Saturday, January 11, 2014

Not Another Zombie Study...

Yeah, I said I had a cultural study. The original one didn't work out as well because I was asking survey questions and nobody answered them. Hopefully I'll be able to do a post for it one day.

So zombies! Warm Bodies was one of my favorite movies in 2013, and the book is even better. I love reading social commentaries. That's basically what this story is. Social commentary + zombies + Shakespeare. And this is one of my favorite books of all time.

One of the things that I really like about zombie stories is that the good ones don't always focus so much on the zombies, but on what society becomes once the zombies show up. I haven't seen The Walking Dead, but from what I've read about it, that seems to be the main focus as well. World War Z (the book, not the movie) also does this, and they even take it to the next level and show humanity at its worst. After reading that book (well, parts of it), I almost didn't want anyone to survive the apocalypse because the survivors started eating each other. That's called cannibalism, boys and girls. And we're not really supposed to do that.

Zombie literature can cross over into territory that most stories can't. We can explore the different aspects of human nature through it in these totally bizarre circumstances that we wouldn't really wouldn't be able to otherwise. I'm not saying I want more stories with cannibalistic human protagonists (there's a TV show for that, according to Tumblr). Zombie lit is kind of like sci-fi.

Hear me out on this one. Let's look at Star Trek (yeah, I'm a nerd. Moving on). Main protagonists: Captain Kirk and his crew. Main antagonists: Klingons. Guess what's there in that relationship? Symbolism and political commentary on the Cold War and communism vs. America! Yay! (I actually hate political commentary) The original series was airing during the Cold War and Vietnam. I'm not sure how much of this was actually law, but you weren't really supposed to discuss the war in Vietnam in popular American entertainment. Any mention of that was generally frowned upon. But guess what? Along came Star Trek, and they could say anything they wanted about it. Why? Because they didn't directly address the war. They talked about it in past tense, because in their universe, Vietnam took places hundreds of years ago. But it did influence Kirk's decisions and prevented wars between the Federation and any other uncharted world they found. They didn't really criticize it, either. It just happened. It was part of history, and they didn't want to see it repeated. That was all.

Zombie lit can do the same thing to an even higher degree. What it does is expose the worst and best aspects of human nature and show us how far we're willing to go to survive. Sometimes the results can be disturbing (World War Z) and sometimes we see some things that can restore our faith in humanity (Warm Bodies).

But I think my favorite zombie story comes in the form of a video game (that I strongly recommend you keep away from small children because my gosh it's scary). It's called The Last of Us, and it came out last summer. I'm not a gamer, and I don't own a PlayStation, but I was kind of curious to see what the story would be because I had seen advertisements all over YouTube and Blip (it's like YouTube but more webshow friendly). I don't know why I was getting these ads for a video game about killing zombies and some grouchy old man named Joel, but I was curious, so of course when a recommended video for a playthrough of the game popped up on YouTube, I decided to watch all nine hours of it.

Then I found a video of all the cut scenes and I realized I had just wasted nine hours of my life when I only needed to waste 3. But back to zombie commentary... (I felt the need to justify how I've seen a playthrough for a video game when I'm not even a huge fan of video games)

Here's the gist of the story: Joel lost his daughter Sarah early on in the apocalypse and is a very bitter man as a result. He is given the job of smuggling a fourteen year old girl out of a quarantine zone and to the nearest rebel base because this girl is immune to this thing:

Yep, just imagine that but with humans, and you have our zombies. Anyway, the girl's name is Ellie. She was bitten by a zombie three weeks ago but hasn't turned into a zombie, so she must be immune to the fungus that causes people to turn into zombies. It takes Joel a year to get Ellie from Boston to the other side of the country (where the rest of the rebels are). The story gets a little cliche because of course Joel warms up to Ellie and they become best friends and he's a much less grouchy old man. The rebels want to use whatever it is that makes Ellie immune to the zombie thing to come up with a cure for the zombie thing. But the only way they can get the thing that makes Ellie immune is to kill her because the thing is in her brain. Joel decides saving Ellie's life is more important that saving humanity, and kills all the rebels and rescues Ellie. Then he lies to her and tells her that the rebels let her go because they stopped looking for a cure.

Four words: only in zombie stories.

I still can't decide if I think what Joel did was right, because his character is so well written and he's such a great protagonist that you really want him to be able to rescue Ellie. But at the same time, you know it's wrong. Or is it wrong for a fourteen/fifteen year old to sacrifice her life for all of humanity?

And that's why I like zombie stories. Because you can ask these tough, moral questions in this kind of environment and it's totally okay. We learn a bit about ourselves from these stories and our answers to these questions. We also learn about what others think of the human race as a whole and how we can become better people. There really are some good things that come from our society's fascination with zombies and the apocalypse.

That's about it. Now my mother is probably reading this and thinking, what the heck is wrong with my daughter and why is she so emotionally invested in fictional characters and stories? And since when did she watch video game playthroughs? Mom, I love you. Please don't worry about my psychological and emotional well-being. I do that enough on my own. :)

Then there's my dad, who's probably like, way to go! You're over-analyzing stuff! Why aren't you an English major? ...I still have no answer for that one.

What, did you guys think you were gonna get an in-depth study on Warm Bodies? *laughs maniacally* Silly humans! You should know by now that I'm really not that predictable...

There will be a post on Warm Bodies and Shakespeare in the not-too-distant future. I'm doing an oral report in one of my classes on it anyway, so I'll be practicing with a blog post very soon. So for those of you that actually want to see that, good news for you! For those of you that don't care, well... you should. Because this is groundbreaking stuff here (it's really not. I'm just really bored and my roommate doesn't get back until the end of the month and I'm not used to being alone this much).

Anyway, I should go. I have some reading I need to get done.

Love you guys! Till next time.

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