with the other survivors and barricade us inside while Alexander and Brent went to WinCo to loot as much food and supplies as necessary for the long haul before coming back to the library to kill any zombies that might still be inside. I know I sort of look like the weak link in this plan, but my cultural contributions to our fortress would be invaluable.

And all of this used to be weird. It’s like we liked some really obscure band that most people thought was too violent or had no cultural value, but now, all of a sudden, that band has gotten really popular and everyone has started to appreciate it. Only here there’s no downside – zombies haven’t sold out or started doing drugs or released a concept album with really cryptic and poetic liner notes. Zombies just keep being awesome, and they’re profitably awesome enough that people keep finding uses for them. In your face, Queens of the Stone Age.

A lot of film critics allege that zombies, namely of the George Romero, Night of the Living Dead-onward variety*, exist as a satiric metaphor for the overindulgence of capitalism, mainly because seminal works like Dawn of the Dead are about mobs of zombies desperately trying to break into a barricaded shopping mall and get at the people inside.

*The other type of zombies are the legendary cursed ones from Haitian mythology, which aren’t nearly as cool because there isn’t an abundance of shotguns or chainsaws in Haitian mythology.

Critics can say that all they want – hell, it might even be true – but all I know is that when I watch The Walking Dead, I don’t scream “PEACE, BITCH!” when a zombie’s head gets blown off because I enjoy the subtle irony of the situation as it pertains to the economy. I scream “PEACE, BITCH!” because killing zombies is damn good entertainment. They, along with Nazis, are the only cannon fodder you can’t possibly empathize with, making it all the easier to be enthusiastic as they get disposed of in all sorts of gruesome and spectacular ways.

Even if you’re not into the good old ultraviolence, zombies make stories better by putting the characters into increasingly dire circumstances. A bunch of people in a building surrounded by flesh eating monsters always do more interesting stuff than people under most other circumstances – friends become enemies, enemies become friends, cunning last minute plans are thrown together, and something like 60% of the time at least two people start boning for basically no reason.

If Sex in the City was about four materialistic, whory bitches in a coffee shop surrounded by bloodthirsty zombies, you damn bet I’d watch that show. I just can’t guarantee I wouldn’t be rooting for the zombies.

So I say, bring on the zombies. Let’s have more movies, TV shows, and video games wherein the driving force behind the story is pungent, oozing, flesh hungry walking dead who need to be destroyed at all costs, as opposed to vampries, who want only to seduce mousy women and reinforce Christian values about love and marriage.

Truman Capps got in an awesome one-two punch at Sex and the City and Twilight, and hopes that he made at least one teenaged girl cry.