I’m willing to bet money that I don’t have on the following: half of you reading this article have been asked, “So what’s your zombie survival plan?” by someone speaking in an I-am-undeadly-serious tone. The other half of you? You’ve made your own plans, ranging from the vague “Don’t get eaten, I guess” to “Okay, after building my zombie-specific survival Bunker of Destiny, I will assemble my team and stockpile of versatile and badass weapons. We’ll pass the first hour planning our route, the second hour…”
Which group I am in is irrelevant (it might be both). My point is that we live in a zombified culture that will soon claim Daryl Dixon as its patron saint and bear the crossbow symbol in solidarity. Just off the top of my head, in popular media lately we’ve had:
- The classic slow, brain-eating zombies
- Rage virus zombies
- Cheerleader zombies
- “Single Lady” zombies
- Romeo and Juliet zombies in various stages of zombification
- Your average everyday pub-going zombies
- Army surplus ration zombies
- Worst-idea-ever bargain transplant care zombies that force us to reexamine the workings of our society
- Terrifyingly speedy army ant-formation zombies
- Single zombie slayers in possession of a good fortune who must be in want of a wife
- The zombies who lumber under the mistaken impression that they threaten the existence of Saint Dixon
I’ve realized, after perusing the latest zombie tales and witnessing the bordering-on-hopeful frenzy that accompanied the Florida face eating debacle this past year, that there are three types of people in the world: the ones who would throw the zombies a “Welcome Back!” party before mercilessly dispatching them, the ones who would be horrified, but grimly determined to survive, and the ones who throw up their hands in horror at the very idea that people would like a world of flesh-eating ambulatory corpses (and those people will get snarfed anyway, so they don’t count, amirite?).
What I’ve wondered off and on is why we seem to want the zombie apocalypse to hurry up and shuffle this way, already. I mean, of course when zombie-killing looks sexy and badass, there’s a certain amount of appeal. But you’re also talking about a bunch of sweaty, smelly, exhausted people fleeing for their lives before a shambling horde of even worse-smelling rotting corpses who want to munch them down. You’re talking constantly being on the edge of starvation, possibly dying of some Khal Drogo-esque infection, very few running vehicles, no air conditioning, a violence-based anarchy, all amid constant terror. WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT THAT?
A few things, I think, and those few things are the factors that fuel people’s desire for an apocalypse. Whether we reluctantly or gleefully contemplate the possibility, these are the things that make us want this terrible global disaster to be a reality.
1. It makes things simple: Life’s complicated, and it’s not getting any less so. Trying to find a steady job that will keep you fed, clothed, and sheltered these days is an epic quest paralleled only by the intricate social webs we weave online. We’re flooded with information that we have to evaluate, choices we have to make, events and developments we have to keep up with, and on top of that most of us want to be involved in the processes that govern us, which requires constant critical thinking, media evaluation, fact-sifting, and moral pondering.
Compared with modern life, stripping existence down to food, shelter, transportation and a defined role in a group has a certain appeal. Your options are limited (but stealing/salvaging is totes okay, so money doesn’t matter), which makes life simple. Either you do, or you don’t, and that’s that. You have two jobs to do: stay alive and kill zombies. You don’t have to think about who you really are or what you want to do with your life or whether or not you are truly honoring yourself with your life choices – you get to focus on the best way to stay alive, period. It’s black and white, and death and life, and moral conundrums (when they come) tend to come second. Which leads me to point 2!
2. We know our enemies. Bad guy = zombie. That, and possibly Person Who Is Currently Pointing A Gun At You. There is no hesitation and no pesky moral questions. The dead are trying to eat us, and since they are undead monsters, we are doing the entire world a favor by putting them down. End of discussion. With that, we get a free license to give in to our violent tendencies, as long as we direct them toward zombie-killing. And that doesn’t change – we aren’t political allies with the zombies one day and at war the next. Zombies gotta eat, zombies gotta die.
3. To be honest, we’d kind of like to be alone. If you want proof of this, go to Wal-Mart during Christmas shopping season. Go to Starbucks at 8:30 in the morning. Try to drive home during rush hour traffic . We all have these moments, surrounded by tons of people competing with us, when we say things like “All these people need to just….ugh. Just die, or something.”
Do we really mean it? No, not really, but at the same time, in a highly competitive world full of people we don’t agree with or understand, there is always that subconscious desire to be more important than everyone else – to eliminate the competition, or at least just get rid of the people who annoy the hell out of us.
4. It proves we are special. Because of course, it’s other people who are going to get infected and die of a horrible disease. It’s other people who are going to be just a hair too slow, other people who won’t have the ingenuity and resourcefulness to survive World Zombie. But ME? I’m going to make it, why would you even ask that?
Everyone is the hero of their own story, and the hero makes it through. And if a zombie apocalypse really DID happen, and people all around us really DID die, but we didn’t, wouldn’t that make us pretty darn special? Destined for great things, maybe?
Maybe not alive for a purpose – notions of fate or God’s plan or destiny take a pretty hard hit in a world of hungry once-deads – but… special. Maybe more special than we feel now, or believe we ever will feel. Maybe validated, proven to be better at something, even if it’s just running or hiding. As in every hero’s story, we would be proven worthy. And in real life, not everyone gets that.
5. And oddly, it forces us to draw together. We don’t get a choice! We form partnerships, groups, alliances forged in Battles with Biters. We can’t sabotage ourselves by just neglecting friendships, we can’t get lost in the Internet, and smaller issues that used to plague friendships just don’t matter anymore. We have the chance to be part of a tribe, to be valuable to others, to be missed when we’re gone. Too many of us don’t get that in real life either.
You know what I think most of us would like more than anything? A linear narrative. One with identifiable protagonists, antagonists, foreshadowing, and most importantly, potential for resolution. A clear plot we can follow that we know is going somewhere, not the meandering, messy tangle of the lives we live now.
I don’t think (maybe I just hope) that there aren’t really people out there who truly look forward to a super-deadly zombie virus that kills three-quarters of the world and forces those who live to battle nasty undeaders for every day they get. But I do think that most of us aren’t as interested in the zombies as we are in knowing what to expect from a life that provides clear battles to be won and obvious enemies to be stabbed in the eye. A world where we had purpose and the backing of the Almighty Dixon? Might not be so bad.