Why Zombies Matter More than Housewives

by David King on March 11, 2013

zombie It’s Monday afternoon, and rather than working, I just watched last night’s episode of The Walking Dead.

In my humble opinion, I think it’s the best thing to happen to TV since LOST. I may be biased, of course. I tend to be drawn to stories about survivors; strangers coming together in hard times and working towards a common goal – or against a common enemy. Perhaps it’s the complex Lord-of-the-Flies-esque social allegories that arise, or the raw and decomposed emotions elicited during extreme survival situations. Either way, it’s difficult to deny that The Walking Dead has some of the best writing on TV.

That’s right, Real Housewives of Who-Gives-A-Fuck, it’s a show that has writers.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Walking Dead, it follows a group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies, appropriately referred to as walkers (the result of a deadly and widespread virus – trust me, this show is not another rehash; it’s incredibly smart). This is in contrast, of course, to the handful of reality shows about bored rich women (inappropriately referred to as housewives, since they don’t do very much housekeeping) living in a post-industrial world overrun by – oh, right, overrun by the rest of us. The Walking Dead is about losing everything and what it means to be human. The ongoing Real Housewives saga (or anthology?) is about having everything and what it means to be something that hardly reflects the average human experience in any way. Last time I tuned in to one of these shows, I was inundated by one of the housewives repeatedly referring to “ingredients” as “ingredientses.” Enough said.

All joking aside, there’s a reason that the former is one of the highest rated shows on cable television. And there’s a reason that zombies have really struck a chord with their living and breathing predecessors. Perhaps it’s our fundamental fascination with death, or our relentless curiosity for all things end-of-the-world. My grade seven science project, titled Will the Earth Ever End?, reviewed everything from viral epidemics and global warming to the limited life of the Sun. Regardless of what happens to us humans, whether it’s a zombie apocalypse or a full-blown nuclear attack by mad rich housewives, the Sun will become a red giant in about 4.5 billion years. And long before that (a couple billion years from now), it will be too hot for life to survive on the surface of the Earth. A romantic story, no doubt – filled with life, and survival, and us.

Whether we all know it or not, our fascination with zombies far exceeds any love for guts and gore. When it comes down to it, this pop culture phenomenon gets at what matters most. It gets at our humanity. It eats at it, both literally and figuratively. It makes us question our morals and ethics; it makes us ponder our true nature, after all the bells and whistles of our manufactured lifestyles have been ripped away, and we’re left vulnerable to the world once again; it makes us wonder what we would do if all of this were suddenly LOST.

Seriously, what would you do if all of this were suddenly lost?

It’s an important question, and it’s one that gets at the heart of what it means to be human. At the end of the day, we’re all lost, even where we stand now. We were lost before we started, thrown into a world that gets off on fake smiles and shiny cars; a world addicted to people who don’t really matter, while accepting a lifestyle of mere walkers – zombies of sorts, living without purpose and hungry for a glimpse of others’ misfortunes (the literature is clear on this – downward social comparison can be a powerful coping strategy). But to question is to get closer to a life that is not zombie-like whatsoever, nor is it one that resembles anything of the Housewives persuasion. To question is what sets us apart and makes us truly human.

So, what would you do?

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