I imagine there have been plenty of blogs written about the ongoing zombie craze, but I haven’t read any because I thought I’d eventually write something about this odd trend myself. There’s even a popular TV show about zombies: “The Walking Dead” but I don’t know what time or what channel it’s on, and so I haven’t seen it as yet either. But a couple weeks ago I saw the new movie Warm Bodies because I needed a laugh, and it was advertised as a romantic comedy. The romance was pretty skewed and there was nary a laugh in it for me. I’m not sure I even smiled. I was hoping it would be another Shaun Of the Dead–which was a riot. It was no Shaun of The Dead, and it was nowhere near Little Murders–Jules Feiffer’s brilliant 1971 black comedy about a zombie-archetype brought back to life by the power of love.
The subtitle of Warm Bodies is “He’s still dead but getting warmer.” I gather it was meant to be a bit of an allegory about human connectivity or perhaps even the regenerating power of love–well, it did come out just a few days before V-Day. The critics seemed to like it a lot more than I did. The basic plot is zombie boy R, who hangs around the airport with his zombie friends, chases a human girl, Julie, but instead of having her for lunch he takes her home to his nest in an airliner. He’s already eaten her boyfriend’s brain (memory) and so he sort of gets into her head too. Anyway, he decides to protect her from the other zombies, and gradually the inevitable happens. She starts to find him strangely attractive. He slowly comes back to life and then starts infecting the other zombies with life and hope and the whole world is eventually saved. Yay!
Hmmmm. Would it be too much of a stretch to see R as sort of a Christ-figure? Probably not, especially for semi-biblically-literate secular folk, and movies like this are about as close to the gospel as many Hollywood-types will ever get. Also, the writer chose to throw in allusions to Romeo and Juliet–there’s even a balcony scene of sorts, and so this gives the English Lit semi-literati even more to chew on–sorry about the zom-pun.
Anyway, we Jesus-followers know that we were all the living dead as pre-Christians. But somehow I don’t think that humanity’s need for regeneration accounts for the zombie craze. It’s more likely because people want to be “scared” by stuff that’s inherently silly–fears that can be laughed at. If you can laugh at it, then it’s a manageable fear. And losing one’s identity is very scary for most people–for many, their identity is all they’ve got. We cling like mad to our identity, our self-image, even when its a rotten one. That tendency is what accounts for resistance to change in psychotherapy. If I change, who will I be? And so the “art” of psychotherapy consists of understanding and working with resistances.
I recall reading a heroin addict state that his addiction “had all of the advantages of being dead with none of the disadvantages.” I read that way back in the 60s and it stuck with me. I guess being a zombie is sort of like the opposite of that, and maybe that accounts for some of why it’s so frightening to “normal” people. Zombies don’t have any feelings or connection to others. In Little Murders a burnt out hulk of a human, Elliot Gould, is discovered sitting beaten-up with a glazed-over stare on a park bench by a chirpy little rescuer, Marcia Rodd. She takes him home and integrates him into her very, very strange family. He gradually comes back to life and starts to feel again–and that’s when the trouble begins. I think Jules Feiffer’s bleak view is “better off dead” than to feel and to hurt and to participate with the rest of humanity in the madness of daily little murders.
But we Jesus-followers know that hurting, longing, feeling pain, and eventually suffering, is part of the program. Consider this: Jesus refused the mild narcotic of myrrh mixed with wine prior to the crucifixion. He did not want his senses dulled at the supreme moment of the Incarnation (Mark 15:23). He knew it was not the Father’s will–not the cup he was destined to drink from (Mark 10:38, Mt. 26:39). Contrast that with the rest of us who have more than a little zombie in our makeup. Zombie-like, we run like mad toward any narcotic or addiction that will take the edge off, even for a moment.