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For the followers …
I’ve moved address! While I love my zombies, I don’t think I could handle a blog for every bit of culture and research I get into now or in the future, so it’s all gone to one place.
While zombies will still be a major feature, there’s bits and pieces of other speculative fiction, tv, media, the book industry, whatever conferences I end up going to, things like that.
The movement of zombie mythology from its first period to its second … mirrors the shift from faith in God to faith in science. – Kevin Boon’s essay ‘The Zombie as Other’ in Better off Dead, edited by Deborah Christie and Sarah Juliet Lauro
One of my favourite and hated of all stereotypical characters is the ‘crazy religious person’ (note: this does NOT refer to every religious person! There are people who take anything too far, no matter the name of their god. Second note: I will always not capitalise the word/name god unless it is from a quote. I use the term ‘gawd’ when I’m being silly.) This is the person who will deny what is front of them, even as the zombies are eating their flesh (literally in some movies). In Stephen King’s The Mist, it’s Mrs Carmody, thinking herself so pure when actually she splits the survivors apart. Whether unshakable belief in anything can be healthy is a topic for another academic. What I think about is god and science.
If you haven’t seen Prometheus, think of Frankenstein. The creation of life is an ability for god alone and no mortal can be god. Your belief can change the purpose of life completely in a story: in one side of beliefs (of either science or religion), mankind is king, either being certified by god as above all the creatures or through survival of the fittest and evolving above the animals. On the other side, mankind is one of many creations and it’s our ability to think that will save us (and animals) and doom us (and animals). Are humans any more worthy of survival than animals? In some texts, animals are immune or not part of the zombie food pyramid. Could it be god resetting the world back to equality, where mankind no longer has total control? Or is it the animals are better at survival of the fittest?
The disease/plague/whatever itself is another point. Mostly we see zombie plagues either made by man, for bio-weapons, for immortality, for whatever. I’m struggling to think of a zombie plague ‘sent by god’. Usually it’s science or there is no explanation at all. Voodoo is human-controlled, so I wouldn’t quite set that as being god’s power or intent.
Science vs god also determines how we look at the Other. Western society is very paranoid about robots, for example, where in some countries like Japan have huge robot development (just told my partner what I’m writing, and he said how easy it would be to program a robot to kill zombies). But if zombies were created by god? How would that change our perceptions of them (whether you are the religious type, and whatever religious type you are)?
So in all didn’t actually talk about the quote at all, but still an interesting divide, whatever the monster!
Upon my recent viewing, what I’m finding very interesting is the great changes in zombie behaviour over the decades since Night of the Living Dead. Human behaviour is much the same, but zombies change (adapt? evolve?) to cater to the new audiences.
Here are some of the general differences (of course, won’t be true for absolutely every movie):
- Speed: Early zombies are shamblers, but don’t be fooled, they are just as dangerous as the fast zombies. Never, ever underestimate them.
- Hunger: The whole brains thing comes from Return of the Living Dead, a horror comedy. Zombies in film are attracted to flesh, but there’s a scene where an early zombie is seen eating bark off a tree.
- Reason for being: Suddenly, a wild zombie appears! Or was it a chemical leak? A bio-engineered disease? Early films don’t explain how or why the zombie comes about. That’s one thing that used to grate on me in books because I enjoy the backstory of why. But sometimes it’s just irrelevant.
- Mindlessness: Earlier zombs could scream in pain, use tools, bust out lights, pull out phone cords. In Dawn of the Dead (original), one survivor makes the remark that the reason zombs are going to the mall is because it was an important place in their lives, they go there out of habit. Most modern zombs don’t have any of this. No memory, no emotion. Just the urge to feed upon flesh. (There are a few exceptions to this, of course). In Return of the Living Dead, they could even talk.
- Special zombies: These are not present in Night/Dawn. Tarman in Return of the Living Dead could just be Patient Zero rather than a special. Some modern zomb films and stories have the different types, the most common special being a Tank or Behemoth. A big one. Might be a bit smarter, might be able to use tools where others can’t. Left 4 Dead has a variety of specials, including a Tank, but also a Witch, Hunter, Jockey, Spitter, Charger, Boomer (fan art at the bottom pictures a Witch and a Hunter … they don’t kiss in the game, but I find it fascinating how somehow, fan fictioners/artists have come up with the idea to make those two in particular lovers). What makes these ones ‘turn special’ is unknown, but they are clearly separate from the other mindless hordes.
- The long undead: This is from Return of the Living Dead, where the long dead awaken. This is quite a rare thing in zomb texts, but an interesting distinction nonetheless. This also relates to the infection and how/why of the zombs.
- Infection: Through bite or exposure
- Desire to eat humans (whatever the body part)
- Ignorant of injury to itself (will keep coming after you despite a shot in the leg)
- Lesser mindedness/single mindedness: Their focus is on eating, not manners. While most have lesser capabilities, there are some texts where they seem to remember their lives
- Rot/Decay: Crumbling bodies are a regular appearance in zomb texts. As the story goes on from Night to Dawn to Day of the Dead, the makeup gets more gruesome and rotted.