The Walking Dead, a show about a world where Haitian Voodoo never existed and people have no terminology for reanimated corpses, still manages to make waves five years in.
A couple episodes back, homophobes in the Twitterverse were shocked to have their brutal mutilations and redundant drama interrupted by (gasp) a gay kiss, many tweeting furiously that they/their kids were exposed to such a depraved act. Let’s set aside all the obvious arguments about why the hell anyone would let their kids watch a show where people are torn flesh from bone, and the relative harm between witnessing extreme violence versus men kissing. Instead, let’s talk about zombies.
Our fascination with zombies has become somewhat pathological—we can’t get enough, like a hunger for revulsion. Horror itself usually involves the fear of dying, but with zombies there’s something more: it’s that you might become the thing if it manages to get at you. But what is the terror of becoming a zombie? Is it really worse than death to be animated but mindlessly driven to bite people? Maybe it’s very fulfilling to shed all moral quandaries and pursue your sole desire; maybe it feels great to release all feelings of helplessness and isolation and become part of a team that mobs around together. What are we really afraid of? Losing our sense of identity? Being powerless to avoid causing harm to our loved ones? Being icky?
Is that fear really so different from homophobia itself? The idea being that if gayness is allowed to get too close—portrayed on television, for example—if you were to be exposed to it without a violent defense, it might turn you; your desire for hot man sex would drive you to change your personality and proceed to break your homophobic family’s heart. And as long as we’re talking metaphors: doesn’t mindlessly following a herd of destructive and hateful people whose motivating ideology dates back to a long dead culture, leaping on any opportunity to tear apart a small minority who are only trying to survive in a world that treats them with hostility, sound a little like, um, you know.
I don’t usually think I have a fear of death, I figure it’s like going into a dreamless sleep, but then along comes a real life allegory—the end of an era, a change in my self perception, an unwanted loss—and suddenly I have to face the fact that the sense of panic and despair that wash over me are what I’ll feel someday when facing my demise.
Knowing the end of something is looming ahead is just the worst. It makes me question what it was all for, whether I succeeded or failed, whether I could’ve enjoyed my time more or done something more meaningful with it… But in a way that’s an important lesson. You have to find a reason to keep walking forward, and make every moment count; just because the end is visible doesn’t mean anything is different, it was always there. And, painful as it might be to experience the end of something, you won’t be able to see what’s next until it’s done.
Sort of like being in a dying medium. (Cue Michigan J Frog.)