I don’t think I’m so much of a zombie fanatic to call myself a snob, but after reading the astoundingly brilliant “World War Z” by Max Brooks, I expected similar insights into the zombie genre from the network that brought us such bold and brave programming as “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad”. Alas, despite giving the show a second and third and fourth chance (because I wanted so badly to like it), it’s just not getting better. C’mon, guys – you had a whole year to work on it and the only significant change you made was getting rid of Frank Darabont (the best thing the show had going for it).
While “World War Z” was not only very realistic (as realistic as a zombie outbreak scenario could be), it also thought of everything and was exceptionally original to boot. “The Walking Dead” simply goes through the motions of every zombie cliché that’s come before it (in fact, the very first episode was such a shameless rip-off of the beginning of “28 Days Later”, I’m amazed there isn’t a plagiarism lawsuit underway). Furthermore, there isn’t a single character in the show I give a damn about. Seriously, the latest episode ended with a boy getting shot in the chest and I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to tune in the following week to find out who did it and why. The protagonists don’t hafta be likeable, but they should at least be interesting. These characters might as well be played by cardboard cutouts. Worst of all, though, is the weird liberties they’ve taken with zombie “rules”.
As I stated in last year’s post about vampires, it’s annoying when filmmakers and story-tellers contrive their own rules of what vampires (or, in this case, zombies) can or can’t (and will or won’t) do in order to accommodate the direction and content of their own story. I remember watching an episode from the first season of “The Walking Dead” with a friend of mine (also a bona fide zombie aficionado) and we started picking apart the holes and loose ends in what we were watching. Among other things, we were ridiculing the notion that one could camouflage oneself from zombies by merely smearing guts on oneself as well as the concept that zombies are attracted to pretty much any random noise like car alarms and gunshots. Come on. These aren’t great white sharks, they’re the living dead. Why would they associate a beeping horn with eating brains?
That brought up the question of what exactly is it that draws zombies to the living? This question quickly evolved into an intense and impassioned debate. My friend and I quibbled over the idea that perhaps they’re attracted to body heat or the sounds of heartbeats or maybe even some otherworldly intuitive sixth sense that tells them the nearest living thing is in this direction. Another point of contention was why do zombies feed on the living in the first place? Do they require nourishment? Will they starve without it? I was taking the stance that zombies are indeed dead bodies that are gradually rotting, but the only real difference is that they’re not inanimate. Therefore, they eat the living out of some kind of inherent compulsion, probably due to some imperceptible evil force – perhaps a natural instinct to “breed”, so to speak, since the only way to create more zombies is through biting others. My friend rebutted saying that their decomposition is in a state of suspension and, in order to remain “living” dead, they needed to maintain their musculature and nutrition by eating living people’s brains and innards. We debated this for quite some time, both firmly adamant about our position(s) on the matter.
Needless to say, we didn’t arrive at any real agreeable mutual conclusion, but upon reflection, I came to realize that what we were doing was essentially having the same kind of discussion that anybody who subscribes to a particular religious dogma has had with somebody who believes in an alternative (and , consequently, conflicting) religious belief. I mean, there we were, saying “No, that’s not how zombies work. They hafta do this this way because they require this in order to acquire that.” “No, you’re wrong. Because in order for zombies to acquire that, this has to happen this way or else that wouldn’t matter.” As seriously as we were taking this discussion, it didn’t make any difference. Since zombies don’t exist, neither one of us was right and neither one of us was wrong. Yet, we were both steadfast enough in our beliefs of something entirely imaginary, that we were willing to argue over it for a considerable length of time.
That’s basically what I’ve come to conclude about religion in general. Really, it’s just “I believe your pretend story is wrong because my pretend story works better for me.” Not unlike how different countries have their own version of what Santa Claus is and does – the only real difference being that nobody questions whether or not Santa Claus (or Saint Nick or Kris Kringle or Father Christmas or whatever you call him) is a myth and nobody's contradictory belief threatens anybody else's.
This is one of my more bizarre blog posts, I know, because I’ve basically gone from trashing a popular television series straight to indicting people of faith as being either delusional or fraudulent (or both). Not to say that my beliefs are any more correct than anyone else’s. To quote Bertrand Russell: “I think we ought to always entertain our opinions with some measure of doubt. I shouldn’t wish people dogmatically to believe any philosophy, not even mine”. That said, far be it from me to steer clear of controversy. So, let the inflammatory comments fly… you still won’t get anywhere.