Z Nation will count the body parts when The Walking Dead Season 5 starts up this weekend.
(Image from Wikipedia)
Kristen Lamb posted an essay on her blog, which I follow (and you should, too) in July about the appeal that zombies have on us. I don’t want to summarize all that she said, but one picture – the guy in his cube, head cocked back and presumably snoring – and one phrase almost said it all: “We’re medicated, caffeinated and indoctrinated.”
She’s right. I have watched tight formations of people texting on their phones while walking on the sidewalk, their smartphones held up as proof of their stupidity. My mind flashes back to the picture-book image of Sumerian scribes with cumbersome clay tablets, their styluses sharpened. One misstep and it is a punctured lung, or a splash into the Euphrates into the mouth of a hungry alligator. The reality is that the modern phone diva will crash into you and then give you their hate face because it is your fault. You hadn’t dared to make way for them. I did witness the miraculous once: a guy was texting as he walked into traffic, oblivious to the traffic light and those pesky blocks of metal on wheels that rely on Fred Flinstone to stand on the brakes with both feet in order to stop them in mid-Tweet. Talk about faith in the modern age. One consolation, though: Destined-for-the-Afterlife idiot did his stupendous act of insanity in front of a hospital so it was one-stop shopping, from Splat to ER. Proof of insurance first, please.
What puts the Z in Zombie for me? I was alive to see George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) in a Cineplex. Side note: I saw The Godfather in a drive-in, and The Exorcist terrified me for years. The scene where Regan walks up the stairs spider-like…Shivers. I digress. The scene in Dawn that had made an impression was the chaotic mall scene. The mall was to the eighties what the roller rink was to the seventies.
To add to Kristen’s War on Ideas, I do think that zombies are a metaphor for our mindless Conformity (thunk an original thought lately?) and Consumerism. Education pays lip service to the idea of a liberal education – more like a rigorous-beat-you-down-for-that-pellet-of-praise-for-the-flock-of-parrots process. “Socrates defied the Athenian authorities and he had to drink hemlock, so do as I say,” said the teacher, who reminded his charges that there was only one answer. ONE and it is HIS. No wonder homeschooling is on the uptick. There will be no, “I walked barefoot five miles in the snow for my Ritalin.” In nearly every class I had in college there was the Fool who raised his or her hand and said, with absolute honesty and sincerity, “What do I have to do to get an A in this class?” Bless their brave hearts since they didn’t know the meaning of double entendre.
The Scarecrow in the film version of The Wizard of Oz was prophetic when he sang: “If only I had a brain.” That was 1939, in color, and before World War II. Never mind that L. Frank Baum’s Wizard was published in 1900. He was the JK Rowling of his day. We don’t have flying monkeys like we used to – they are all CGI now. *Sigh*
The point is that we don’t think critically anymore. Everything is a fast-fix like fast food. Sentences that are too long enfeeble minds. Perhaps we are continuously interrupted, distracted, as Kristen argued, but I think the truth is closer to the early scene in Good Will Hunting, where some elitist dweeb hits on Skylar, played by Minnie Driver. He selects and plagiarizes academic texts to get her interest, until Will calls BS on his unoriginality. Conformity is a soul-killer, yet everyone is as special as a snowflake and has to have self-esteem. Why think when you can consume someone else’s thoughts? Can’t think? Nom on some brains. Makes you rethink student loans, doesn’t it?
Whether we work more for less, 40 hours or more, find out that the Koch Brothers own everything, or everything is an act of manipulation, we can control what our eyes consume. We can control the amount of stimuli that puts everyone in React Mode the second the light turns green. The answer? Turn off the television and pick up a book.
Shameless plug: my short story Zombees will appear in Big Pulp (April 2015).