Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Zombie Mythos: distilling the suspension of disbelief

My bro Top and I have been on a quest of late to catch up on the Zombie movies we've missed. I've seen a few more of them than he has because our schedules for study (in a semi-reclined position, which is, of course, tactical because we typically have a carbine around) haven't matched up all that well of late. That will happen when one member of the team is married and the other is a slob bachelor. lol

Most of what we've been watching, re-watching, and studying have been Romero films. He's clearly one of, if not the, preeminent authorities on this topic. I think he's probably got more time invested in the whole theme than just about anybody else. There are others, of course, but some just don't make any sense. Part of the appeal is the ability to suspend one's disbelief, and if the mythos doesn't jibe with the physical laws and accepted norms, then suspension of disbelief becomes quite difficult.

That said, I've come to some conclusions as to the world of the mobile undead. I tend to dismiss the concept of voodoo zombies out of hand, mostly because they don't fit the definition very well. To be a zombie, one must die and be reanimated, while voodoo zombies are made through various non-physical means. They're created by some other nefarious force, typically an individual or group of individuals. That precludes the overtaking of the world with zombies: there simply won't be enough of them to do much more than to have their evil overlords overtake an island or other smaller geographic area.

There are a couple other theories that make a modicum of sense, but that will make this entry far longer than I intend for it to be. I'm trying to document my thoughts and not bore the hell out of the two people that read my musings.

So what does make sense? The virus idea holds the most merit, both in how it starts and how it is transferred between infected and non-infected. There seems to be equal credibility for both the most common theories: that the virus was man-made and a mistake that got loose, or that it is an exotic virus transferred through pests like bot flies. I was told by a medic friend of mine that the "bot" in bot fly is short for "botulism". If you've ever seen video of bot flies being removed from a person or critter (search You Tube), its pretty easy to see how bugs could be the original culprit. From there, a virus could easily be spread by way of the accepted means: the bite.

Which brings us to the most asked and debated question about zombies that there is: high speed, or slow and shambling? While I appreciate the emotional elements that high speed zombies bring to a film, the idea doesn't hold up to scrutiny in light of the subject being a migratory dis-exanimate. Because the virus is causing the re-animation, the body is not living in the accepted sense of the word. Therefore, there will be atrophy and decay, which would preclude the ability of the musculature and infrastructure of the locomotive partially-deceased to support high speed movement. Also, a virus always affects a body negatively. Ever had a cold or viral infection that made you feel better? High speed zombies, after a short while, must have failure of their sustentacular tissues. (Go ahead and look it up, its a real word.:))

To sum up, the mythos of the zombie appears to be best described by George Romero's conception of them. While he doesn't go into much detail as to how they become the ambulatory unresting, his conceptions of how they would move the actions they would take appear to have a basis in science. Along the lines of the T-Virus from The Resident Evil series, that they feed appears to be a deep rooted instinct, not a requirement. That, too, seems to be at least within the realm of possibility.

I may decide to delve into this further in the future, as there are a couple more things that I think need to be expressed. My mind is wandering a little too much right now to continue.

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