Halloween, Zombies, and Why We’re Awesome

Updated: October 31, 2012

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).

See this awesome truck? Passed up a 2010 Power Stroke F-350 to get this beauty…

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.

Happy Halloween.




  1. James

    November 1, 2012 at 12:49 am

    You know what really annoys me about The Walking Dead. They need food, weapons and ammo. The number of times I have seen these idiots go past military vehicles without thinking to check. I don’t know about you guys, but my guys keep shit loads of goodies in vehicles, ammo, sodas, chocolate or other sugar loaded treats, and light reading materials. They also have maps, ration packs, my vehicle also has filtration equipment good for over 300 litres of filtering, hell I have been know to even keep clean underwear and socks!

    Secondly a police friend of mine suggests that police car trunks are full of wonderful goodies, including reloads, flares, wet weather gear and other handy goodies like shotguns.

    Has anybody seen these guys check any of these? Even peek inside one? The closest we get in in series one when Rick gets trapped in the tank (love the effect of firing off a round inside one).

    Talk about sucking at surviving.

  2. Will Black

    November 1, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    When I first got out of the Army and returned to the civilian world I got some weird looks and comments. I have an aid bag in my truck, complete with IV’s, suture kits, and burn gel. I mounted one of my “tactically acquired” seat-belt cutters to my driver’s seat, and in my house I have a CLS bag and a bug-out bag with maps, ammo, GPS, and hydration salts. Before the zombie craze I was a nut-job vet. Now I call it my Zombie Apocalypse Contingency Plan and it’s acceptable. So when I was just prepping for a cataclysmic car-wreck or the need to get the fuck outta Dodge quickly I was a weirdo, but being ready for the undead makes me funny and cool. Civilians are fucking weird.

  3. Nohbody

    November 3, 2012 at 11:00 am

    James, while I do sometimes shake my head at the TWD crew’s apparent cluelessness, you have to remember that in the TWD universe there was no George Romero to set up the Zombie Apocalypse genre (as per the “Talking Dead” talk show last season, when creator Robert Kirkman was one of the guests). Also, except for Merle (who quickly parted company with the group back in the first season) there’s no one in the group with military experience. They wouldn’t think about how much junk you could find stuffed in the corners of an abandoned APC or HMMWV.

    For the cop car trunk, however, there’s no excuse. Rick’s a freaking deputy, he should know of that kind of thing from his own experiences.

    (To be fair, they _could_ have been doing that kind of thing off-screen. They don’t show everything in an episode, after all, as 40-odd minutes isn’t long enough to fit EVERYTHING. As of the current season they seem to have gotten their act together, in any case.)

  4. Kei Sakura

    November 10, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    I drive a Smart Car. I constantly get people wanting to stop and question me about the car or check out how the engine, battery, fluids, etc are situated in such a “small/tiny/compact little thing.” What floors them is the amount of emergency gear I (a female nonetheless) have stashed in my car and the fact you wouldn’t even know it is there. I have: a seatbelt cutter attached to the driver’s seat, a small all purpose fire extinguisher, a minor medical kit (thanks to my LPN mother for the supplies; she lets me raid her stash when I visit), an emergency tire repair kit, flares, map, GPS, compass, spare Camel Back with filter kit, umbrella, and some bungee cord. I can still fit my Go Bag, a large suitcase, and my small backpack + more in my car.

    I had a co-worker riding with me once while on a business trip and she said it was the safest she ever felt while away from home. She couldn’t get over that I only had my one Spec Op bag for the conference compared to her ginormous 50+ lb suitcase and carry on.

    Told her: “Travel light and always be prepared for emergencies. If shit gets real, are the cute shoes really going to matter in the long run?”

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