By now, we’ve all been beaten over the head with the stores of “real-life zombies” and all sorts of “zombie-like” attacks being reported in the news. There was the lunatic in Miami who spent 20 minutes chewing someone’s face off. Then there was the other lunatic in New Jersey who ripped his own guts out and threw them at cops who were pursuing him. Plus the media poring through police blotters to dig up anything that sounds like a pattern from the last year, trying to make everyone panic and think that some kind of actual zombie uprising is happening. It’s what they love to do, and they do it well.
Folks, there are two elements to the harangue that I’m diving into today. My first thesis:
If You Really Think a Zombie Apocalypse Is Going to Happen, You’re an Idiot
|The so-called "Miami Zombie" (left) and his victim.|
I think these are the same people who believe Elvis is still alive, or that people are visited by the Virgin Mary in their bowl of Frosted Flakes. They’re the ones who think the world is going to end this autumn because the Mayans said so. The same Mayans who believed they needed to kill someone every day to make sure the sun would come up in the morning—forgive me if I find their scientific findings suspect. I’m living in Bridgeport these days, and no one said it better than that city’s patron saint P.T. Barnum—There’s a sucker born every minute, and two to take him.
I really think we’re living in a culture in which many people have lost touch with the boundary between entertainment and reality. These are the people who will quote chapter and verse about all the “rules” of zombie biology and behavior, as if they exist in some textbook somewhere, and weren’t merely invented by screenwriters to serve their narrative needs. What person could believe that an impossible supernatural scenario invented for a movie could somehow magically become real? Answer: A whole lot of them.
If only this were true! Imagine if our favorite film genres could just spontaneously cross over into the real world? I love The Warriors—but I do not believe that New York may be overrun by silly, themed gangs of face-painted thugs just because that movie exists. I love kaiju—but I don’t entertain the notion that Japan will be attacked by giant monsters, simply because some guys made some movies in which it was.
The sad truth? These are not zombies committing these crimes. These are just ordinary, run of the mill, garden variety wackos. And the further truth is that this stuff happens all the time—and that real people are far more terrifying than any fictitious beasties conjured up in the movies. There is nothing more to it than that, despite how ardently some delusional people may believe otherwise. Which brings me to my second point…
If You Think These Stories Are Funny, You’re a Creep
|Alexander Kinyua, a Maryland college student |
who apparently ate his roommate.
Call me naïve, but I never imagined things would get so bad that news of murder and mutilation in the news would be met with ironic, amused commentary and downright joyful laughter from intelligent people. I’m all for making fun of things, but I’m a firm believer in the old axiom that comedy=tragedy+time. The key word there is “time”. Our culture has apparently become so desensitized that many people have no qualms about simply jumping on these “zombie” news stories and having a jokey field day.
Horror fans in particular are guilty of this. Is it the way we glut ourselves with uber-violent entertainment that enables us to no longer register pity or revulsion at these stories? I’m not advocating censoring or curtailing anyone’s entertainment, as I partake in much of it myself. But I think some of us need to sit down and realize that these are real human beings whose tragedies we are deriving so much entertainment from. These are not characters in a Friday the 13th movie, getting sliced and diced by Jason as we cheer him on. These are real people—could be someone’s parent, child, sibling, whatever. Could be you.
Do you think Ronald Poppo, the homeless man lying in a hospital bed in Miami right now, will find it funny or ironic when he awakes to discover that much of his face has been torn off? He will have to live with that for the rest of his life. Is the news of a man hurling his own internal organs at the police a “cool story” because it sounds like something that would happen in a horror movie—or is it rather something that we should find profoundly disturbing? In a humane society, stories of people attacking babies should not provoke snarky chortles. No matter how much these things may resemble scenes from horror movies, let’s not get so immersed in our entertainment culture that we forget the difference.