An Inordinate Fondness for Beetles

July 5, 2010

Zombies and the Collective Unconscious

Filed under: funny,media and pop culture — Tags: , , — Ethan @ 7:58 pm

I was hanging out with a friend tonight, and at some point I somehow wound up mentioning my recurring zombie dreams. I have a lot of different dreams about zombies, one every month or two.  Mostly, I’m being chased by zombies. Once or twice I was a zombie, one of which ended just as I was being sentenced to 6-8 years in prison for ‘attempted zombification’ of someone I’d tried to take a harmless little chunk out of.

My favorite is also the most elaborate. It spans several years. Basically,  a RAGE-virus style zombie apocalypse hit Athens. Lots of people became zombies, even more fled, and I managed to hold out with a couple dozen people, promptly availing ourselves of the nicest abandoned houses and cars in town. After a few months, the zombies got bored or hungry and wandered out of town. We planted gardens. Had picnics. Began to rebuild.

And then the zombie-virus epidemic waned out. After a few years of bloodthirsty brain-eating, people’s immune systems were able to fight it off. Pale, scabby recovering zombies started wandering in to town, not remembering much, but apologizing like hell for what they could remember. “Dude, I…uh…I’m sorry I ate your sister. I just couldn’t stop. I feel terrible.” And the survivors, who had been gleefully popping off any shuffling corpse that came this side of the horizon felt wave after wave of guilt. No one had really stopped to question if the zombies had lost their humanity for good. Many people had killed their own undead loved ones. It hadn’t taken very long at all to even stop thinking of them as former people.

We had to process with the zombies. It was fucking awkward. More than a few of the survivors started muttering that we should spare ourselves the trouble and see if we couldn’t kill the rest before they recovered.

My friend seemed to think this is one obvious permutation that hasn’t really been done before, and was prodding me into writing it up as a short story or something.

There’s the I Am Legend thing, where the zombies are supposed to be intelligent, but they’re certainly not *people.* We talked for a bit about the ways it’s telling that zombie attacks are the pop culture trope of the moment.

Alien attacks, and monsters, are perfectly cold-war. You have an adversary who’s sentient, malicious, and totally not human. A perfect chance for straight-up good guys vs bad guys, no ambiguity, and the sides are clearly demarcated. Plus, with aliens, it’s a good bet the humans are gonna need some pretty spiffy weaponry, to stand a chance against shockingly well armed, diplomacy-disinterested invaders.

But zombie movies are all about having the masses of people around you turn against you. You get to have to open fire into the crowd, inure yourself to killing your neighbors at any chance, and leave modern society behind.  I love zombie movies as much as the next guy, but seriously. There is some creepy shit under there.

And on that note, it’s past my bedtime. What do y’all think?

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