Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Everything's Coming Up Zombies

I've been thinking a lot about zombies lately. And no, I'm not talking about musician, movie director, and scary movie buff, Rob Zombie, although I'm sure he'd be able to add some interesting points to the conversation! And yes, I suppose the fact that Halloween is around the corner might have something to do with my current ponderings, but really, it's so much more than that. After all, if I can find wisdom in Silent Hill, why not zombies? Theologically speaking, it's really not that big of stretch—we were all made in God's image, one of the ways in which we were created in God's image is that we are ourselves creative, therefore we can find God in our creations. Including horror genre and... zombies!

So what wisdom hides in such horror gems as Romero's indie classic, Night of the Living Dead? Ok, ok, purists will point out that Night of the Living Dead does not deal in traditional Hatian-style zombies, just go with me here, ok? In one interview, Romero said,
"I wanted something that would be an earth-shaking change. Something that was forever, something that was really at the heart of it. I said, so what if the dead stop staying dead? ... And the stories are about how people respond or fail to respond to this. That’s really all [the zombies] ever represented to me."
An earth-shaking change that people either respond or fail to respond to—I think we may have something here. My observation has been that the base human reaction to earth-shaking change is fear. How we deal with this fear becomes the important question.

Some people mask their fear in laughter, sometimes cruel laughter. One of the most quoted lines from Night of the Living Dead, "They're coming to get you, Barbara!" is said by Barbara's husband as he derides her fear of graveyards. Laughing at your own fear can be a powerful tool (Riddikulus!) but when you turn that laughter into a weapon to belittle others it's hardly helpful. It is perhaps a piece of poetic justice that Barbara's husband is killed by the zombies soon after delivering this line.

Some people simply refuse to face their fear in one way or another. Barbara later allows herself to descend into hysteria followed by pure disassociation. We can hardly blame her, she's taken a great blow to her psyche, but in the end it isn't helpful and reduces her character to an old-fashioned stereotypical "useless female."

And of course, some people respond to fear with violence. Sometimes the underlying fear is obvious, as when the main characters fight—at times with words, at times physically—over how to best survive the night. Sometimes the fear is less obvious—hidden behind a screen of dehumanizing pragmatism. Like this:

More and more we see headlines about people acting out of their fear in unhelpful ways, from Qur'an burnings to helicopter parents.

How do you deal with your fear? Would you survive a zombie infestation with your morals intact?

Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh


Mama B said...

Are you kidding? I have the Dummies Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse. I'm soooo going to live. LOL. J/K. I think allowing yourself to feel SOME fear is healthy. It can keep you grounded in the situation. However not feeling enough or allowing yourself to give into the fear will ultimately be your downfall.

Rev. Josh said...

Oh absolutely! I'm not saying we should do away with fear. We should be afraid of being hit by a car, or being eaten by a tiger. It's how we deal with our fear that is the moral issue.