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What Does Killing Zombies Teach Us About Being Human?

While an undead outbreak quickly devolves civilization to a point of primitive technology, survival nonetheless requires the same rational process essential to technological development.

Walter Hudson


June 21, 2013 - 3:00 pm

George Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead

While more recent zombie tales have treated the menace as a medical epidemic, as seen in 28 Days Later and hinted at in The Walking Dead, a critique of consumer culture seems to dominate the genre. Survivors must learn to live without the comforts of the modern world, to survive on the edge, to endure what some might be inclined to describe as a more sustainable existence. Concluding his analysis, Moreman appears to endorse this interpretation of our zombie fascination.

The 1960s’ counter-culture and civil rights movements reacted against authority structures-the government, the military, the church-that were perceived to have lost their legitimacy. Since then, the zombie as a mindless thrall driven by the single-minded pursuit of devouring serves as a warning against rampant consumerism and the insatiable appetite of dog-eat-dog capitalist greed. Faith in authority structures has eroded further since the 1960s, as attested by lower voter turnouts, decreasing affiliation with traditional religions, and the recent Occupy movement.

The popularity of the zombie stems from our similarity to that pitiable creature deprived of its soul, forced to labor for the benefit of unknown masters. Yet, what might also persist is the recognition that this state can be overcome with the individual agency and moral responsibility of the masses, the demos at the heart of true democracy.

Certainly Romero became more explicit with this theme by time he directed Land of the Dead in 2005. Dennis Hopper plays a pitiless land baron squatting in a palatial high-rise along with others among the super-rich, surviving on tributes from bounty found during death-defying excursions into the surrounding wasteland by working-class heroes.

Art often serves as a prism revealing different aspects of humanity depending upon how it is observed. While Moreman and Romero see in the zombie “a pitiable creature deprived of its soul” and “a warning against rampant consumerism and the insatiable appetite of dog-eat-dog capitalist greed,” another way to interpret zombies presents a far more optimistic view.

While the undead may lack a soul, the missing element of greatest consequence to living human survivors proves to be a mind. A few deviant examples like Warm Bodies and Land of the Dead not withstanding, zombies do not think. They lack reason. Zombies represent man deprived of the faculty of higher consciousness, the means by which he maintains dominance over the wild in order to survive and thrive.

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Having only seen the trailer and read one review of the movie "World War Z," I can confidently predict that I won't be seeing it until I can see it for free. I read the book and the movie doesn't appear to track well with the very good book.

From the book, the one scene that sticks out most vividly in my mind was a scene where survivors adapted Roman military tactics to clean out an area of the zombie infestation. They formed a Roman square, with piles and piles of ammo and long guns in the middle. They worked in shifts of shooters and reloaders and picked off the classical slow-moving targets at a distance. Because the zombies were slow-moving, the shooters were able to prioritize accuracy over speed and thus conserve ammo. The zombies kept coming, climbing over the fallen bodies of their co-viralists and being shot down as they crested the growing ridge. It was a battle of endurance and perseverance and those with brains and patience won the day. Kudos to those who learned from the Romans and adapted for zombie conditions.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I've read the book, too, and will likely skip the movie completely.

What you say is true. However, the powers that be in the US also took lessons from other parts of history. The government became Communistic with absolute control. Perhaps that was understandable given the conditions. However, when they spread back across the US, the tanks and planes weren't used against the zombies, but against groups of survivors who had held out for years alone against the zombies and didn't want to join the government when it came back.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Zombie movies can more accurately describe what will happen after a major disaster and slowly happens under Socialism. In the former, as supplies run out, some begin attacking those with supplies either killing them or by plundering them adding them making zombies of them as they too plunder others to survive. Under the latter, zombies represent government dependents both on the dole and bureaucrats. They exist by feeding on the producers of society. Gradually, but with increasing speed, producers are felled and become zombies (dependents/bureaucrats) ganging up on the shrinking number of producers until they too are gone.

Not all of Romero's movies are that great. Maybe some were meant as anti-capitalist, but it can be seen differently. "Dawn of the Dead" isn't so much anti-capitalist as it reveals how most members of the consumer culture will be trapped, as will many so called survivalists (Spoiler: The mall had no guns but plenty else and the gun store owner had guns and bullets but no food). "Land of the Dead" was more a condemnation of the standard pattern of human history: the elite living off the cream of the land whilst the masses scramble on the edge of starvation.

Lastly, and thanks for reading this far those of you who have, at lot of these survivalists and zombie folks do seem to think collapse of society will be grand. They remind me of the "anarchists" in high school, the ones who were all about chaos and partying and doing what they wanted and thumbing their nose at the system which still kept the lights on, food in the stores and protected them. Humans have spent their entire history avoiding anarchy and seeking stable system to provide safe and comfortable living conditions. We have that now in a way even 100 years ago would have been barely imaginable. It would be far better to do a better job of policing our system to keep the power craving psychopaths out of power, the number of dependents small and forcing government to tell people "no, you can't have other people's money."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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