They creep me out because even when the story isn't about disability and mental illness, it is fundamentally about disability and mental illness.
Zombies are the idea that someone can start out as human but by the way they act or by physical differences they can lose that status, even while moving and doing things.
A lot of supernatural horrors are like that, especially the fear of infection subset.
But zombies can look like regular humans, walk around and all sorts, but because they're not acting like regular humans then somehow they suddenly don't count.
There's scholarly articles about the myths origins in haiti and how it's all about mental illness and neurological trauma there, but it's not a trope that can get away from that.
And the argument its harmless escapism doesn't hold water. I've been scared for years of the increasing focus in pop culture on zombies, because it feels like the ideology supports some extreme fascist solutions. Zombies are the no longer human, the things that by acting so different make it impossible to talk or compromise, and leave the only solution as extermination.
Having a talk about the morality of killing that doesn't examine the assumption that zombies are walking dead is just skipping the moral bits.
It constructs an enemy where literally the only options are kill or be killed and then asks if killing is right, when really, that view of the world is what you've got to argue with anyway.
Vampires can try and figure out how to be a responsible consumer under capitalism, werewolves can look for situations where it's okay to lose control, but zombies can't choose anything.
... yes I know there are stories with free willed revenants who eat brains and get called zombies, but that's enough steps off trope the whole argument doesn't apply.
The stories where there's a treatment for the undead so they get their minds back again answer the moral question in the setup, the only moral approach is to only shoot them up with cure. But using that as explicitly a framework to talk about mental illness skips the part where mentally ill people are on the whole no more likely to bite you than the next guy, so, deeply problematic.
And I have written about zombies in my building before, as a short for college, and I do fear the apparently mindless trying to break the doors down starting with the flat that used to be the drug dealers. I get why they're scary. I got nightmares when I accidentally watched two zombies on abandoned spaceships stories alone. I can see how they're a powerful tool in a horror writers kit. Fear of mindless people second only to fear of becoming mindless, very scary.
But I hate the solutions the vast majority of these stories end with. The kill them all approach isn't a solution, it's the problem getting closer to home. It don't make no never mind if you can or cannot think about it, if both sides are killing on sight.
But the story often only presents one side as available for empathy. They are the big scary monsters, I only act like one to protect those I care about. *shudders* Same when the argument moves on to vigilantes. It removes from the equation that the other guy? Has the exact same motivations and priorities you do. Vigilantes do crimes to protect the people they care about? Well so do a whole lot of criminals. No damn difference. Any story that removes the possibility of noticing that and evaluating your own behaviour through the other sides eyes? Breaks empathy, and nudges towards unthinking evil.
Treating people as things, that's where it starts.
Zombie stories treat people as things and I can't be having with them at all.
All that said, I keep on coming back to Sean of the Dead. I haven't seen it for a bit of a while, but it had that great sequence at the start where you can't tell zombie from commuter cause they're all just tired and acting on autopilot, and then it ends with him keeping his mate around and just making reasonable accommodations for the new biteyness. So there's ways and ways to tell it, and the old slavery angle remains with a whole insatiable consumption layer under capitalism.
But when story is optimised for drama, danger, violence, and 'having to' kill... when any other approach gets punished? It grinds a groove of thoughts that try and make it seem reasonable. There end up being cumulative hundreds of hours of stories saying the only answer is extermination.
Which is a whole other sort of terrifying.
And that's without getting into how zombie movies tend to work out with regards to class, race, gender, and all the rest. I haven't specific numbers so I don't know for sure. But there do seem to be a lot of white guys in these things.
So. I really do not like zombie stories.
People are not things. They cannot become things. And you deal with them in an ethically responsible manner come what may, because the right thing to do doesn't wear off when things get scary.
And all that is like a third of my thoughts in response to that one talk at Redemption. I'll probably end up writing later about why immortality would, surprisingly apparently, be a good thing. And I ended up talking a lot about robot rights an artificial people, which tends to be a much better story from where I'm standing, because you start with apparent not-people and the whole thrust of the narrative is about getting you to acknowledge them and treat them better. Robot story as the anti zombies? Only sometimes. But when it is I much prefer it.
xposted from Dreamwidth here. comments. Reply there