The Need to Feed: Zombies vs. Humans

This month’s theme is rather broad but originally we had meant to focus on food and books that make you hungry and body image etc… Well, that went out the window and now we’re just having a free for all. So, I first must apologize for the meandering nature of this post, and how it is sort of tangentially related to the month’s theme. I’ll be talking Zombies and the need to feed.

There are a staggering number of zombie movies, books, games… I imagine there are plushies, there is even the annual Zombie Walk in a lot of places. I was recently having coffee with a professor who just didn’t get it, she was asking about what it is that makes zombies so alluring? Vampires are obvious, eternal youth (so hot sexy rebellion forever!), werewolves are obvious (do I have to put the picture of Micheal J. Fox’s teen wolf up again? It’s the animal instinct for hot meat and… hot messes? It’s hot.) Zombies are kinda gross. Like the other monsters, it is their need to feed that fuels them – but that is it. They are non-sentient rotting corpses that walk. What’s the attraction?

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I have recently been watching The Walking Dead not because it is particularly good (don’t shoot me you diehard fans!) but because I am fascinated by the premise. Of course I am, post apocalypse, people struggling to survive, and as an added bonus these grotesque undead creatures are everywhere! There are a ridiculous amount of zombies in every one of these zombie stories – because if there weren’t what would the story be? I’m not saying that zombie stories = lazy creators I’m just saying that, for me, there has to be something else driving the story: quirky character development (Zombieland), humour (Shaun), awesome action and a little eugenics (Resident Evil series)… but just straight up zombie horror is kind of… silly (Cabin in the Woods)? Zombies are slow moving reanimated corpses that moan and swing their arms around like helicopters – to show my nerdiness I know that their experience score in tabletops games is ridiculously low, like 1/4, or something. They are not much of a challenge, is what I’m saying. Masses of them can be, granted but how many masses outside of the city walls are you going to get.

While the people melodrama in Walking gets a little overwhelming at times, there are a few things that I enjoy about the show. The sheer stupidity of the characters is mind-boggling, and often comical where it wasn’t meant to be. This stupidity simply moves the story onward – have you all seen Cabin in the Woods? When I watch an episode of Walking I just imagine the game-makers sitting their shooting pheromones at characters and making them all magnetic so that they are simply unable to stick together, zapping weapons out of their hands etc… (Favourite part of that movie was Chris Hemsworth’s plan to ‘stick together’ being immediately vetoed by the game-makers.)

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Rick with a horde of zombies, from Walking Dead

However, one thing that I enjoy about the show (I have yet to read the comics!) is the fact that it’s a show. The timeframe is stretched out and it is an extended survival story – which is fascinating! How does life move on. Of course there are major plotholes – but I’m still interested. Season 1 was a bunch of melodramatic tosh, but things pick up in the next season. In Season 2, we see our first horde shuffling along the highway apparently searching for food and ends with the discovery that the zombie is not in any way human (whoah, really?…who’d have guessed you DUMMIES!), season 3 begins with Rick and his crew travelling from place to place in search of safety and in search of food. Season four has us once again battling it out with a human antagonist but what I am longing for is a battle for food and supplies. Something that has been nagging at the back of my mind is – besides surviving the zombies (and they really are terrible at this) how are they sustaining themselves day to day? What I want is a season where it is the Need to Feed that rules the show. I feel like that would be the penultimate season though, because there would be nothing else driving either the zombies or the people – so it would really be down to the wire.

I’m going to pull up good old Maslow’s hierarchy of needs again because I think it will help to illuminate what it is about the zombie that is fascinating.

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Perhaps the allure of zombies is that they parallel us at our bottommost. Their needs are purely physiological, and even at that they are down to just one of the physiological needs – food. The impending apocalypse will have us sliding down this pyramid, and I think probably eliminates the possibility for self-actualization all together. In season 2 Walking Dead worked on esteem, respecting others and being respected, confidence and self-esteem – by the end of the season with the barn and with the failure to save Sophia – well that was thrown out the window. Now, in season 3 we didn’t get rid of anything. We are still working on Love/Belonging though Safety is always in question which creates this interesting jumble of needs that are fulfilled and which are constantly under strain. I think that, once safety is actually eradicated, the love/belonging (the sexy stuff) should cease, though I don’t think it will. That’s the allure of the show to most viewers, and it is the allure of films, books etc.. The dwindling number of characters might help to realize that friendship and family are not eternal but it is human need for connection that makes us strong and gives us a little sense of safety which keeps us just above the physiological needs. Interesting then that it is the zombie horde that makes zombies strong, they too need connection to stay powerful, they stick together (intentionally or not) and wander to scavenge for food. They mirror us when we are stripped down to nothing but a close knit group and the need for food (well we also need water and shelter but that just gives them an advantage). If it weren’t for our sentience and our drama then… we’d basically be zombies – something that Shaun of the Dead played with in interesting ways (at the beginning of the film anyway).

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So I guess what I’m calling for is a season of Walking Dead or a book or a film that really pits the zombie need to feed against the human need to feed. That moves beyond the initial apocalypse and focuses on the very basics of what it means to be human – because perhaps those basics are what makes a zombie…

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Steph as a Zombie.