Pop Culture Adds a New Doomsday to
Be Afraid of: The Zombie Apocalypse
We’ve been trying to scare the hell out of each other since immemorial times. Few have tried harder than the church, of course. What, with all that talk about eternal damnation and unspeakable horrors awaiting the non believer, most people had reason to wet their herb-stuffed cots at night, and proclaim that the end was already near, even then.
Twenty centuries later, religious demons, and sea dragons for that matter, lost much of their currency. They’ve been replaced by humanlike creatures, man-made monsters, half-animal beasts, invading aliens and the post-nuclear hecatomb undead, not necessarily on this order. We seem to be living through a revitalization of the latter kind, a time ripe for a zombie apocalypse, according to many.
They’ve been so ingrained these days that regular entertainment channels such as comics, books, movies and plays can no longer prevent them from leaking all over contemporary culture. Thus government agencies, educators and commercial outfits have all reached out to the myth of the half-eaten ghoul, to warn, educate, and make a buck out of the masses.
There are marathons now, where participants are supposed to train their run-away-from the slow-moving wrecks; maps indicating where they’re most likely to surface; ideal places to congregate during the outbreak; and special gear to wear and display, so others will know what you’re up to. And of course, plenty of advice to the already half-prepared doomsday nut crowd.
That it may never happen is beside the point; as it’s the norm with the end-of-times and rapture-day converts, facts should never get in the way of a good old fright. Which is, just so we’re all in the same rotten-flesh page, an excellent way of establishing control over feeble minds, who’re usually glad to be given life instructions and the opportunity to tend to their leaders’ earthly needs.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Assuming that you may be momentarily out of touch with friends and family, there’s a handy interactive map, created by Doejo, where you can punch your location and it’ll give you areas of risk, liquor and gun stores, police stations, and other ‘zombie points of interest’ near you to, naturally, avoid.
It’d be also useful for you to memorize some of the landmarks that self-appointed experts consider ideal to survive a zombie attack. You’d be glad to know that the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Tokyo Tower in Japan, and the about to be completed World Trade Center, in Manhattan, are all good locations to ward off an attack. Glad because you could also do some tourist sightseeing while there.
The reason why these and other towers offer good protection is quite sensible, according to Dr Dale Seslick, who wrote the seminal Zombie Dictionary: “Due to the decomposition of the brain, a zombie lacks the manual dexterity and coordination required for climbing; so, anywhere high up which requires a ladder for access should be reasonably safe.”
Perhaps for being British and all, the good doctor also includes the Blackpool Tower as a possible outpost of safety, with the additional advantage of having transparent glass floors, ideal to watch them ‘eating your friends,’ according to the Survival Goods Website, which also lists four other world landmarks for the same reason.
A (ROT) LEG UP ON THE COMPETITION
That’s when the craze about a possible ‘Zombalypse’ intersects with ‘preppers,’ proponents of a sudden demise of the world as we know it and the need to prepare for it. The rhetoric is similar: you’ll need to have plenty of stored food, water and supplies, along with a secluded and safe location, and the willingness to spend years underground. Above all, they say, you’ll need plenty of guns and ammo.
For what we know, never mind about the rest; what some seem to care the most about is the ability of having enough firepower to blast themselves into survival, ‘defend themselves’ of possible hordes of the demented and the racially impure? er, the mushy-brain afflicted. Again, if it all sounds a bit familiar, it’s because it is, and once in a while we hear about one of them jumping the gun.
But this ‘community’ does have a headstart on the competition, since many are already living in fortified bunkers. Some are already cut off from the grid of mainstream society, and no longer speak to once close relatives and friends. Such Spartan life in waiting has its drawbacks and, as it happened recently, many simply can’t live off candy, Coca-Cola and ammunition only; they’d much rather shoot.
But not all dwellings available to preppers have to be cave-like, hole-in-the-ground conditions. Take Kansas developer Larry Hall who’s converting missile silos from the Cold War era into luxury condos, and selling them to deep-pocket paranoids (yes, they exist). Some have already paid millions for their share in the ‘dream’ of surviving a nuclear fallout, or a flesh-eating ghouls infestation.
Their quarters can cost up to several million dollars, and the silos are big enough to accommodate some 70 survivalists, who’d have plenty of room to stockpile food and supplies, plus common areas with pools, theaters and libraries, along with a heavily armed and likely expensive security detail, to keep attackers, and those who can’t afford it, out. Just like today’s gated communities.
BOOT CAMPS & MARATHON RUNS
Some retailers are all too eager to profit from the mania and who can blame them? So lines of clothing and trinkets can be found, along with shopping malls offering the ‘full zombie experience,’ are popping out in all the places where people are not used to seeing corpses anywhere outside a morgue. Which means, places where the many wars going on in the world haven’t yet reached, thank goodness.
But there are also organizations using the phenomenon to teach basic survival skills and self-reliance, as well as fundamentals about virus outbreaks and natural disasters, which are obviously much more likely to happen. A few years back, the Center for Disease Control issued a Preparedness 101 guide, supposedly about zombies but with the real focus on teaching people such skills.
A company in Oregon also offered recently a Zombie Survival Training Course, designed just like a slightly more demanding Boy Scouts outing trip would. Except that most of those attending the course were well passed the age of being a BSA member. And so was the demographics of a 5km race in the Philippines, which added actors dressed as post-apocalyptic zombies to participate in the run.
They hid behind trees along the course and surprised runners by ‘symbolically feast on their brains,’ or more precisely, stealing flags attached to the participants. It was all for good fun, no doubt about it, but there may have been the occasional frightened runner who may be still racing away from such scary characters.
THE ZOMBIE AS YOUR TEACHER
Perhaps we should credit writer Seth Grahame-Smith for having ignited the latest craze, with his books, specially Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which sold millions and incited a whole new demographics slightly younger than those followers of the Walking Dead graphic novel series. We may be hearing a lot about him with the release of a movie based on his Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
No one seems to have had a more instructive idea, though, than David Hunter (what? no relation, of course). A public school teacher, Hunter’s created a curriculum using the zombie apocalypse theme to inspire kids to study geography. On a KickStarter video, he explains his project and need to raise cash to implement it. The idea, though, is so simple, ingenious and necessary, that’s a miracle that it hasn’t yet caught fire.
Maybe it will. As we said, the new vampire movies may attempt to restore the primacy of that other walking dead, which up to a few years ago, was the uncontested champion of the underworld. There’s something closer to our modern reality with zombies than with vampires, though: zombies are powerless, unconscious, degrading and can only follow others into even more carnage and decay.
Such picture may have more resonance in a world of endless wars, obscene poverty, hunger, environmental devastation and risk of deadly viruses than the usual portrait of blood-sucking creatures, independent, solitary, almost romantic and perfectly capable of making their own choices and remain sentient, even when us, humans, fall to disease and death.
But that it’s just a rotten, smelly, disfiguring thought, of course.