"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history." -Cardinal Francis George

Monday, October 31, 2011

It's O.K. to like zombie movies!

Another blogger beat me to the punch on this one. This past weekend I watched some more of The Walking Dead and thought I might pontificate on my blog about zombie movies. I have been fascinated at myself for a few years that I like them so much, and wondered why. I hoped the answer was not “because you are a psycho, Dave” and as it turns out, I very likely am not a psycho! Hooray! It turns out that many normal people like horror and zombie movies and find them stimulating on a deeper or even spiritual level. The blogs author even identifies The Walking Dead as Southern Gothic horror in the vein of Flannery O'Connor. That makes me feel super smart for liking zombie movies! So go ahead and watch Shawn of the dead, The Walking Dead or Zombieland guilt free.

Here is my take: Like all good sci-fi, horror movies have the ability to distill the meaning of life into precious small spaces. What do you take from your giant house when you flee it from attacking zombies? Family pictures and guns to protect your loved ones, of course. What do you do when a little girl is alone in the woods with zombies? Risk everything to find her, of course. What these human instinctual responses in the viewer tell us is that we are human, and being human is more than eating and breathing. Being human is about what you love, and what you were created to do. And unfortunately, many people seem to think they were created to pursue personal peace and affluence instead of walk toward their creator. Zombie movies make these choices clear. The Walking Dead even makes a point of having a scientist show a film of the brain activity of someone dying and coming back as a zombie. We see that only the "instinct" part of the brain stem is active. There is never any doubt by anyone in the show that these people are not human. They are dispatched with bloody abandon and indifference by the dozens. There is more pity taken on animals in the show than the zombies.

The message is loud and clear.

So loud in fact that my guess is that many fans of the show never notice it because it is plain obvious to them, although in their daily lives they might easily deny it. The message is that human beings are a special creation of a loving creator, and that we are made in His image and likeness. We are not the sum of our parts, or merely a central nervous system to be pleasured. One human life is worth every single zombie life even though they are made of the exact same physical material. So lets think about it:  if they are made of the same material and one can be slaughtered with less care than a pig, while the other is a precious life worth risking everything to save... what is the difference other than an eternal soul? And what does modern man scream to fulfill in all his depraved abuses of himself more than his soul? In this way, zombie movies are some of the most "christian" themed movies around. What other movie will the viewer always find himself making the correct choice with the characters-- to do the human thing. If only we all could pretend we lived in a zombie Apocalypse in our day to day lives, perhaps we would live the gospel each day.

Here is an excerpt of  Red Cardigan's excellent thinking on this topic:

“It's almost as though in order for us even to begin to touch base with the reality of life for so many, with such a universal human experience of the uncertainty of existence and the constant presence of things like fear and pain, we have to wipe away all the material clutter we've accumulated; we have to envision a world so destroyed that our pretenses at safety and stability no longer mean anything; we have to recognize our glorified caves and technological voodoo for what it all really is, and what it's all really worth, against the brevity and coldness and harshness of life at its most basic level. In such a fictional setting, we can see and value the mere works of human hands for what they are—“

Here was my response in the comments:

“Bizarre. I just watched the episode you describe this past weekend, and was struck by it as well. I did laugh out loud at the crucifix in the Baptist church though.
I believe we like zombie movies because they show us what we know to be true: humans are more than animals. Our culture around us knows this too, though they continually try to deny it by degrading human life through abortion, porn, etc. But in the end, they love zombies, because when they look at a zombie, they get a reassurance that to be human is to be more than a walking meat bag. Strangely, watching zombie movies can bring them/us closer to God.”


  1. This is terrific, Dave! You are exactly right. The difference between the zombies and the humans is all about the soul. What a wonderful point!

  2. You should also watch 28 Days Later. One of the first zombies the hero encounters is a Catholic priest zombie! That scene gives me the creeps!

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