8:29 AM – Yesterday I took the car back to Aggieland Automotive. The Aggie allergy girl attending the counter said my name as I entered the door. Enjoying the warm service, I said, “Oh, good memory.” And she said, “No, it was on the computer.” And I said, “Oh, well, thanks anyway.” And she said, “No, really, if your name wasn’t on this computer I would never have remembered you.” To which I thought, how about we just leave this with me complimenting you and you not reminding me of most girls I asked out in highschool and college. In the end, and not for this Eeyore-ish reason, I took my business elsewhere, to other forgettable dudes down the road.
“Oh my God! Oh my God! I can’t believe I shot Bill Murray!” – Jesse Eisenberg, from Zombieland
Most of the past decade’s super popular zombie-type films responsible for bringing zombies into mainstream culture did not feature traditional zombies. If you revisit films such as 28 Days Later (2002), Resident Evil (2002), Shaun of the Dead (2004), I Am Legend (2007), Planet Terror (2007), Quarantine (2008), Zombieland (2009), The Crazies (2010), you’ll notice all the zombie-like creatures in these films have one thing in common : they were never dead.
WHAT IS A “CONTAGION”? As we’ve discussed previously, a zombie is a reanimated corpse. True zombies, at some point along the way, must have been cadavers. In many of the new uber-popular Hollywood “zombie” films (at least in those listed above), these suckers that look and act and probably smell like real zombies, for the most part, are humans who have been infected with some form of biomedical weapons virus, or – as in the case of Zombieland – a mad cow disease turned “mad human disease”. Because their zombie-state began as a virus or illness, most likely contracted from contact with another infected human, I have chosen to refer to these sick-puppies as “contagions” – a term that I, more than likely, just made up. Most people still call them “zombies”.
You can detect a contagion film plot when the primary defensive move on the part of survivors is to avoid being bitten. In contagion films – most notably Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and The Crazies – a person bit by “zombies” will slowly turn into an offending creature. In Shaun of the Dead, this proved problematic when Shaun’s mum turned. In Zombieland, the hustler girls, Wichita and Little Rock, tricked Columbus and Tallahassee out of their guns by convincing them that the cute little hustler girl (played by Abigail Breslin) had been bitten and needed to be executed. In The Crazies, we learn that the biomedical weapons virus, accidentally befallen a small town’s water supply, is actually airborne and the government’s protocol demands quarantine and annihilation. When the “zombie” state is contagious or contractable, like an illness, then our plot involves a contagion – not a zombie.
WHY THE DISTINCTION? The distinction between the two matters greatly depending on the type of story one wants to tell.
Zombies exist and move and crave via cerebral electricity. Zombies have no heart, no emotion, no reason, no morality; therefore, some might say, zombies have no soul. Not to mention, zombies have already died. The person they once were no longer exists. A zombie is the mumbling, moaning empty shell of a former person.
Contagions, on the other hand, have merely flipped a switch between their true selves and their new monstrous existence. The infection seizing them turned off their human nature and flipped on a different, more animalistic state. Some might even argue the original person still resides underneath all that illness and fever and animalistic bloodthirst. This opens a whole arsenal of interesting narrative possibilities, such as :
- Government biomedical weapons conspiracy
- The secrecy of the science community
- Anti-nuclear-war sentiment
- Man’s inherent fear of man : my neighbor will consume my wealth and prosperity
- Man’s inherent fear of governmental greed : governments turn their people on one another for government / political gain
- Man’s inherent fear of governmental protection : governments are ill-equipped to protect against true threat
- Man’s inherent bloodlust : a la, the Roman Coliseum
- Evolutionary digression : how easily we can slip into a backwards momentum
- Classism and racism : WE (elite) must protect ourselves from THEM (animals)
- Spread and proliferation of societal ills : we will infect one another / future generations with our lack of social morality
- STDs : you know what I mean
- Addiction : our basest hungers shut-down our humanity and create something beast-like within us
- Romantic hope : Can I change this lying cheater into a born-again Promise Keeper?
Spiritually speaking, Seth Haines nailed it with his story “Biters”. He said more in that story than I’ve said in four zombie related posts. I recommend his story for exploration of contagions on a spiritual scale.