Why are zombies so mindless? How zombie stories are focused more on the human characters?
As I continue to expand on my research into the popular appeal of zombies and their history as literary creatures, I have to dwell a bit on morbid topics such as death. Zombies and death are inseparable.They are the projection of our fears of the oxymoronic notion of the “living dead.” Nearly everything about them resembles the rotting state of our bodies, if they were to suddenly arise from their hallowed burying grounds. Again, many religions have an obsession to purifying burial grounds due to the fear of the dead being resurrected while in a decomposing state. Is this where our image of hell comes from? Maybe the “second death” just alludes to our deep fear of death bringing upon a state of destruction, yet we are still conscious all throughout the unimaginable torture of hell. In Dante Inferno, Dante has some pretty coherent discussions with the inhabitants of hell, who have not lost their ability to articulate their thoughts. They are certainly far removed from the ultimate bliss of heaven, but they have not definitely lost their ability to think through things thoroughly. Augmenting the torturous elements of hell though is the tragedy of being consciously aware of your separation from heaven or loved ones.
Zombies are thus more of a modern trend, as there is no judicial process for the dead. In actuality, the idea of zombies is ironically a step above being motionlessly dead. Zombies are full of motion, but their brains are completely dead. They are the manifestation of losing control of thought in death, and killing people mindlessly. The humans that are still living must adapt to a new psychological mode of survival that eschews remorse and moral constraints. Once someone has had their faculties and their conscience eliminated, they are deserving of death because the rationale behind their destruction stems from a need to protect those who are living, thus we get the premise for approximately eighty percent of zombie films that always are set up as easily reproducible apocalyptic scenarios. I haven’t watched “The Walking Dead” yet, but I sense that the characterization is probably what attracts people to the show, rather than just the carnage alone. Some of the purely mindless zombie films, where even the human characters are undeveloped to the point of being indistinguishable from the zombies, would never make for good tv shows with any longevity. They lack the important character development needed for any sustainable tv shows.
For the zombie story I have in works, I don’t want to lose the pivotal element of the “mindless” zombie, but I also seek to have depth and nuance in my characterization. Without spoiling any details behind my plans for my zombie story, they might not be in a perpetual “zombie” state. By examining what works in zombie stories, I want to focus on the horror element elicited by how human characters react to the moral and shocking philosophical issues that zombies pose. It is the perfect story structure for me to examine the inexplicable nature of violence and the paradox between death/life. These issues are just so intriguing for me, but I also strive to write a story that is richly entertaining as well. “Warm Bodies,” and “The Forest of Hand and Teeth,” are so successful in my eyes because they don’t streamline the stories, but rather work on strengthening the appeal and intrigue of the story and allow it to naturally expose philosophical questions. The stories that don’t didactically pose these issues are always the best. It allows more room for the reader as well to interpret things differently. This zombie story for me is a very exciting project of mine because it is a story that I hope is populated with many different types of characters. The focus of the story will be placed on the human characters, and the zombies will remain questionably mindful. No, it will not be a mindless zombie story with carnage that is titillating, rather than gruesome and artistic. I want to write a zombie story that reflects an appreciation and respect for the intellectual potential for zombie stories. Then again, I want something that equally has some traditional horror elements as well. Basically, I’m really excited for this project of mine!