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The Zed Word – The Curious Ignorance of Zombiephiles in Zombie Movies

Why aren’t zombiephiles like us ever in Zombie Movies?

Anyone who’s seen a zombie movie like Shaun of the Dead knows the joke – the main characters in Zombie movies always seem to be completely ignorant of the nature, or even of the existence of Zombies. One Zombiephile asks, ‘What’s up with that?’

Dude, they're obviously zombies.

Dude, they're obviously zombies.

As a true lover of all things undying, I have to admit to harboring a secret fantasy that one day I’ll awaken to the sound of dull moans and thumping on my walls. Any zombiephile who’s ever looked around and wished the world was different can share in my secret; some of us keep bats near our beds, others have assembled small survival kits. Most every one of us has a copy of Max Brooks “The Zombie Survival Guide” somewhere in our bedrooms. The curious lack of zombiephiles within Zombie movies themselves is absolutely palpable; in fact, it’s so intrinsic to the very fabric of the Zombie movie that Shawn of the Dead openly satirizes it, blending ignorance of the nature of the Zombie into the everyday oblivion of daily life in London’s Crouch End.

From a writer’s perspective, an ignorance of Zombieness is an excellent plot element to handle – it’s always easier to introduce viewers to something you’re also introducing to the characters. Viewers respond best to heroes who are coming into a story in the same way that they, the viewers, are: ignorant and oblivious, typically. Casting a zombie movie full of characters who don’t know anything about Zombies allows writers to drag the viewers and characters along the same story. Over the years, though, the technique has become more than cheap; it’s become conspicuous, and that made it a target for satire.

“We don’t use the Zed Word,” Shawn tells us in the now classic Shaun of the Dead. It’s a tongue-in-cheek statement, a testament to the legacy of a movie genre that’s somehow remained ignorant of its own existence. It’s like everyone who’s ever seen a Zombie movie is suddenly gone and you’re left with an improbable bunch of people who must have been living under a rock or something. Who doesn’t know what a Zombie looks like these days? Who wouldn’t instantly recognize the whited-over eyes, blood-stained clothing, the gutteral moaning, the stink of rotting flesh? Who doesn’t know to shoot for the head, to destroy the brain?

Are we viewers really supposed to believe that the Zombiephiles of the world are somehow always the first ones to fall victim to the Zombie plague? Because I don’t remember seeing a single Zombie movie that had a well-educated, well-read Zombiephile in it. Perhaps that’s because Zombiephiles don’t make tactically poor decisions like holing up in undefendable places or lighting Zombies on fire.

As a result, most of the Zombie movies we see tend to suck. Is it so much to ask for a Zombie movie full of people like me and my fellow compatriots? People who are aware of the nature of global pandemic, of the unstoppable power of panic, of the need for preparation and planning? Someday I’d like to see the other Zombie movie, the one about all of the Zombiephiles who got wise and made scarce before they had to flee and live in a shopping mall…but since American like being led around by the nose so much, we’ll probably never see it. Kind of makes you wonder who’s the real Zombie, right?

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