Night of the Living Indifference

Posted on October 26, 2011 by

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by Anthony Dean-Harris

There are things in this world that confound me. There are things in this world that seem to alight the masses but leave me absolutely behind. There are things in this world for which folks seem to have complete adoration that go over my head quite magnificently. There are times I wish I could understand why people so love things like sports, or Star Wars, or not avoiding other human beings the vast majority of the time. There are things in the zeitgeist that outright confound me, but what confuses me most lately, the thing I truly wish I could understand what the whole big deal is right now, is zombies.

When I see people exude so much unabashed glee about the prospect of a nightmarish new world of ruin and death, I sort of wonder 1) why do people like that concept so much and 2) what’s the big deal about it? What makes zombies so beloved to a cross-section of people more than vampires or werewolves or the Great Pumpkin (which, in my opinion, had the best music because Vince Guaraldi’s “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” is possibly one of my favorite compositions of his, although Chick Corea did it better)? What makes the prospect of constant, unrelenting struggle for survival so appealing? What is it about the notion of losing everything that manages to tug out such a joygasm from so many fans?

And I keep hearing about how brilliant a concept zombies are and how they’re metaphors for commercialism or groupthink or self-determination or something. I can only halfway say some of the works in what is now apparently a sub-genre may seemingly broach that level of intellectualization but let us first not go overboard with this and then let us notice that most of these folks who are so fascinated with the undead don’t seem to be devouring these works much like the flesh of their so admired mindless denizens because of these flicks’ literary value. It’s not like most of the folks attending their local annual Zombie Walks are also associate professors at Middlebury.

It not like I’m outright avoiding works involving zombies. I’m currently engrossed in Colson Whitehead’s new novel, Zone One, in which people recover Manhattan after the zombie apocalypse struck the world. I’m faithful to catch AMC’s The Walking Dead every Sunday night. I made it a point, especially as a person who owns only a dozen DVDs, to buy Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse: Planet Terror. I actually saw Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse four times in theaters. However, other than for The Walking Dead, I like the artisans behind these works, sub-genre notwithstanding. Frankly, The Walking Dead is a generally plodding show with wooden acting. Unlike other works in the sub-genre, it seems to intentionally highlight all the most boring parts of a world overrun with zombies, thus constantly reminding us how depressing that notion truly is. Besides, if these dullards are the only folks left at the end of the world, maybe we actually are better off trolling for flesh with the rest of the rotting crew.

It would truly seem that zombie works of fiction only seem to remind me that if society would collapse, you’d be left with annoying people, and even worse, they seem to be a small, more intensified cross section of annoying people. The options for either an animalistic return to form and… an animalistic return to form don’t seem to have that big of a pull on either side.

Am I wired wrong? Am I missing something? Is there something deep inside me that lacks that innate desire for chaos and the collapse of civilization? There’s a part of me that wants to connect to the joy others feel about fictional, horrifying undead people, but then this conflabbed sense gets in the way. Maybe, much like all the complaints I heard about back in high school and still hear from time to time at my workplace, I’m overthinking things. Or maybe, much like being a Texan who doesn’t care all that much about breakfast tacos (other than carne guisada with cheese) or a Black guy who doesn’t listen to enough hip hop, I’m just weird like that.

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