Tag Archives: zombies

In Defense of Zombies

Zombies seem to be de rigueur these days, which is fine by me.  I love just about anything zombie-related, plus I am convinced that the surge in zombie popularity the past few years spells very good things for our culture at large.

Wait. What? Yes. Zombies are good!

For one, zombie themed movies and books tend to be pretty clean. Sex isn’t much of a priority when your friends are being eaten alive. Of course, they do tend to be heavy on the violence, but “violent” here means lots of blood spatter and fake limbs, very little of the actual violence that could be experienced or emulated in the real world. You may have heard of kids imitating violent video games, or music, or movies, but you never hear of kids trying to chew each others’ arms off. The sort of violence encountered in the gangster or revenge genres may disturb, but that is usually because they can reflect reality. After all, gangsters do exist and can do bad things. Your chances, however, of encountering a wrestling match between a walking corpse and a shark are pretty slim.

Zombies also remind us of what is truly important. In zombie fiction, you see the same theme over and over: when the Zombie Apocalypse comes, people return to the simple things. With the distractions of modern life destroyed by the ravaging hordes, the survivors cling to what is, after all, really important: family, friends, loyalty, courage, faith.

It goes deeper: modern materialists tell us that mankind is nothing but the sum total of our parts: blood, cells, synapses, muscle. No zombie aficionado could fall prey to such a line of thought. The zombie fan knows that we are not just the sum total of our parts, we are something more. When your girlfriend has been bitten, you hold her in your arms and tell her you love her. When her eyes glaze over and she stands up despite her multiple wounds to lunge for your neck, you cut off her head with a machete. It’s simple common sense. Your girlfriend’s body contains the same physical properties both before and after her demise. Even her mind continues to function after a fashion, as it is a known fact that the only way to stop a zombie is by destroying the brain. Despite all of these things, the zombie connoisseur knows that the girlfriend, in her essence, is gone. The body is reanimated, but the soul has fled; this tells us something vital, something the materialist has forgotten. As a collection of muscle and bone, there is nothing stopping us from eating each other alive. It is our souls, that nebulous, invisible, unprovable thing that makes us human. They say there are no atheists in foxholes, but it could happen. What is certain is this: there are no materialists in the audience of a George A. Romero marathon.

Finally, zombies remind us of an important and hard to face fact: our own mortality. Momento Mori the monks of old used to inscribe over their doorways and walls – remember your death. “Remember that from dust you came and unto dust you must return.” (Gen 3:19) The world is not permanent for us, and it is a good and healthy thing to keep it in mind so that we may train our focus on the things that are permanent. On the other hand, though, it is frighteningly easy to allow the fact of our own deaths to drag us into despair. Thinking of our own deaths, it is a short journey to forgetting that death does not get the last laugh. If you believe in life after death,though, death must lose some of its horror and all of its permanence. This is an easy thing to think but a hard thing to feel, especially in regards to loved ones who have gone on before us. Zombies, with their lumbering (or sprinting, depending on your zombie proclivities,) their groans, their hunger for human flesh, take something scary and turn it into something a little bit silly. They are wonderfully, hilariously ridiculous and they provide an outlet to release our mortal anxieties.

Death, where is thy sting?

Zombie gems:

Night of the Living Dead – a classic!

Shaun of the Dead – a lighthearted twist, but still good zombie action

World War Z – the best zombie book, period.

28 Days Later – fast zombies! Brilliant.

note: This article originally appeared in my Examiner.com column in 09. I am choosing to believe it is not at all a bad sign that I’m already recycling posts on my two-week-old blog.

Seven Quick Things I am loving right now

1. Pumpkin Beer Season!

Pumking!

Last year, my husband bought a case of this and I was irritated because he only bought one case.  I rarely remember which beers I like, because he remembers all of that stuff for me, but Pumking I do not forget.  You can literally taste the buttery pumpkin-pie crust.  In the beer.  It’s delicious!

2. Breaking Bad, more addictive than Crystal Meth

We just finished season 4, and I’m planning on saying much more about this amazing series once we’ve caught up entirely.  (We haven’t caught up yet because my husband is obnoxious and insists that we do things like sleep and interact with our children.)  The acting alone here is blowing. me. away.  There is not a single weak actor on this show, and every last one of them has a role teeming with contradictions and nuance.   Jesse is probably my favorite, since I find myself thinking things in Jesse-speak the way a person might begin to think in a foreign language once it is mastered.

Who spilled cheerios in the living room, yo? This is bull$h!#!

 3.  Babel by Mumford and Sons

I’ve already written about my great love of M&S, but I need to say it again:  this band is so wonderful!  I am shocked by how religious this new album is, in the very best way.   Look at these lyrics:

Keep the earth below my feet
For all my sweat, my blood runs weak
Let me learn from where I have been
Keep my eyes to serve my hands to learn
Keep my eyes to serve my hands to learn

If that isn’t a prayer, I don’t know what is.

4.  This moppet:

When the bus comes for her big sisters every morning, my youngest immediately starts running with all of her toddler might to catch it.  I always grab her right away, but it never stops her from trying again the next day.  It reminds me of a  hamster I once babysat for a few months.  His name was Husserl.  He would spend every day trying to jump out of his tank and it was both funny and sad, the futile way he wouldn’t give up even though escaping the tank was clearly impossible.  Until the day he escaped.  So anyway, I’m staying on my toes every morning.

5. Louie just keeps getting better

I wrote about this the other day, too.  We DVR everything, so I’m often a few episodes behind my favorite series.  We let them stack up and then watch it all at once.  So we’ve just finished the story arc (3 episodes long) where Louie is being considered as a replacement for Letterman.  It was the most ambitious t.v. I’ve seen in a long while.  I can’t believe he (Louis C.K. both writes and directs almost every episode) pulled off walking such a delicate balance between pathos and hilarity.  Those three episodes were sort of like Barton Fink, but better (and I say this as a huge fan of the Coens.)  I could talk about this all day but I’ll stop here:  the soundtrack is unique and brilliant and the pacing of each scene could not possibly be more perfect.  It’s masterful.  My only quibble is:  Jay Leno???  Come on, man, don’t side with that loser.

I did write a fan letter to Conan O’Brien once.  How did you guess?

6. Ora Et Labora Et Zombies

I’m going to write more about this later, but I have to do my part to promote this wonderful project.  When my oldest daughter comes into the house with the mail, it makes our day if we see our favorite envelope in the stack.  There is nothing so satisfying as the feel of a nice long letter in your hand.  I so rarely get those anymore that it almost makes me nostalgic, and when you add to it a tale that is both engaging and delicately, charmingly told….well, you can see why it makes our day.  Have you ordered your letters yet?  What is your problem?  All the cool kids are doing it!

7. Dostoevsky, man.

He’s pretty cool.  I am in the process of re-reading The Brother Karamazov, as I do every few years, and as it happens every time I have to put the book down periodically to process my awe.

I was going to write out a snippet here, to illustrate his  brilliance, but Dostoevsky is not really a pithy writer.  It’s his scope, and his depth, and the way he effortlessly has his characters swing from one extreme to the other, just as it happens in real life and just as almost nobody else manages to convey believably.  So I’ll just say:  Dostoevsky, man.

I will end by encouraging everyone to go read Jen’s Quick Takes even though, as I just started this blog last week, there is zero chance that anyone reading this came from anywhere but there.