Last week’s article: Beating Back the Nazi “Sickness”
Zombies are all the rage these days. AMC’s The Walking Dead reigns as the top-watched drama on basic cable. Films like Warm Bodies, Zombieland, and I Am Legend stand out among recent entries in an enduring horror subgenre. None other than Brad Pitt will headline this year’s World War Z, which looks to amp up its action well beyond the shuffling flesh-eaters of yesteryear.
That’s to say nothing of video games, where the undead continue to suck cash from willing gamers anxious to live out an apocalyptic fantasy. Whether its Resident Evil, Left 4 Dead, or downloadable add-ons to Call of Duty, zombie hoards batter down the doors of our collective consciousness. What exactly makes them so popular?
Like the Nazis we considered last week, zombies provide guilt free slaughter. No one feels bad about shooting something that’s already dead. Plus, because zombies were once living human beings, they provide a cathartic release for that deeply suppressed homicidal impulse none of us want to admit to harboring.
Zombies are amoral. They have no agenda, no emotional motivation, no plan. They simply menace. So putting them down presents no moral dilemma. What would be murder were they living becomes a wholly defensible act of survival. The very nature of a zombie marks it for destruction. Since it has no feelings and endures no torment, the acceptable methods for disposing of a zombie are bound only by the imagination of the killer. So zombies enable creative guilt-free violence on a scale limited only by their numbers.
Zombies also serve an adaptive narrative purpose in storytelling. While they more often than not simply lurk around the corner as boogeymen, the nature of a zombie can be tweaked to represent certain themes. In George Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, the film which birthed the modern undead flesh-eater, zombies were implied to be the fulfillment of biblical revelation. Writing for The Washington Post, commentator Christopher Moreman expounds:
The zombie apocalypse is often equated with the wrath of God and biblical end times. Though the origins of zombie outbreaks usually remain indeterminate in the genre, most zombie narratives indicate that we brought this upon ourselves. Whether corporations, the government, or the military are to blame, the average person also bears fault for participating in a corrupt system, just as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were collectively responsible for God’s wrath.
Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead took the theme a step further, assigning a decisively anti-capitalist overtone to the narrative. The undead converged upon a shopping mall, retracing the routines of their former lives.
Once I made the decision to exercise my 2nd Amendment right to self-defense rather than to be a helpless victim, I began to research my options for home protection. I contacted friends who are qualified to dispense advice on the topic and I sent them emails with my requirements. I said I wanted a gun for home use (not for concealed carry at this point), one that is easy to load and shoot (and wouldn’t require me to be an expert marksman), and one for which ammo is readily available. They responded with helpful suggestions and all had a 12-gauge shotgun at the top of their lists. One said a 12-gauge pump shotgun is “ tried and true, easy to use, and ammo is plentiful.” Another said, “For home protection get a 12-gauge pump action shotgun. A Mossberg 500 or a Remington 870 are essentially the same weapon. 12-gauge 00 buckshot is still fairly cheap and plentiful. Anything you shoot at will be vaporized at close range.”
That sounded good, though the thought of “vaporized at close range” in my home was unnerving. Let’s not forget that until a few weeks ago my weapon of choice was a bug vacuum (don’t judge me, this is a process).
My friend and neighbor, Doug Deeken, who is on the board of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, sent me a detailed email with a list of handgun and long gun options. He also thought a shotgun might be a good choice for home use, but offered some cautions,
“Long guns are easier overall, and a bit safer for the user, but aren’t quite as easy to use in a hallway with that long barrel sticking out there. Personally, I have a pump-action Mossberg 500 12-gauge for my home defense gun. Unless you are familiar with the recoil of a 12-gauge you’d be well advised to look for either a 20-gauge or .410 gauge pump action shotgun. Either a Mossberg 500 or Remington 870 will work fine. Get a “Youth” or “Bantam” model, because it’ll have a shorter stock that is easier for you to hold correctly.”
When three out of three friends had shotguns at the top of their recommendation lists, I latched onto that idea and told my husband and son that I was leaning toward a shotgun. Ryan, my 21-year-old son, has many years of experience with a variety of guns (what happened at camp, stayed at camp — I didn’t want to know the scary details all those years). When I told him (via Facebook chat) about my plans to get a shotgun, he didn’t agree. Actually, “scoffed” might be a better word, but he tried to be gentle:
28 Days Later. Resident Evil. Land of the Dead. Deadgirl. Army of Darkness. The Walking Dead. Fido. Dead Snow. Planet Terror. Evil Dead 2. Dawn of the Dead. Zombieland. Shaun of the Dead — the list just goes on and on. Everybody seems to LOVE zombie films — but why? What exactly is so intriguing to people about the idea of being stalked by dead people who want to eat their brains after a worldwide apocalypse? Simple: zombie movies cater to a whole range of deeply rooted human desires. It may be an apocalypse for the world, but for the moviegoer picturing himself in the middle of it all, it’s finally his chance to shine.
1) You can plausibly be the hero. The problem with most action flicks is that the average person has trouble picturing himself as the hero. He doesn’t have special training or powers. He’s not a CIA operative, a Navy SEAL, a gunfighter, or a mutant. So the idea of taking on a gang of Die Hard-style terrorists or fighting with a sword against the medieval equivalent of Chuck Liddell in a film like Gladiator is completely outside of his reality.
On the other hand, zombies are most often portrayed as extremely slow and stupid, yet still dangerous. That makes zombies an enemy that the average restaurant manager or accountant feels like he could realistically handle. Every man, in his heart, wants to be a hero. He wants to be John Wayne, he wants to be Rambo, he wants to be Bruce Lee. In a world filled with zombies, that’s an achievable goal.