Midday break: let’s talk about zombies

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  • 09/21/2022

Enough with the serious news for a little while!  Americans remain bitterly divided on a serious issue that didn't get nearly enough discussion during this campaign: fast zombies versus slow zombies.  You'd have to give the slow-zombie partisans the edge right now, given the popularity of The Walking Dead on TV; those zombies are about as slow as they come.  (Actually, they're sometimes downright sessile, but ignore their motionless bodies at your peril, or your might get your hamstring bitten off.)

So, are you ready for a jolt of fast zombies?  I mean, really fast zombies?  Unholy tidal waves of them?

That's from World War Z, an upcoming movie adaptation of a popular book.  I'm more of a slow-zombie guy myself, because the slow and inexorable onslaught of inescapable doom is a haunting metaphor for human mortality, and when slow zombies eat somebody in a movie or TV show, it's really horrifying.

But the big problem with slow zombies is that it seems unrealistic they would actually be able to defeat the armed forces of the living human race in a "World War Z."  That's one of the toughest things to swallow about the TV version of The Walking Dead.  Zombie-ism doesn't spread fast enough, and they're not all that difficult to kill individually.  Civilians with minimal combat training can take on several of them at once.  Slow zombies need a certain element of surprise to prevail, and that level of sustained, strategic surprise would be very difficult to achieve against modern armed forces, assuming you're not talking about some sort of supernatural apocalypse that wipes out guns and telecommunications as well.

The proper tactics for dealing with zombies - shoot them in the head, everyone who dies becomes a zombie, don't let them bite you or you'll die - would be very quickly learned and spread by well-trained military forces, and there aren't enough intact dead people in the world at any given moment to wipe them out.  Cause a horrific disaster with appalling loss of life, sure.  But defeat the military and armed civilians, especially in areas of the U.S. which are notably better armed than The Walking Dead makes them out to be?  To the point where civilization is utterly erased?  It's tough to swallow.  I always had the impression, at the end of the original Night of the Living Dead, that the zombies were losing, and the tragic ending of the film was part of the post-disaster clean-up operation.

Solution: unholy tidal waves of zombies that move so fast you can't efficiently shoot them in the head, halt their advance, or avoid them.  It's bound to irritate the purists, but it does make a certain degree of sense.

Okay, back to the political apocalypse!

Update: A further thought: popular culture is a powerful medium for the transmission of ideas, sometimes through the use of very exaggerated metaphors.  It's a little surprising, given the current popularity of zombie fiction, that gun-rights advocates haven't used the genre to make a point about the importance of self-defense.  In a fantastic way, zombie stories do convey a logically valid case for the right, and necessity, of individuals to provide for their own protection.  Zombies have been used in other official and political capacities - for example, the federal government uses them every Halloween to convey valid and sensible information about disaster preparedness.  But I've noticed that the one thing the government never tells you to include in your zombie-apocalypse preparations is the tool you most urgently need to survive: a gun.

I think I'm somewhat less than half kidding about this, although it's hard to tell, because I'm running on very little sleep.


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