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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Zombie Films as a Reflection of Reality

There have been some happenings recently that have reminded me why I enjoy zombie movies so much. These happenings mainly involve how we as humans treat one another.

One of the things I find endlessly fascinating about horror films is how they reflect society. Specifically, how they reflect things society is afraid of. On the surface, zombie films represent our fear of death and dying. Rotting corpses roam the streets, making it hard to ignore that one day, that could be us. Hopefully not the undead part, but definitely the rotting.

But the other aspect zombie films reflect are how awful we humans are to one another. They show that when it comes to survival, we will do all we can to ensure that we have what we need to make it, that others (unless they are part of our clan) don’t matter and are therefore expendable.

The scary part about this is that we act like this now. It’s not something that only happens in the movies. But we aren’t trying to survive zombies. That’s why it’s incredibly fascinating to me.

Without a doubt, zombies are scary. They are hard to stop, they feel no pain, and they keep coming and coming. They can’t be reasoned with. They have no emotions or freedom of thought. They are spurred on by some primal desire to eat and destroy.

But their motives are known. Humans know what to expect from the undead. They don’t change their patterns, and they are predictable. If only that could be said about the humans. We are the ones who use deception and treachery to get what we want. We’ll lie, cheat, and steal to ensure our survival. We’ll kill and maim. We’ll lure others into a false sense of security just so we can get what we want.

This is incredibly apparent in The Walking Dead. Sure, the walkers are a huge problem, but they aren’t nearly as scary as the humans. Look how the current season ended. Everyone has been anticipating the introduction of Negan. He was a major part of the graphic novels, and it’s possible that he’s going to murder one of the main characters. Perhaps Glenn. The audience is on pins and needles waiting for what is going to happen. There are theories all over the internet of who it will be.

But the point is that it’s humans against humans at this point—and, in reality, it has been since the show started. Sure, the zombies have killed their fair share of main characters, but not nearly as many as the humans have.

The zombies change the humans; they are the catalyst that put them in this awful situation in the first place. Take Carol, for example. At the beginning of the show, she was a shy, mousey woman. A lot of her behavior had been dictated by an abusive marriage, so it’s almost refreshing to see her grow a spine. However, it goes beyond that. She then becomes devious and a killer. She unpredictable and can’t be trusted, so she has to be sent away.

But, wait, you say. This is about survival. Everyone has to do something they wouldn’t normally do to live.

And I agree with you. One of the points of zombie films is that it pushes us humans into situations we wouldn’t normally be in and it asks us how far we would go to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

However, zombie films and shows also ask: how do we bring ourselves back to humanity?

None of you would argue that the situation the characters are in in zombie shows and movies is pleasant. It’s scary and difficult. But the humans ultimately have to decide what path they will take. They have to decide if they will continue to be killers or if they will try to rediscover their humanity.

The character who embodied this trait in The Walking Dead was Dale. He even flat out asked the others if they were going to give up their humanity by killing another human being. He was their voice of reason, the one guy who kept most of the others grounded. And then he was killed.

If zombie films and shows have shown us anything, it’s that returning to humanity is the hardest task of all.

In the real world, there are people who are ridiculously self-centered, who will do anything to ensure that they have what they need to be comfortable and survive, and they will step on anyone to get it. They will use deception, cheat, and steal to meet their own goals, and they won’t feel remorse about it.

We’ve all seen these type of people. Whether on the news or even people in our lives. They are frustrating and irritating. We want to do something so they can see the error of their ways, make them change into better people. But how? Nothing seems to make an impact on their actions. So we do the next best thing: we ignore it as much as we can. We focus on our needs or the needs of our family and push everyone else away. Thus, the cycle continues. Trust me, I do the exact same thing.

There’s a sense of security that comes from watching zombie shows and movies and knowing that the survivors are going to be horrible, awful people—although some are less horrible and awful than the others. These oftentimes turn out to be the heroes. They are flawed, but they still retain some redeeming qualities.

There’s a sense of control because more than likely, those really bad people will get their come-uppins at some point. We can boo and hate them, knowing that in the end the hero will come out on top. Sure, there will be some losses along the way, but that will make the defeat of the bad guy so much sweeter.

There’s less sense of control in real life. There’s no guarantee that the “bad” guy will get what he deserves. In fact, it often feels like the opposite happens. This is also frustrating and irritating. It makes me weep for the state of humanity, makes me wonder how in the world we’ve advanced this far as a species when we can be so horrible to one another.

But, like the characters in zombie films, we continue on. The process changes us, but we survive. And we hold onto the hope that one day, things will get better.