Last week in the midst of a nice lull, in an otherwise unpredictable day, the new coworker I was helping train turned to me and asked if I have a zombie survival/escape plan. As a nerk (that’s geek and nerd all in one) this question is not completely weird to me. As a victim’s advocate in a social work setting that often crosses over into mental health, however, this was completely out there. After all, people who talk with great earnestness about such plans are sometimes considered to have gone over to the looney side of toons. Why would my normal-seeming, mostly un-nerk-like coworker be asking me such a question? That it might be a clever ploy to judge my sanity and stability did cross my mind, but I answered in the affirmative just the same–and asked why she wanted to know. Turns out her boyfriend has one and she, by proxy, has one as well. A fluke, right? A few days later I asked my brother if he had a zombie plan. My brother is something of a litmus test for me. He’s into things just far enough to be culturally aware, but not so deeply into anything to be considered a fanboy, geek, or nerd. He likes what he likes, follows what he follows, and doesn’t even have an internet connection in his house. If he says “I have a zombie plan” then I can be pretty sure that zombies have gone fully mainstream. Guess what? He has a plan. A damn good one, actually.
Ladies and gentlemen, fellow nerks, our zombie survival/escape plans will no longer work. There are too many noobs involved. The undead have gone mainstream.
Okay, so maybe some of our plans will still work. I’m pretty sure some of the folks I have seen on Doomsday Preppers will be just fine when the zombies come. I also don’t discount my own plan that involves a hockey stick, numerous cans of hairspray, a lighter and a Cessna. However what I loved about the idea of zombie plans was that they spoke to a particular part of the population. It was unifying. As someone who has never been able to do things quite as awesomely as the “cool kids” the idea that I rocked out with something that didn’t require me to be cool but still put me in good company was really heartening. There were others like me who were just slightly fringey, but nothing extreme. You’re not likely to see me on television with a bunker full of food and weaponry but at the same time my readiness is equally useful for natural disaster as it is for zombie invasion. Not to mention it’s kind of fun which is a key component in why the idea of zombies and plans to escape them have become so common. Once relegated to the realm of horror movie buffs and nerks like me zombies are a part of the mass entertainment machine. I believe that it largely began with Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of George A. Romero’s cult classic Dawn of the Dead. I loved both films having seen the original when I was younger and the remake when it first came out. Other people enjoyed Snyder’s version as well, which was somewhat surprising to me given that it’s um, zombies and gore. It ended up being one of the very few zombie films to make over $100 million internationally. Shaun of the Dead soon followed with more Romero-style zombies (slower than Snyder’s speedy-creepy monsters) and lots of laughs. I know that in my case that film made me more interested in the 2003 book Zombie Survival Guide and from there zombies have just been popping up all over the place.
Movies, television, comic books…zombies are everywhere and even in the non-fiction real-life world, too. Remember the guy in Florida that attacked and chewed some other guy’s face off? They reported that the guy was high on bath salts, but it was also touted as a zombie attack. It also wasn’t the only “zombie” story to hit the news this year. A woman in Texas is accused of killing and then eating the brains of her small child. A man in Maryland is accused of killing and eating his roommate. They’re calling him a zombie, too. There is apparently even an Ace Hardware store in Nebraska with a “Zombie Preparedness Center” in store, though it is more about how to survive as a zombie than how to defeat them. It really is all a little bit crazy, I guess, but maybe it’s as an article on Huffington Post suggests: we live in bleak times so we have gravitated towards images of struggle and doom. If that is the case then having survival plans is really just a way of giving ourselves hope in uncertainty while being a little less serious than an actual doomsday plan. Planning, tongue-in-cheek, for a zombie attack is more socially acceptable than moving to Montana and building a bunker capable of withstanding a nuclear end of days. It’s like being part of a pop-culture joke. It gives, perhaps, a sense of community and belonging.
Kind of like it did for me and my fellow nerks when I made my plan before it was vogue. Huh. Maybe there aren’t too many noobs involved after all. Maybe my plan will still work when the dead decide to come running and/or shambling after me looking for my sweet, sweet brains. After all, there will be a lot more of us with plans and just maybe that sense of community will allow us to team up and save civilization. That’s kind of a nice thought. I might even be willing to share some of my hairspray torches.
…but you’re all on your own for the Robopocalypse. That plan is mine-all-mine.