Older readers may remember a distant past when less than 90% of all pop culture was dedicated to zombies, but much like the walking dead themselves, zombie pop culture is spreading exponentially. It’s an infectious disease that won’t rest until we’re all eating zombie themed ice cream, watching How I Met Your Zombie and making love with zombie flavored condoms. Here’s why we need to put a bullet through the head of this phenomenon, before it’s too late.
9. Zombies Aren’t Scary
“Oh no! Quick, start walking at a moderate pace, it’s our only hope!”
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown, and also maybe that of a serial killer with chainsaws that can somehow shoot sharks for hands,” said H.P. Lovecraft, more or less. In pop-culture terms, the less we know about a monster the scarier it is, because how can our heroes hope to defeat something if they don’t even know what it looks like?
Conversely, we know so much about zombies that the average child learns how to defend against them before they learn how to do long division. Not that’s it hard to figure out, because a single, shuffling zombie can be outwitted with a casual stroll – it’s only when there are dozens or hundreds that they’re intimidating. Hell, World War Z had to throw 20 quadrillion at viewers to elicit anything other than yawns.
Well guess what? Anything is scary when you’re being attacked by a horde of them. Holy shit, five thousand used car salesmen are rampaging through downtown! Lock your doors, the lobsters of Red Lobster are loose…and out for revenge! Baseballs have gained sentience and, angry at being hit around all the time, have started hitting back. When’s Brad Pitt going to fight off millions of flying, demonic baseballs in Moneyball 2: Fastball to Hell? Never, because if your monster’s only scary in numbers you’ve made a crappy monster.
8. Stupid Zombie Products
With any fad comes lazy attempts to profit from it. If there are lots of fans out there some sucker will buy the T-shirt you whipped up in five minutes, so why bother working any harder? With the zombie fad spiraling out of control, something has to be done before we drown in crap like this:
Zombies are a hack advertiser’s dream come true. Take a common product, slap zombies on it, jack up the price and wait for the profits to roll in. That’s how we ended up with zombie mints, and lawn gnomes, and family car decals, and beer glasses, and lunch boxes, and coffee, and dog toys, and cookie jars, and cookie cutters, and back scratchers, and socks, and candy canes, and key chains, and clocks, and salt shakers, and bumper stickers, and sleep masks, and pencil holders, and magnets, and mouse pads, and messenger bags, and purses, and pet clothing, and bird feeders, and notebooks, and business cards, and whiteboards, and bumper stickers, and skateboards, and headphones, and speakers, and phone cases, and hundreds of terrible shirts, and I could literally do this all day. Hell, zombie condoms actually exist. You can also get zombie dildos and fleshlights, which presumably come in handy after you try to introduce zombie condoms to the bedroom.
People are buying these things, and those people are terrible. Anyone who owns a zombie birdfeeder has a black hole where their personality should be. This has to stop before someone can decorate their entire house with zombie products. Because they will, and then the brains of good taste will have been eaten.
It may already be too late.
7. Shameless Knockoffs
The Zombie Survival Guide is a terrific piece of deadpan humour. The rip-offs that followed it are not, and that’s how we ended up with How to Live Like a King After the Outbreak, Zombie Apocalypse Pro Survival Guide, The Zombie Handbook: Surviving The Apocalypse, and dozens of other titles by authors who may be raccoons in disguise and yet are still selling lots of books, because zombies.
There’s also the famous Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which was hilarious because the original story was strangely suited to a horror retelling, and also because Jane Austin’s prose, while beautiful, is rather boring. In its footsteps came Zombies Christmas Carol and A Zombie Christmas Carol, which both add zombie to the classic Christmas story because wouldn’t that be funny you guys?! And then there’s Wuthering Heights and a Werewolf… and a Zombie Too. Look at how lazily the zombie is thrown into the title. That kind of says it all, doesn’t it?
After you’ve finished that literary atrocity you might as well sit down and watch Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, a low budget movie made to cash in on the “popularity” of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which itself was only made because of the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Did you follow that? A work of zombie fiction inspired a work of vampire fiction, which inspired a zombie knockoff because everything must be zombies.
Search for zombies on Amazon and you’ll find thousands of terrible books, ranging from World War Z clones to Walking Dead clones to stories riddled with hackneyed clich?s (oh no, not Nazi zombies!) to books that just flat-out don’t make any sense, like How to Speak Zombie. “‘How to Speak Zombie’ demonstrates how to blend in and avoid being eaten while carrying on with everyday activities like ordering a latte from a zombarista,” just like the heroes have to do in no zombie story, ever. That’s where we are now, folks. The cash-ins don’t even have to be coherent, because as long as it mentions zombies people will buy it.
6. The Superfans Are Awful
Hardcore zombie fans resemble the creatures they’re fascinated by, in that they mindlessly destroy anyone who isn’t one of them. I’m not talking about people who make sure to catch every episode of The Walking Dead – these are the kind of folks Max Brooks has to put a restraining order on because they keep trying to steal locks of his hair. The kind of people who respond to a comedic article about how zombies are unrealistic by arguing that “REAL ZOMBIES DON’T WORK LIKE THAT”…
…or by saying that they can disprove a theory about a work of fiction by citing a completely different work of fiction…
…or just going with the classic “your a retard” argument.
And then, of course, you had the inevitable complaints about the World War Z movie not sticking to its source material. Not because the book had a better story or more compelling characters, but because “ZOMBIES DON’T WORK LIKE THAT DUH!!!”
These are the sort of people who, when you casually comment that zombies aren’t a realistic threat, will angrily rant at you about disease theory and military tactics, all of which they learned about by misunderstanding Wikipedia articles. They will insist that zombies are a real threat, dammit, and they won’t stop trying to convince you until you wish they were right, if only because that means there’s a chance a zombie will show up to eat them and they’ll stop fucking talking already. Nice work on going out of your way to ruin other people’s enjoyment of the genre, guys!
5. Zombie “Culture” Is Dumb
Have you ever been on a zombie walk? If you haven’t, don’t bother. If you really feel the need to watch a bunch of people shamble around aimlessly as they moan and spill bodily fluids, go visit a nursing home.
Look, I get the appeal of dressing up. But there’s nothing entertaining about smearing a bunch of fake blood on yourself and then going for a walk, but slowly. Unless you find joy in blocking traffic or making a mess in public, zombie walks are boring. If you want to moan with a lot of strangers, go to an orgy. Zombie walks are for people who spend so much time watching B-movies they need a genre-themed excuse to go outside. (Zombie walks that raise money for charity are an exception, although you could raise even more money if you didn’t spend a bunch on makeup and props.)
You can find lots of everyday activities with “zombie” slapped onto the name, and all of them are terrible. Zombie survival camp? It’s just like learning real survival skills, except you’re surrounded by creepy mouth breathers! Or join a local zombie survivalist group, because I’m sure nothing will go wrong from hanging out with a bunch of socially awkward people who are armed to the teeth.
Yoga class boring you? Try zombie yoga! It’s like regular yoga, but you’ll look stupider! Zombie dance classes? Of course, zombies are known for their love of dance. Zombie burlesque shows? No. No. Go to jail.
Adding zombies to your event does not make it interesting, and it sure as hell doesn’t make you interesting. So please stop advertising zombie kung fu or whatever as the hip new thing that only cool people get. Other people get it, too. We just don’t care.
4. Zombie Erotica
Zombie erotica gets one point for bringing something genuinely new to the genre. It gets minus all the points for being zombie erotica.
We’re not talking PG-13 love stories like Warm Bodies – this is hardcore human on zombie boning. (Or zombie on zombie, or human(s) on zombie(s), etc.) Zombie Erotica: An Undead Anthology about Sex asks the questions nobody wants answers to, including “Would it be dry or slippery with pus?” a sentence that has somehow not resulted in the author being dragged before a human-rights tribunal. It then goes on to suggest that the zombie apocalypse would be the perfect time to get with the cute co-worker who rejected you while they were amongst the living, finding a way to make necrophilia even creepier.
And that’s just the tip of the putrefied penis. There’s also Fifty Shades of Decay, Fifty Shades of Brains (they’re so creative!), Resident Zombie, Zombie Tramp, Zombos (which sounds like a name for zombie hobos), Submissive Zombie Slut, Ravaged by the Mutilated Lesbian Zombie Queen and dozens of other titles, to say nothing of the countless free short stories you can find online if you never want to be able to feel love again. So for those of you who have always wondered if zombies can get boners, apparently the answer is yes.
3. It’s Infecting Pop Culture
“Kids love the zombies these days, so let’s turn our most iconic character into a zombie. Baby needs a new pair of cocaine and hookers.”
“But sir, that makes no sense. Turning our most famous creation into a zombie completely destroys what made the character popular.”
“That’s a valid point. As a counterargument, I’m going to beat you with this tire iron until you do as I say.”
And that’s how zombie Betty Boop was born.
And she used to be so dignified.
We don’t know what she’ll look like yet, but no matter how you zombify her the very concept is idiotic. Boop is a sex symbol and, zombie erotica enthusiasts notwithstanding, there’s nothing less sexy than the walking dead. It would be like redesigning Speedy Gonzales as a quadriplegic, or Pep? Le Pew as not a sex offender. But never mind that – the world wants zombies, so you’re getting more goddamn zombies.
That explains the existence of Marvel Zombies, a comic series where all of Marvel’s greatest heroes… are zombies! Oooooh nooooo! Why yes, there is a ton of official merchandise based on this storyline. Isn’t that a funny coincidence?
Or perhaps Zombie Hello Kitty?
Why are they zombies? Who cares! Remember, kids, Something Popular + Zombies = Success. No creativity needed! So go ahead and mindlessly contribute to the zombie takeover of all pop culture. “That’s a thing I recognize, but as a zombie! Wow!!” your friends will say, after you become the thousandth person to zombify the Mona Lisa instead of doing something productive with your life.
2. It’s Infecting the News
Not content to stop at pop culture, zombies are infecting actual events. You probably remember the 2012 “Miami cannibal attack,” when for unknown reasons a Florida man brutally assaulted a homeless senior, biting off most of his face before being shot dead by a police officer. The media responded with the sensitivity such a bizarre case requires, carefully investigating the incident before jumping to any conclusions.
Just kidding: they all referred to it as a zombie attack and called it a day. It caused talk of a zombie apocalypse to skyrocket on social media, because when someone who probably had a crippling mental illness assaulted a vulnerable homeless man, there’s obviously one problem the nation needs to address: zombie defense.
Any news item that could even be remotely connected to the Miami attack went viral, because oh my God you guys, there was another biting attack in England and a hazmat incident at an LA high school, the zombies are coming! Never mind that these were real tragedies that damaged the lives of real people; there might be zombies!!!
Finally, a terrible indie horror movie inspired by the news was released. So art imitated life, after we pretended life imitated art because we can’t even read the frigging news without trying to link it together into a zombie narrative. No wonder the CDC made a guide for “Zombie Preparedness” – they knew our dumb asses would never bother preparing for a real emergency, so they tricked us into tornado alarm readiness by telling us what to do in case of a zombie disaster. So if you’re ever injured in an earthquake, don’t moan too much or the guy bringing you a first-aid kit will put a shotgun shell through your head instead.
1. Zombies Aren’t Scary, and That’s Scary
Zombies have long been symbolic of everything from consumerism to AIDS to the designated hitter rule, probably, and hardcore fans will argue that this makes watching buckets of gore deep. “She’s being eaten alive in a mall because that’s what her credit card debt is doing to her, man!” someone might say, thereby giving you permission to cold-cock them.
I’d like to suggest an alternate interpretation – the real monster is you. I mentioned at the beginning of this article that zombies aren’t scary, but maybe that’s because fans don’t want them to be. After all, when you’re fantasizing about a zombie apocalypse you don’t imagine yourself as the screaming idiot getting chowed down on in the opening minutes – you’re always the grizzled survivor, gunning down hundreds of corpses of people not as smart and talented as you from the comfort of your makeshift fortress.
And all of your fellow survivors will look like this.
Zombie enthusiasts don’t talk about how horrific the collapse of civilization would be – they talk about what kind of weapon would get them the most kills. A zombie apocalypse isn’t a disaster, it’s carte blanche to run around killing your neighbours, co-workers, and all the strangers who used to cut you off in traffic. It’s an excuse to act out your wildest violent fantasies and not be punished for it. On the contrary – you’ll be rewarded for so much killing. You’ll become a legend.
You just know these guys know some people they to kill without consequences.
“But it’s okay, they’re not human!” you’ll protest, and yes, that’s true. But that’s also the excuse we’ve used to justify everything from racism and slavery to vigilante violence against criminals to war. No, I’m not trying to suggest that zombie fans are violent, racist warmongers. But the equally gleeful approach to violence is a little unnerving. Let’s try to tone it down, okay?