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Are We The Last Living Souls?

28 December 2012

Grab your guns. Load up on nonperishable food. Water. Gasoline. Armor-plate the shit out of that parking shuttle. The zombie invasion has come, and you’re going to be…

Well, food, most likely. Don’t take it too hard — I’ll probably be the same. If the zombie hordes are anything like what we see on TV and in the movies, then we’re all fucked. Even the survivalists living in fortified bunkers in Montana are done for, it’ll just take a little longer.

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Fortunately, the zombie apocalypse isn’t real. Moreso, if the method of transmission depicted in popular fiction (bites and scratches) is true, then it wouldn’t get far even if it was real. The few zombies that made it out of the intensive care unit would be gunned down pretty much immediately by hospital security, and if there was an outbreak situation (somehow) that the medical community didn’t contain, the military would damn sure shut it down quick. See, they have helicopters and miniguns. And bombs.

So why is it that we all have friends who openly wish for the zombie outbreak to start? Why is it that these people think they’d be the ones to survive in that situation? Most of the people I know who are stoked for the zom-pocalypse are… well, let’s just say their cardio and strength training could use some work before the zombies start coming. Most of them couldn’t outrun a Romero zombie. And yet, they’re convinced they’ll turn into a badass zombie hunter the second the outbreak happens.

I get being a fan of something. What I don’t get is wishing for an apocalyptic scenario — be it the zombies or a more generalized, Mad-Max type scenario. There’s something in people that wants the social contract to collapse, that wants to be able to shoot others in the face with no legal or moral consequences. I get that, too — that’s why zombie fiction is popular. That’s why The Walking Dead is worth watching.

But it’s rare that I see fans of other fiction desperately wanting that fictional world to be real. I don’t see Star Trek fans posting to Facebook on what will happen when they go to live on the Enterprise. I don’t see Call of Duty fans tweeting about how cool it would be to go to war with breakaway Communist forces.

So that’s my question for you this Friday, folks — what is it about the zombie phenomenon that makes people want it to happen for real?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 December 2012 0717

    I don’t know why people would want zombies to be real (I like my brains right where they are, thanks–rather fond of them, really), but I was standing in line at Chipotle yesterday watching a bunch of guys juggle burritos and their pants, which were belted well below their hips, and I had this thought: in order to increase my odds of survival during a zombie apocalypse, I need only surround myself with teenaged-to-early-20-something men. Because they won’t be able to run properly, you see. Then I was torn between amusement at the mental images that scenario presented and dawning horror that I am, indeed, getting old. And then it was my turn to order my burrito. 🙂

    • 28 December 2012 1049

      Hipster men won’t be able to run fast either — their skinny jeans have atrophied their legs.

      Though at least the Chipotle guys might be able to distract the zombies momentarily by chucking burritos at them.

  2. 28 December 2012 0720

    I wonder how much has to do with gaming of various sorts. I cut my teeth on Dungeons and Dragons in 5th grade, in the late 70s. When friends and I began playing other games (Gamma World, Boot Hill, and other systems like Twilight 2000), it brought out that, “Yeah, I’m a badass!” thing in some. When video games went from things like Dig Dug to first-person shooters…same thing. That + a splash of testosterone, and we love to envision ourselves taking out zombies or commies.

    As I’ve gotten older, I think with people I know in their late 30s and early 40s, they fantasize because they haven’t experienced things that have made them badass. Right or wrong, I think there’s that part in at least guys that wants to be tough and seen as a badass, and a decade or two spent sitting in a chair in an office building instead of cutting down trees with your teeth or kicking sharks in the face…well, all you have is fantasy.

    So yep, the guy at the day job who waits for the elevator to take him one floor up imagines himself with a shotgun in one hand and a chainsaw in the other, charging through zombies like they were butter! It’s weird to think there are people who haven’t run IN YEARS!!! Weirder still that the guy who hasn’t seriously imagines himself surviving a terrible thing like an apocalypse. Worse: that some almost crave it…maybe because, without fantasizing, all they have is a seat in a car, an office chair, and a recliner waiting at home at the end of the day when they put the workday behind them, watch The Walking Dead, and imagine what they’d do were it them.

    • 28 December 2012 1053

      I think that’s a part of it — there are dudes who want to feel like badasses even though they’ve spent a comfortable life eating Chik-Fil-A and driving minivans. Sure, they could just walk up to the biggest, baddest dude in the bar and punch him in the face, but then there are real consequences — injury, arrests, death. So they console themselves with the fantasy that if the world goes pear-shaped, they’ll be the ones who will survive.

  3. Nate permalink
    28 December 2012 1945

    I think for a lot of people, myself included, it’s more of a cathartic experience. They recognize that the social contract is, in some ways, a fragile thing, and that it’s collapse would be a frightening thing to behold. Zombie films, shows, and books give them an opportunity to face those fears, let them pass through, and then step back into the relative safety and comfort of civilization.

    I think another aspect of the appeal of zombie fiction and apocalyptic fiction in general is that it usually includes a sacred cow being gored. For example, Roland Emmerich’s disaster films (Day After Tomorrow and 2012) feature, at turns, the collapse of government, religious, and economic institutions. Absent real-life opportunities to watch this group or that “get theirs,” it’s exhilarating to witness it in a fictional medium. Heck, a good share of the horror in The Walking Dead is perpetrated by the living, who are settling scores, grabbing power, or generally taking advantage of societal collapse in one way or another.

    Me, I’d just stick to places where Old Man Winter can do most of the zombie culling, and try not to freeze in the meantime. 🙂

    • 28 December 2012 2050

      There’s a difference here — you enjoy zombie fiction. So do I. But we recognize that it is fiction. We might even hypothesize how we’d survive the zombie hordes — but we don’t actually wish for them to happen.

      I know far too many people who really do want it to happen. And that’s just sad.

      Also, I’d pick an M4 Colt Commando. You see people with shotguns all the time, and that’s gotta be the worst zombie-slayer weapon next to a bike chain.

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