A THEOLOGY OF ZOMBIES (YOU READ IT RIGHT, ZOMBIES)

Dr. Zombie?
Dr. Zombie?

Zombies are everywhere.
Seriously, they are everywhere. I just read today that Dr. Who alumnus Matt Smith has signed on for a movie adaption of the book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Yeah, that’s a real thing.
A couple of days ago I finally watched Brad Pitt fight zombies in World War Z, also an adaption of a book.  Oddly enough, when I turned the film off, the television news was on and it was about . . . the ebola virus. I thought the movie had started over again on me.
And those are just big budget ones. Go over to Amazon or Goodreads and search for zombie. You’ll be there a while.

What I’m want to know is why? A parallel question would be why are dystopian stories so popular now, but I’ll save that for another day.

First, let’s do the typical stylistic reasons, and then I’ll get to the real reason, or at least the reason I think zombies are everywhere.

1. For an action movie, there has to be an enemy that can be killed without remorse. This used to be the Nazis, the Indians, the other army, or whatever. You can’t do that too much now because we always put faces on those blocks of people. That leaves you with about three choices—aliens, robots, or . . . zombies. Those are really the only bad guys you can have in a film and let your hero/heroine kill on sight with no questions asked. I hear you saying, “What about Sharknado?” and I say, okay, but aren’t those really just aquatic zombies?

2. Zombies also can stand in as a symbol for “the system” or “the machine” or even “society.” That was the intention of the king of zombie flicks, Night of the Living Dead. The zombies represent the process by which teenagers grow up, take responsibility, and are consumed by the system into soulless cogs. The zombies in Star Trek, called The Borg, started off as stand-ins for communism but eventually turned into stand-ins for dictatorships. In Zombieland I think the zombies represent the pain the world inflicts on us. Although, I still don’t know why they had to kill Bill Murray.  Consider for a moment that The Matrix is really just a zombie movie, where machines steal the soul of people, but people fight back to regain their humanity.

3. One more artistic reason. Zombies are a ready-made template which require almost zero exposition. The reader/viewer knows what is going on, so the writer can spend most of the time on character development. Shaun of the Dead is a good example of this, so too is Warm Bodies. Those are both really just character movies that explore feelings and relationships. The Zombies are the canvas to work with. Take the zombies out of Warm Bodies and you just have Romeo and Juliet.

Locutus, Space Zombie
Locutus, Space Zombie

I think all of those are partial reasons why zombies are everywhere. They each have merits, and I don’t dismiss them completely. However, the over-arching reason zombies are everywhere is theological. There are three reasons why.

 

First, zombies (and that annoying dystopian predilection I mentioned earlier) are one way our culture is registering its comprehension that something is simply not right with the world. I got a root canal last week, and the dentist told me to raise my hand if I felt any pain. All these zombies everywhere is one way our world is raising its hand to tell us it is feeling pain, or at least, anxiety. Although zombies have been with us for a while, dystopia and zombies both emerged heavily after 9/11 . Click here to go over to Zombie Zone News and see the listings by year.  See how the list explodes after 2001. Think about it.

How is that theological, you might say. In literature/film zombies come from outer space, disease, genetics, food, mutation, radioactivity, etc… It is the problem of evil. It is the idea that the world is not right. It is original sin.  A perfect world was messed up.  Eden was ruined.

 

Second, as stand-ins, zombies are the ultimate ‘undead.’ They have bodies and bodily functions, but there is no higher cognitive power (metanoia). They represent those who are governed by their instincts and fleshly desires. Again, consider the movie Warm Bodies. What is it, in the end, that heals the zombie? Love. It doesn’t have to be romantic love, just love.

Is that not, in some way, connected to the gospel which teaches that while we were yet dead in our sins, Jesus loved us and died for us?  Buddy, that’ll preach.

 

Third, and last, zombies ask us what does it mean to be a human being? If a person is only a body, then a zombie, even after being bitten/diseased/possessed is still a human being. But in these movies, once a human ‘turns’ zombie, he or she is no longer human. That means, de facto, that in the zombie universe there is something about a human being that makes him or her different. In one way, it is art shouting, even if it doesn’t know it, that no matter what scientists and biologists keep saying there is no way that a human being is just another biological entity. There is something different. Artists rarely come out and say it, but Christian theology calls this difference the imago dei–the image of God.

 

Of course, reverse this thought and another interesting idea emerges. In the zombie universe, a human can lose the unique distinctive, turning into a violent animal.  Perhaps that is a fear of the future without a spiritual center showing itself up in our societal art.

I have argued before, and will continue to argue, that the human desire for stories, and the way we tell those stories is evidence of God and of the gospel. For all their yuckiness, that truth applies to zombies as well. The reason why zombies are everywhere is because the world needs the gospel, as it always has, but it is a patient who doesn’t want to take the medicine, and therefore keeps complaining about the symptoms.

 

 

image from junkee.com and wikipedia.

IF WE ACT NOW, WE CAN STILL SAVE CHRISTMAS

–I am reposting this one from last December, because it is only August and if we act now, we can still save Christmas.  I’m waiting for your call, Hallmark.

To follow-up on the previous blog post, here you go Hallmark Channel, here are five free plots that would make far better Christmas movies than the lame ones I’ve sat through.

If you think the title is bad, watch the movie.
If you think the title is bad, watch the movie.

1.  Zombies.  Christmas needs more zombies to energize the younger and masculine demographics.  Santa is delivering toys to Romania one Christmas Eve and accidentally brings home a zombie virus that infects the elves.  To stop the spread of the virus he needs to enlist the help of his old nemesis, Jack Frost.

2.  Frosty the Snowman has developed a drinking problem and is pushing away all of his friends.  After waking up in a Vegas motel with Miley Cyrus he decides he needs help so he calls Santa.  The problem is, Santa has never forgiven Frosty for 2008 when he urinated in Kringle’s eggnog.

3.  An upstart young woman has a successful career in New York as a broker, but is called home for Christmas when her father dies of a heart attack.  She reluctantly moves home to be closer to her mother and to rekindle her roots.  In the process she patches ways with her mother and finds lost love with the boy who pushed her down the slide when she was in grammar school.  Just foolin’!  That’s what they put out there now.  Instead, we’ll take that plot and add the mob.  The reason she moves back home is not because of her dad’s death but because she is up to her eyebrows in debt to the Mafia and she is trying to hide in small town America.  Car chases, gun fights and a really cool helicopter crash can be added in.

4.  How about a period piece?  It is Christmas in Carson City circa 1873 or something and settlers are trying to figure out how to have a decent Christmas on the frontier.  The result is a slapstick comedy of errors as they negotiate with Native Americas for tree cutting rights, have treats shipped in, and work through the worst Christmas pageant ever.  Think of it like Mel Brooks meets Christmas.

5.  Last one:  Turns out Santa has been replaced with a blood sucking space vampire and the real Santa is imprisoned deep inside the moon’s core.  This horrible truth is discovered by a group of computer nerds living in Florida.  They recruit a reluctant and skeptical Army Ranger fresh from Afghanistan to help them rescue the real Santa before the whole world has been sucked dry.

You’re welcome Hallmark Channel.  You’re welcome.  Call me, we can make this happen.

image from imbd.com

HOW TO SAVE HALLMARK CHRISTMAS MOVIES

To follow-up on the previous blog post, here you go Hallmark Channel, here are five free plots that would make far better Christmas movies than the lame ones I’ve sat through.

1.  Zombies.  Christmas needs more zombies to energize the younger and masculine demographics.  Santa is delivering toys to Romania one Christmas Eve and accidentally brings home a zombie virus that infects the elves.  To stop the spread of the virus he needs to enlist the help of his old nemesis, Jack Frost.

2.  Frosty the Snowman has developed a drinking problem and is pushing away all of his friends.  After waking up in a Vegas motel with Miley Cyrus he decides he needs help so he calls Santa.  The problem is, Santa has never forgiven Frosty for 2008 when he urinated in Kringle’s eggnog.

3.  An upstart young woman has a successful career in New York as a broker, but is called home for Christmas when her father dies of a heart attack.  She reluctantly moves home to be closer to her mother and to rekindle her roots.  In the process she patches ways with her mother and finds lost love with the boy who pushed her down the slide when she was in grammar school.  Just foolin’!  That’s what they put out there now.  Instead, we’ll take that plot and add the mob.  The reason she moves back home is not because of her dad’s death but because she is up to her eyebrows in debt to the Mafia and she is trying to hide in small town America.  Car chases, gun fights and a really cool helicopter crash can be added in.

4.  How about a period piece?  It is Christmas in Carson City circa 1873 or something and settlers are trying to figure out how to have a decent Christmas on the frontier.  The result is a slapstick comedy of errors as they negotiate with Native Americas for tree cutting rights, have treats shipped in, and work through the worst Christmas pageant ever.  Think of it like Mel Brooks meets Christmas.

5.  Last one:  Turns out Santa has been replaced with a blood sucking space vampire and the real Santa is imprisoned deep inside the moon’s core.  This horrible truth is discovered by a group of computer nerds living in Florida.  They recruit a reluctant and skeptical Army Ranger fresh from Afghanistan to help them rescue the real Santa before the whole world has been sucked dry.

You’re welcome Hallmark Channel.  You’re welcome.  Call me, we can make this happen.

HALLOWEEN AND EASTER

This week I am re-posting older posts around the Halloween theme.  This is actually from earlier this year at Easter, but . . . you’ll see.  Enjoy

 

I haven’t had much time to blog the past week or so, and will not have much time to blog later.   I’ve been spending most of my time finishing my novel (oh, it is awesome!) and then this week is both the week of Easter (busy busy busy) and spring break for my kids all at the same time.  So, that’s why I’m not blogging much.  However, I have missed my blogging community, and thought I needed to drop a line.  What I’m thinking about right now, is, the similarities between Easter and Halloween.  There are several, and I’m not even counting the odd kinship of chocolate eggs and candy corns or The Easter Bunny as comparative literature with Linus’ understanding of the Great Pumpkin.  However, consider the following creepy similarities.

  1.  In both holidays, the major action takes place in a graveyard (Matthew 27:60)
  2. Dead people coming back to life, not quite the undead, but close
  3. Zombies! (Matthew 27:52)
  4. Ghost like issues (Luke 24:37)
  5. Trick or Treat (Luke 24:41)
  6. Bloody, gory violence (John 20:27)
  7.  People walked from house to house (Luke 24)
  8. Bloodthirsty mobs
  9. Wouldn’t Boris Karloff make a great Pilate?
  10. Golgotha—Skull!
    BORIS KARLOFF=PILATE?

The nightmare of the cross is a true house of horrors; where the beauty of truth willingly suffered so that I, and every other human being, could experience the sunrise of joy.  Now that is all treat and no trick.