A lifeless mass of bodies crowd at the storefront, eyes glazed, depressed shoulders, arms hungry and outstretched. More and more bodies hoard at the front, pressure on the doors building. Fear presents itself on the face of those on the inside.
A crack appears at a weak point in the glass. The hoard is encouraged, more pressure builds. And more pressure builds, until release. The hoard rushes the doors, squeezing each other out of the way.
Each fights to get first pick. Once inside, the lifeless mass splits, some go this way, some that. All grab as much as they can while they can, pressured by scarcity. In the hurry, one falls, only to be trampled and maimed by the feet of the rest. None can care about another.
You’re at home. You sit on the loveseat in your den eating Thanksgiving leftovers. You watch the madness on the news thinking. How could people do all this just to save $100 on a TV.
You see, material things make us zombies. That is, zombies in TV, movies, books, they are all just metaphors for consumers.
Think about any Black Friday footage you’ve seen in recent memory. Now, think about the scene in the latest episode of The Walking Dead where an enormous hoard of the dead roamed the city streets. Those similarities aren’t coincidences. The empty look on faces, the mindless grabbing, the unending desire to consume.
Sure, zombies don’t talk, but they do tell us about ourselves.
In this metaphor, the zombies are the inner consumerist aspects. We have dead components, says the metaphor. It’s that non-thinking part that just wants. The non-thinking part that just seeks and searches until it finds what it’s been looking for. But it is never satisfied, and is never able to be satisfied. Notice that zombies don’t love, they don’t care, they don’t share, they don’t laugh, they don’t feel, they don’t dream. They just ceaselessly consume.
Those who still live after the breakout are humanity. It’s the part that wants love and human connection. It’s the part that tells you to be happy with the people and the love you have.
Authors want to tell us about ourselves and zombies are just a way for the author to talk to us.
Sci-fi and horror do this well. It can be difficult sometimes for the author of a piece to make social comments if the world they create is too similar to the world we actually inhabit. So to speak to us, the author establishes a world that is similar enough for us to recognize but different enough to catch our attention, and that’s when we know we should listen.
Thus, the story of the zombie is the story of an inner struggle. Competing desires to get things or to enjoy people. Of course, the story says that there is supposed to be a winner. Don’t be a zombie. Zombie existence is brutal and pointless. Be a human being, we’re told.
The story of zombies says more. It’s not easy. It’s a never-ending battle. The living are strong, but they’re outnumbered. And eventually, some of your humanity will be compromised, and will fall in with the horde. That moment you hurry to buy the new thing. But what good is the story without also showing us that there is always hope. The living always make it through.