Liz Tells Frank Why She Struggles With “Walking Dead” But Loves “Warm Bodies”
It’s taken me more than a few years to understand why (despite being a total slut for any sort of fantasy or sci-fi narrative) I don’t really like zombie stories: They make for very hopeless storytelling. I can get on board with post-apocalypse narratives; I can get on board with horror. But zombie stories combine the two, often in a dark gruesome way, and goddamn if I’ve always failed to really engage with them.
The exception, though, happens because of love. Always because of love.
Let’s start with The Walking Dead. If I had been single in the year 2010, I would never have finished watching the first season; I didn’t hate it, but I found it awfully bleak for regular viewing.
However, I was not single in 2010, and the guy liked the show and didn’t have cable, so we watched it at my place — when Season 2 premiered a year later, after my relationship status had changed, I realized that on the bright side, I wouldn’t have to continue watching it.
I typically have a hard time giving up on shows, especially shows that are clearly well-made and interesting. But I got so mad at the characters of Walking Dead on a regular basis… When you start rooting for the zombies, that’s when you should stop watching a show. Especially when there’s so much else out there.
Shaun of the Dead, until recently, was my favorite zombie movie — because it was a love story, focused on a very believable modern relationship with modern relationship issues, that just so happened to be set against this very unfortunate backdrop. My second-favorite zombie movie was 28 Days Later, which managed to end on a positive note — an impressive achievement for a film that tacitly acknowledges how a falling-apart human military unit would totally devolve into a rape factory.
To proper zombie movie fans, Frank, me picking these two films as my favorites of the genre probably establishes me as a total wuss. And that was BEFORE I saw Warm Bodies. Frank, I am a GIRL.
Warm Bodies (AKA now currently my favorite zombie movie), takes your typical zombie premise and melds it with Romeo and Juliet (there’s a balcony scene and everything!). He’s a zombie, she’s the daughter of the human leader, whose policy towards anything without a pulse is to shoot on sight.
But unlike Romeo and Juliet, the protagonists have half-decent communication skills so… Well, no spoilers, but things end up working out a lot better for them. And also the heroine is a gun-toting brain-using badass and it passes the Bechdel Test and Rob Corddry might break your heart a little bit and you will be CONFUSED by that, Frank, it is super-confusing, but those are the facts.
And here’s the big thing: The idea that change is possible. The trailer above reveals one of the film’s bigger plot twists — that the zombies are changing, and this change may have been sparked by the connection between Arrr and Julie.
It is pretty sappy, this idea that love can cure zombie infection — if that’s a turn-off for you, do NOT read the book by Isaac Marion. I really liked it, thanks to the extra depth it brought to both the zombie and human worlds (thanks for the recommendation, Emily!) but the sap levels are pretty high.
In the movie, though, it’s pretty well-balanced by a strong sense of humor and appropriately gross zombie moments. The zom-rom-com we’ve been waiting for, Frank! Or the zom-rom-com I’ve been waiting for, at least.
I saw Warm Bodies last week, and I liked it so much that I decided to give zombies in general another chance. This lead me to watch this week’s half-season premiere of Walking Dead — admittedly a poor decision, as I had very little idea what was going on or who half the people on screen were.
But David Morrissey was there, Frank! Remember how he was great in the British State of Play? It was nice to see him on my American TV. And no one did anything that made me actively mad, and the blonde lady gave a nice speech about rebuilding the world. That was nice! I may go back and watch from the beginning of Season 3.
I also started playing the The Walking Dead video game, and it’s pretty cool! I mean, it’s authentic zombie horror/survival, no doubt, but the gameplay strikes this really great balance between traditional game and interactive drama, and maybe I actually care about the characters — at least enough to be sad about the fact that the little girl I’m supposed to be protecting is probably going to die a terrible death thanks to my incompetence.
The game is set (so far) in the early days of the zombie outbreak, though — before things get too hopeless. And because it’s a game, I have some control over what’s happening; it’s my decisions that lead the characters down their paths, for better or for worse.
I’ve only gotten partway through the first episode, but so far Walking Dead: The Game is yet another great example of the whole “video games are the future of entertainment” thing that’s only going to become a bigger thing as we go along. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll all make it out alive, but this sense of control makes the game more palatable than I’d expected. It gives me hope that things might be okay; that the motley crew of folks I’ve assembled around me might be able to stay safe.
Maybe it’s not love that lets me enjoy zombie stories, Frank. Maybe it’s hope.
Even when things are hopeless.
Posted on February 12, 2013, in Movies, Some Spoilers, TV, Video Games and tagged 28 Days Later, A+ on the bechdel test, post-apocalyptic!, Shaun of the Dead, Walking Dead, Warm Bodies, zombies. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.
Now I may have to start playing The Walking Dead.
You should! And you can download the first episode of it for cheap or free, I think, so it’s relatively low-risk as media experiments go. 🙂
Warm Bodies sounds great- if a bit sappy. But you know what? That isn’t a bad thing! Modern zombie movies have truly gone careening down the nihilistic route (the exceptions you mentioned, and a few other weird ones, excepted) basically ignoring that of Romero’s classic three (or four if you like LAND OF THE DEAD, as my wife does), they all end on hopeful notes: the menace is being cleaned up, or at least lived with, and survivors survive… Without hope (or a second/third/etc layer of story) most modern zombie tales are just Survival Horror w/o survival, and therefore Grief Porn (angst, death, and more angst). I have hesitated with diving into Walking Dead- now I’m at least somewhat interested in the game! Thanks!
“Grief porn” — well said. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!
The Walking Dead is so uneven for me, but like you, I have a hard time breaking up with shows that are at least trying to push the envelope. And I mean…Horror on TV…pretty cool on its own, right? I support that. Walking Dead is no American Horror Story though, but it’ll do for now (even if I am 3 episodes behind on the DVR). I’ll get to ’em soon. At least you-know-who is finally dead, right!?
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