I didn’t like zombie-themed entertainment that much when I was younger even though pretty much all my life I’ve liked sci-fi, fantasy and imaginative adventure stuff. I just didn’t think zombies were that interesting as monsters or antagonists. They were too human, and I hated people, so I preferred something more exotic and alien. However that changed when I read I am Legend, by Richard Matheson, around the time the Will Smith movie with the same name came out. Haven’t seen it, don’t wanna see it.
I am Legend is a novel about the last human on earth after everyone else have been turned into vampires. During the day he hunts for supplies and kills vampires, during the night he tries to survive alone in his hideout. The time when I read it was probably the loneliest time in my life, which is saying something since I’ve used to being lonely and misunderstood. Still am. I am Legend is, of course, all about loneliness. Everyone else has been turned into some sort of monstrosity and you just want to survive only to wonder what’s the point. You survive because you can still think. Ponder the meaning and the pain of it all. The novel was all about loneliness. But there was the dog. And the dog died.
Although the novel was about vampires, the basic story is nowadays seen in countless zombie apocalypse movies. Most of the people have been turned into a group of zombies, and the remaining humans have struggle to survive, and squabble among each other for resources. In fact, the Wikipedia page says I am Legend was inspiration for Night of the Living Dead, the father of all zombie movies. (Now someone is gonna bring up Bela Lugosi’s White Zombie or something. Please, save it.)
After reading I am Legend I “got” zombies. I understood the point. It’s not about the external threat, but the internal one. We are already surrounded by zombies, as have been proven by photos on the internet with people glued to their phones. Most people prefer to exist within their miniscule grid of perception, or matrix of consciousness, or whatever fanciful term I wanna coin. Yet it’s not just us against them. We all have the ability to become a zombie if we’re not careful. I hate my phone, so I couldn’t really be accused of becoming a phone zombie, but at times I am zombified in front of my computer. Sometimes it’s just too tempting to find one more distraction, something entertaining instead of something meaningful.
Moreover a few years back I watched a Japanese anime called Highschool of the Dead. The name should be a dead (pun pun) giveaway as to the nature of the show. It’s a rather juvenile anime with panty shots and big boobs and stuff like that, and despite that/because of that I liked it. It was vulgar and violent, but at least it had the energy of struggle to live, not only to survive. One could argue that is related to the vulgar sexual innuendo. Anyway, there was one scene in the first episode (I think it was the first episode), which has been archetypally etched into my mind forever.
The school was being overrun by zombies. Plenty of surviving humans were getting eaten, and the real survivors, the protagonists, escaped. But there was one couple, a boy and a girl. Maybe they’re brother and sister, maybe they’re lovers. Doesn’t matter. The boy gets attacked and bitten by zombies, and girl has an opportunity to run away but she just stands there resigned to her fate. Either she is too shocked by this new expansion in her consciousness (which I would say finding out that zombies are real and eating her Onii-chan is) to act, or she understands full well what is happening and makes the choice to allow herself to be killed or become a zombie, because she cannot live without her Onii-chan.
The moment it happened I thought what an idiot the girl is for not escaping. But for the girl her world, her belief system had been shattered, and she did not want to go on. Her only choices were real death or undeath. The boy represents her old belief system, her habits, the things she “knows” she knows. For a lot of people losing that is unbearable. But for me the zombie apocalypse meant opportunity. You’re free of your old life and old beliefs, which means losing many of the comforts of such life, but when you lose your belief system you are free. So had I been that girl I would have run, and I did.
Coincidentally my own Onii-chan-getting-bitten-by-zombies moment was around the time I read I am Legend. Around that period of time I had come into contact with the fact that most of beliefs were false and harming me. It is not a pleasant thing to experience, but necessary to do in order not to become a zombie. I got through it and I think I’m still not a zombie. I am alive. Spiritually and physically.
I think one reason why zombie apocalypse games, movies and whatnot are popular, because they not only represent our current state of feeling imprisoned in world filled with zombies, but there is the tipping point which sends everything hurling into chaos. And with that chaos comes opportunity. As my blog is called Concordia ab chao, harmony out of chaos (to be contrasted with the Masonic Ordo ab chao). As the world is now there is some security, but too much stagnation and not much space for us living human beings to forge our own existence. But it’ll come crashing down at some point, and we have to be ready and make sure the crash is merely painful, not fatal.
We are faced with the zombie apocalypse. There are three choices: die, undie (become zombie) or live. Many people are choosing the first option. Suicides are increasing in many countries, I believe. Some choose unlife, i.e. pick some sort of pointless consensus belief system to give them some sense of stability, but inside they are dead and afraid of the organic light of life. The third option, and the correct one in my opinion, is to live. It will be the most painful option, but such is life.
I was going to write about Pod People too, but I’ve rambled on long enough. Maybe next time.
I am Legend: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Legend_%28novel%29
Highschool of the Dead: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highschool_of_the_Dead