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Do you believe in Zombies? A post-apocalypse fantasy, movies & video-games, and why I care.

July 29, 2010

Zombies. Apocalypse. Scary? Exciting?

No, I don’t have a bunker in the backyard and a shotgun under my bed; I don’t have a gas mask and I have not taught myself how to hotwire a car. I certainly wouldn’t be caught dead joining the Facebook Post-Apocalypse Survival Group (how does that even work!?). However, I do abide by the Boy Scouts’ motto, and so if you are anything like me, you’ll want to know The 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen.

I’ll admit that I brave the corniness of many a zombie movie in exchange for the edge-of-the-seat intensity. Honestly, although I don’t mind gore, I’m really watching because of the post-apocalyptic aesthetic. The Fake Hipster (another blogger) agrees that fashion is key when facing the end of the world. There is something about torn clothes with lots of studs and buckles, re-purposed protective sports equipment, and stompy boots that just catches my eye. The angry cars, rusty motorcycles, badass tattoos, and creative weaponry add to the fun, but really, really what I love is the survival bit.

There is something in my hunter-gatherer core that is starving for a challenge to survival. It doesn’t have to be zombies, but they’ll do. Could be petrol-hording goons à la Mad Max or gooey mutants from Resident Evil. Wouldn’t mind battling it out against my rivals, just like the kids who survived the death of all adults, in the Kiwi TV series, The Tribe. There are many different dangers in a world torn apart by nuclear war, natural disaster, plague, or other catastrophe. Fortunately, wikipedia has a list of all the fiction pertaining to each category of doom!

Did I mention that I play videogames? Among those I’ve most enjoyed are Fallout (post-nuclear survival/adventure), Bioshock (surviving in the ruins of a failed genetic utopia), and Borderlands (living from quest to quest in the bleak desert). What? Doesn’t your doctor have an Xbox 360? Everyone knows that those who play video games are more accurate and faster at performing surgery. I don’t know how shooting aliens in the head with a console game translates to any real survival skill, but it sure does help the stress of regular life!

There is so much pop-culture devoted to this subject. I tried very hard to love the show Survivor when it came out. Unfortunately it was more about petty games rather than food, shelter, and transport in a desolate world. Lost had a bit of that, but it got a little too metaphysical. Shows like the classic Prisoner and the new Persons Unknown focus on psychological survival in closed worlds that are too close to reality. These have a frustrating appeal – I’d rather be up against something I can face. It’s much more disturbing not to know your enemy. It might be even worse if you didn’t know it was an Apocalypse. But! There’s an app for that. (Just in case you didn’t see it, I smacked myself in the forehead when I found that).

Apparently, I’m not alone in fantasizing about a post-apocalyptic era, as one might guess from the plethora of pertinent movies, TV shows, and games. Granted, some might be broadcasting a warning (The Day After Tomorrow) but others fetischize the idea (Doomsday).

I, like anyone else, strive to find a purpose for my life. There is no great conflict in my life, no major adversity to overcome. It sounds odd, but I crave something to rally against. Maybe “fantasize’” is the wrong word. I know with certainty that I romanticize the idea and that if I found myself in a truly apocalyptic world, I’d probably be dead. Or everyone I loved would be dead. Or many people in general would be. All pretty disturbing. It’d probably be less like Children of Men and more like Threads. (Threads is a UK production, predating Children of Men, offering essentially the same story but with a very unhappy ending).

As a (well-behaved) teenager I read dystopian science fiction and one of my favourite authors, William Gibson, wrote about the ‘cyperpunks’ in the future who lived to survive. That constant struggle had great appeal and my life is dull in comparison [though not bad for the average North American human in 2010].

Blogger Ethan Smith says

The question of ‘what is real after everything is a commodity’ comes up quite a bit in cyberpunk, but the characters in a Gibson novel had something we don’t have. They had a conflict—the battle of the megacorps and the hackers, the terrorists and the police. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives.

Chuck Palahniuk – another favourite author of mine – pokes fun at this in Fight Club. No, it’s not about an underground MMA ring. It’s about the banality of our lives and the commodification of our existence. In his grisly novel, American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis reminds us of the path from narcissism, materialism, conformity, and social posturing to self-loathing and discontentment. To avoid the lack of fulfilment promised by eternal yuppidum, perhaps apocalpyse is the answer?

It makes no sense to want something like that – I don’t want other people to die, I don’t want to have to fear for my life at every turn, I don’t anticipate anything so terrible happening in my lifetime, and I don’t hold misanthropic views. Even though I know that, I can’t help but think that some part of me would be at home in a world of dust and chaos.

Johnathon Barrickman thinks we want to face zombies in order to strengthen our social connectedness

[The reason] the Zombie Apocalypse must seem so appealing; the great, rotting “reset button.” Everybody else f*cks off and dies while you and your Bros (and that hottie from the California Pizza Kitchen down the road) kick back, take whatever you want, answer to no one, and shoot any other bastard in the face (because that’s the only way to be sure). Your bonds with the people you actually care about strengthen, and anyone who might conceivably get in the way is no longer even a factor. Sounds kinda nice, doesn’t it? Oh, and you don’t ever have to go to work again too, so that’s extra cool.

I’m not sure if I buy that particular argument, but I still think there must be something hard-wired in some of us that NEEDS this. I’ll save criticizing the juvenile aspects of his analysis because I’m sure some of those  resonate with a lot of people. Regardless of motivation, Ethan Smith thinks it’s a bad idea to fantasize about a dark future:

The fantasizing and fetishizing of the end of the world is a way to excuse not doing anything right now, in the same way that waiting for the future in most science fiction is a way of not doing anything now. But it’s different—hoping for the end is different then hoping for the beginning.

There is an entire forum thread dedicated to people who wish for it, fantasize about it, wonder about it, fear it, think other people are terrible for thinking about it, etc. Do you seek it?
I blame biology. Darwin. My primal instincts do not apply behind a computer screen.

Some people can’t even survive the real world, so at least I feel a little better.

I’m going lazy-camping this weekend and I will simply enjoy the fact that I’m alive, looking at some beautiful natural stuff, and maybe I’ll hone some of those essential survival skills (like, bonding within my social circle?). And I might have a dream about zombies.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Tim permalink
    July 29, 2010 10:52 am

    I think everyone, in their own way, is looking for the end of the world because everyone dies. The Apocalypse is real, and it happens to all of us, right?

    • July 29, 2010 7:57 pm

      I …. don’t know!
      Everyone dies, yes.

  2. Marisa permalink
    August 27, 2010 10:54 pm

    Hi, I just found your blog and I am enjoying your style of writing.
    In reply to the “apocalypse” post, I think it’s simple really. Your drive or need or even desire puts you into the spotlight, keeps you in control, and makes you a hero or savior (whichever you prefer). Not to mention the constant verge of emergent action. I think almost everyone who chooses medicine for their career possesses some version of this fantasy at our very core.

  3. Cassavius permalink
    June 13, 2012 9:39 am

    I say, I was looking for pictures of post-apocalyptic fashion, and I bumped into this girl with the tattered dress. Any chance you know where it came from (or did I overlook something)? Thank you in advance.

    • June 13, 2012 10:53 am

      skin graft is the designer of the dress

    • Cassavius permalink
      June 13, 2012 12:35 pm

      Thank you!! 8)

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