Halloween, Zombies, and Why We’re Awesome
A co-worker the other day had the audacity to ask me “what’s the big deal with zombies, anyway? They seem kinda…lame.” Then, as if that wasn’t enough, another said “well, there’s really no difference between zombies and vampires…” What the… Is this what our youth has come to?
So I started thinking about it—what does make the zombie topic so appealing? Why are we so drawn to the subject? I remember zombie-themed movies being a favorite in Iraq, so I’m pretty sure I’m not the only veteran or current soldier to sit down with his buddies and criticize the ever-living shit out of the characters in a movie about the un-dead.
I think the appeal is two-fold and both aspects of it result in how awesome we are. Allow me to quickly explain:
Number one, zombie movies offer the chance to, as mentioned above, critique characters in them for their horrid use of tactics, weapons handling, or general lack of common sense; thus showing how kick ass we would be in the same situation. Consider the current show The Walking Dead. In season 2, the main characters spend a good portion of their time wandering around looking for parts to repair their vehicles which were all built before we even knew how badly Star Wars would get ruined (it was a happy time).
I ask—multiple times during each episode, as I’m sure you do—why in the hell they can’t procure a vehicle made after the Berlin Wall came down. If the majority of the population has been wiped out, guess what there should be a lot of? How about everyone who can reach the pedals drive an SUV, eh? A lot more room for gear, no? And if one breaks down, it’s not catastrophic… But no, instead they decide that scavenging for parts for a 40 year old Winnebago is the best use of time. This is infuriating to anyone with any real situational awareness, but watching it makes me feel that much better about my chances of surviving the apocalypse of flesh eating humans. I know that I would be way, way ahead of these tools and I vocalize my distaste for their ineptitude at every moment I can.
The examples could go on, but the point is simple: we get a kick out of watching ordinary people get into bad situations and figuring out how we could do it different/better/faster. If the creators of The Walking Dead replaced all the main characters of the show with USSOCOM Operators, there would be a tremendous amount of killing for one episode and then it would get insanely boring while we watched them drink all of the bourbon they could find because there was nothing left to do. There wouldn’t be any whining or people worried about being politically correct in how the undead were treated—all the drama would go bye-bye quick, fast, and in a hurry.
Number two, zombies are, for the most part, simply a metaphor for all else that is wrong in the world today. They are a vehicle for us to speculate about possible bad times ahead. That’s why the zombie theme is popular now—the economy is in the tank and people are worried about the future. Prepping for the “zombie apocalypse” can be done almost in jest without people looking at you like one of those overweight dudes who need to spend more on a treadmill and less on ammo. The topic allows for a discussion about possible nastiness in the world without taking it too serious and sounding like a conspiracy nut.
This, in and of itself, is an interesting fact about our current society. If you were to begin a conversation in a workplace about how to prepare in case an EMP wipes out the electrical grid, it is highly likely that you will be greeted with people staring at you as if you were the preacher on the street corner talking about the Four Horsemen. However, it is now completely acceptable to openly state your desires to be prepared with a snarky comment about how the zombies “will never get me!!” Everyone will laugh and then join in the conversation, adding their own two cents about how much better they would be during an invasion of the living dead.
Zombies have simply become a way of talking about calamities and how to deal with them. It gives us an opportunity to ponder the “what ifs” of dire circumstances—would I shoot a friend if he became a zombie? Would I swing a machete through the skull of a relative? Would I chop the legs out from under the annoying guy in the group who is always whining about feelings so that I would have a better chance of getting away?
While questions like that are, for most of you, answered with a resounding YES, the point is that it allows us to make crazy statements without seeming completely crazy. We can discuss a possibly earth-changing event with a sense of humor—which, let’s face it, is the true gift of military personnel. Making the best—and funniest—out of the worst of situations is what the members of the United States military does best. The topic of zombies is, at the most basic level, a reflection of that very mentality. As the title of the post suggests, this is what makes us awesome.
So on this Halloween night/week, break out the zombie movies, invite your buddies over, and relish in the reality that you would have an MRAP, an XM110, and a few like-minded friends rather than a 1972, two-wheel drive pickup, a revolver, and that whiny kid who always screws things up.