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Sunday, November 7, 2010

A commentary on Zombie types (Part 1)


By Joan Seth

We have long held a fascination with zombies. Is there any evidence of real zombies existing? And why are we so fascinated with them? Mention zombie to any qualified scientist or medical practitioner, and you face skepticism. However, although some people believe it might be possible to produce a zombie-like state pharmacologically, Hollywood's zombies are a product of our imaginations.

Perhaps the real reasons are that zombies are slow, mechanically inept, can barely use tools, and technologically challenged. We are fascinated as well as repulsed by them. There must be something viscerally satisfying about the simplicity of the zombie's cravings and impulses.

Also what is most frightening about zombies is that unlike most creatures in horror films, the zombie is us.

The Traditional Romero Zombie

Historically zombies have been portrayed as slow-moving creatures, George A. Romero's 1968 film, The Night of the Living Dead was much of the basis for this traditional portrayal.


Picture is (C) copyright to The Walter Reade Organization

Slow, dim witted, non agile, unable of coherent speech nor thinking, but driven only by voracious hunger for human flesh. These are the characteristics of the Romero Zombie. In Night of the Living Dead, the human survivors were able to easily just run past them. However, their strength is not to be underestimated. In Day of the Dead, the zombies were able to tear a human being apart, making it seem that the humans were made of plasticine.



It is only their hunger that motivates them to wander seemingly aimlessly around. But where does this hunger come from? In Day of the Dead, where humanity had retreated into craving out an existence in underground bunkers, experiments were conducted on captured zombies. It was noted that their internal organs had already decayed (obviously, since they were dead). Their digestive systems did not work. Thus, why did they have this hunger? Furthermore, their brains did not work actively anymore.


Picture is (C) copyright to United Film Distribution Company

It can be said that this is somewhat similar to our human needs - food, water, shelter, protection, freedom and reproduction. The only way for a zombie to reproduce is to feed; feeding on another human turns them into a zombie.

And it is this method which makes a zombie horde so frightening. For all their weaknesses as mentioned earlier, the ability to generate new zombies makes them a formidable opponent. In the Romero films, humanity has been on the losing side, fighting a losing battle against zombies. For every zombie killed, a new one can be created easily.


Picture is (C) copyright to Universal Pictures

In other forms of media, this type of portrayal is also depicted. In video games like Resident Evil, Dead Rising and House of the Dead. The player is to survive the environment and fight off the zombies that are the primary antagonists.


Picture is (C) copyright to Screen Gems

But are these zombies evil? Can they really be blamed for their actions? Zombies are only acting out of pure instinct, the hunger and the need to reproduce? Can we consider them as the real enemy?

I would like to consider the enemy as us - humans. The real evil is in humanity. Zombies are a metaphor for the evil in humanity. After all, zombies were human. As depicted in Night of the Living Dead, Babara, the remaining human survivor witnesses mobs of human vigilantes arriving to "take care" of the zombie horde.

The humans round the zombies up like livestock, use them as target boards for shooting practice and pile them up like rubbish to be burned.

Babara, taking it all in, just smiles ruefully and states, "We're them. They're us." Who is more human here? Zombies acting on primary instincts to feed and reproduce or humans acting on pure monstrous urges?

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