Diversions: Zombies!

Liv from iZombie is both a zombie and the protagonist. Photo courtesy of Amazon.

In 2013, PV@G editor Joe Young wrote a post about a perennial favorite: zombies. Joe suggested that stories about zombies tend to feed a reductionist (and irresponsible) worldview of good versus evil, us versus them, and the easy justifications of violence that follow. In film and television, zombies are the obvious enemy, humans are the obvious heroes, and anything the humans do can be justified through this lens. This Manichean worldview, continuously fed to the public, sinks into peoples’ pores, and makes it easy (or easier) for the public to accept at face value the idea of “threats” as completely evil, and the United States as completely benevolent, making it easier to justify violence and repression.

Could this be changing? Are we as a collective developing a more nuanced view of Zombies? Are we becoming Zombie-curious? Shows like iZombie and Santa Clarita Diet don’t depict zombies as mindless monsters, but as ordinary people with interesting (ahem) eating habits. Sometimes, they are even the protagonists in their own stories. In these new shows, the supposed conflict between zombies and normal people—and the question of who has moral superiority—is unclear, ambiguous, open for interpretation.

Is this new approach to zombies an indication that we are moving away from dangerous black and white thinking, and towards a more nuanced way of looking at the world?


By Joseph Young  | June 25, 2013

World War Z, the latest Zombie book turned big-screen summer blockbuster, has got me thinking about the undead. I am not a fan of the genre. To be fair, these undead killers have been the stars of feature films since the 1960s. Dan Drezner made them cool for the foreign policy crowd. As our readers know, I do like post-apocalyptic stories. There is, of course, some overlap. Pondering how societies operate once social order collapses or how people rebuild after a huge shock is fascinating both as entertainment and in ways that help me think about what makes our daily society work. Zombies can induce these changes. Shouldn’t I be a fan then? Besides the glaringly obvious reason, there is a downside to Zombies.

Read more: The Downside of Zombies

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