All You Zombies

Not being a cable subscriber bears a burden all its own. Not only would paying the extra monthly fees for television prove a hardship, but the constant temptation to watch it would rate as a deadly sin. So on this “All Saints Day” I find myself wondering if the world is still out there after last night’s much-touted “The Walking Dead” premiere. The new AMC series has been written up in local papers and this week’s Time magazine. The latter calls it “a zombie apocalypse.” The fascination with zombie goes beyond holiday-fueled monsters. As James Poniewozik states in his Time article, zombies symbolize society’s insecurities: pandemics, terrorism, economic instability. The unrelenting undead remind us that death is perhaps not the worst thing to fear.

The religious side of this trend is fascinating. Revenants have no place in traditional Christian, Jewish, or Muslim theologies. Perhaps the closest semi-sanctioned version is the golem, a soulless protector of persecuted medieval Jewish communities. Traditional zombies are inextricably connected with magic, a means of manipulating the physical world through supernatural means. Like modern vampires, modern zombies have shifted from supernatural to biological, or at least scientific-sounding, explanations. Even Night of the Living Dead had an errant satellite to blame. The zombie has been reborn in a secular context, making it safe for religious believers to add it to their repertoire of fictional ghouls. And yet, the religious aspect has not completely vanished. The “apocalypse” that accompanies “The Walking Dead,” whether it is Armageddon, 2012, or Ragnarok, is a religious concept. Humans simply can’t face the end of the world without religious implications.

Audiences feeling a little let down after October’s terminal scare-fest, however, might find some cheer that Halloween is an end, but also a beginning. It is the start of the darkest time of year. Very soon not only do we drive home in the dark, but light will not have dawned by the time we start the car for work. In northern reaches of the globe, people can’t help but feel a little stress at finding our accustomed visual assessment of our world a little bit impaired for months at a time. And when we see that shoddy-clothed stranger straggling along in the half-dark, it may be time to remind ourselves that despite the naturalized zombie, there are still those who prey on their fellow humans. They may not be the undead. They may dress well and drive expensive cars and live off what they can legally draw from that stranger on the street. They may be the true harbingers of the apocalypse. They are the ones we should really fear.
Whose apocalypse?

4 thoughts on “All You Zombies

  1. There is an old B-movie called “Monster Club” in which a human accidentally stumbles into a social club filled with our favorite movie monsters, vampires, werewolves and others. The bulk of the movie is three different monster tales. But it’s the closing scene that sticks with me.

    The monsters want to kill the human but one of them, the vampire I believe, makes a case for the man. Saying he’s “the greatest monster of all” when one of Drac’s menacing peers asks, “But he’s just a man. What can he do?” The vampire launches into a litany of all the horrific acts humans have committed and points out that all of their “monstrous” or “supernatural” acts combined could never even come close to the evil man has done. When he’s finished the fictional creatures are gaping at the man in wide-eyed wonder and admiration, so much so in fact they decide to make him the president of the club. The door closes with the monster’s cheering for their new president..roll credits.

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    • Thanks, Jim.

      I recall reading about this movie, but I’ve never seen it. I guess I’ll be trawling the video stores for the next few weekends!

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  2. I have to laugh… in radiation physics the word “phantom” is an acceptable term. A colleague from a distant facility used a drilled out piece of wood as a phantom once and did a considerable amount of cross referencing on it.

    We called it the golem as we just picked it up (where i do not know) and it was…dead wood.

    My colleague reported that we no longer could use golem as it was insensitive to do so.

    Turns out one sort of sense of humour doesn’t translate as a free for all. I wonder if we had called it the “relic”…

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  3. ps.. the rain’s gonna fall on you

    doo doo!

    Age, it has it’s advantages, but please don’t tell “the people in the streets”..

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