Thursday, March 25, 2010

Zombie Thursday Double-shot: Chicken Brain Soup for the Zombie Soul


Zombie Thursdays is a weekly feature with guest blogger, Miranda. You can read more about her here.

This weekend I am going to my first real horror fan convention-- HorrorHound in Indianapolis. I’m really very excited for a wide variety of reasons, but top on the list is that I will be meeting two of my favorite horror icons. The most exciting of these ‘celebrities’ will be my all time favorite author... someone who I am beyond obsessed with and with all his novels, short stories, and movies-- Clive Barker! Nothing or no one can top Mr. Barker in my opinion, but a very close second will be meeting George Romero.

On my birthday, I gave you a small introduction to Mr. Romero (although he really needs no introduction to even the average zombie lover) and some fun facts about him (and me). I will be meeting him this weekend, and although I am sure it will be very brief, just enough time for me to get an autograph and maybe a photo (no lengthy zombie debates, unfortunately), I’m still ‘squeeing’ on the inside about shaking this man’s hand.  Although he didn’t create zombies, or zombie fiction (in fact, he’s fairly vocal about having practically ripped off the novel I Am Legend), he was, and is, a pioneer in bringing the zombie genre into the mainstream.

In anticipation of my awesome weekend I decide to watch the 1978 version of Dawn of the Dead. This film was the follow up to the original Night of the Living Dead, even though fans had to wait ten years! In the film, the country is suffering from the never fully explained onslaught of zombie hordes and begins with scenes in a panicked news station. Experts are debating how to deal with the zombies, frantic employees try to determine which emergency shelters are still open, and everyone is thinking about how best to save themselves. The majority of the film follows four survivors who manage to escape the city in a helicopter and set up shop in a mostly abandoned shopping mall... mostly abandoned except for the zombies!

I’m sure most of you zombie fans have seen this film, and if you haven’t... seriously, why haven’t you? It is arguably one of the most important zombie films ever created, even more so than the original Night of the Living Dead. Do yourself a favor and buy this DVD! Even the remake/re-imagining was enjoyable, although both versions are very different.

Watching the movie got me thinking about some of the more social and moral implications of a zombie apocalypse. Beyond just the normal “what would you do?” and “would you survive?” questions, I want to take a look at how one might morally react in the face of extinction. How easy would it be to take a life... or an un-life? And, where do the undead fit in?

Two friends of mine got me this really fascinating book by Jonathan Maberry called Zombie CSU-- The Forensics of the Living Dead. Although I haven’t been able to read the entire book (yet), there’s a really interesting chapter on the “Spiritual and Philosophical Implications of the Walking Dead.” Here are some things to ponder... and like all of philosophy, there’s no right or wrong answer.

Are Zombies living? Are they dead? Do they have souls?

Whether you are religious or not, the reasons behind life and death may still weigh heavily on your mind. One doesn’t need to believe in a God to question what there is after we die. For the sake of argument, let’s say that all people who become zombies do have a physical death of sorts (whether they were previously dead and have risen from the grave, or “infected” by a zombie virus through a bite). The host human dies, and reanimates as the living dead. Living Dead.... now there’s a complicated name! Are they actually alive again, or are they dead? If they have died... how are the up and walking around? If you believe in having a soul or having a spirit, does that soul still reside in the zombie corpse or has it moved on into whatever afterlife there may be.

Many genres of zombie fiction make it clear that the zombie retains no memories of their previous life... yet some hint that they might. As an example, in Dawn of the Dead the zombies flock to the shopping mall. One character asks why they would do this. As a response, it is theorized that it must be some past instinct, gathering at a mall; the mall was an important place in their lives and that has imprinted in their deaths. If the zombie retains no traces or memories of the host, then how would that be possible? They would have to know and remember that the shopping mall was a place to gather, a place that was important to their lives. So, does a bit of humanity remain in the zombie brain?

Is taking the ‘life’ of a Zombie easy? Can it be done without remorse?

Many will say that in the time of the zombie apocalypse, a human’s survival instincts will kick in. Even though staying with a group is a smart idea, in the end, the most important person is yourself. If you’ve held for your entire life the belief that killing is wrong... how easy would it be to kill a zombie? Now, most people wouldn’t have issues with killing in self defense, the law even allows this type of killing. But even if a thief held you at gunpoint and you had the means to fight back and kill him... would that be so simple? There’s a reason why they show people hesitating at the final moment when going to shoot a bad guy. I’ve fortunately never had this experience, but I can imagine it would not be easy to pull that trigger, to take a life... no matter how evil a person might be.

Zombies look like us. They still move like us, dress like us. And what’s worse, that zombie that is trying to attack you... it could look like your best friend. Your mom. Your daughter. Your husband. How easy would it be then to shoot them in the head? Especially when you take into account that maybe... just maybe... they retain a bit of the memories or humanity they once had, but for whatever reason it is being inhibited by the zombie infection. It is hard to believe that you wouldn’t feel some remorse or regret. And what if your friend wasn’t dead yet, just bitten. You know they are going to turn... would you be able to kill them before they suffered through the change into a zombie? Or would you have to wait until their actual “death?”

During Dawn of the Dead a group of zombies are put into a room and given their last rights. One man asks why anyone would do that, why put them into a room all together, covered with blankets and trying to comfort them. A man replies, “because they still believe there’s respect in dying.”

Would our moral sense be thrown to the side after during apocalypse?

Survival wouldn’t just be about killing zombies or taking lives. One would need to steal, cheat, break into things, damage property, and who knows what else! These are all things that we have been taught are wrong. I wouldn’t even consider trying to take something from a grocery store now without paying for it. It is hard to imagine how I would feel stealing food in a time of survival if it came to that. I’m the type of person who likes to look out for others. As a supervisor at work, I always make sure to give others breaks before I take my own. In a time of panic, would I still look out for others as much as myself? Or would I ditch those that were weak and possibly holding me back? My whole life I have been a caring and decent person, but maybe that would all change in the blink of an eye. As quoted in Dawn of the Dead (about the actions the four survivors must resort to), “we’re thieves and we’re bad guys. That’s what we are.”

I know I have asked a lot of questions today, and there really aren’t any correct answers. So....how would you feel and react? Would you easily be able to shoot your own best friend in the head? Steal that gun? Break into that house?

Join me back here next week; hopefully I will have some cool stories and updates from HorrorHound!

2 comments:

  1. Wow, Mir.
    Understand that you're discussing the film that gave me nightmares for weeks. Seriously (saw it on Halloween night 1984 double-featuring with the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and had to walk home alone). Zombies are the only movie monster that really upset me and frighten me--for exactly one of the questions you raise: what if a piece of their humanity is still trapped in there, what if their soul has NOT been released in physical death, but is trapped in the physical body, unable to act or speak.

    Unlike Anne Rice's vampires, whose souls are trapped in their immortal bodies but who retain and become even more themselves as their "undeath" progresses, for a zombie, that individuality is lost. They remain in the clothes they died or were buried in. There is no volition, no will, but to roam and eat, brutally.

    As a creature of intellect and someone who has always prized their intellectual and philosophical skills over all, this is my definition of hell.

    Dawn of the Dead... yeah. That's Hell to me.

    Nice piece!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I saw the Original Dawn of the Dead at the pics in 1982, loved the idea of it and own it on Dvd with the remake. I like both but which is better Running or walking Zombies? Walking I guess if your trying to escape!

    Shaun..

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