Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Analysis of the Dead

In this past week's Zero Punctuation (I should really stop getting my blog ideas from it, I'll work on that), Yahtzee remarked that besides Pirates, Monkeys, and Ninjas, Zombies were perhaps the most popular thing among "nerds". Specifically gaming nerds. Yes, the "legitimacy" of zombies in popular culture is growing every year. What used to just be a cheap horror movie effect has actually been used to create artsy, compelling narratives and games. Need proof? Check out "Fido."

Sure, zombies are getting big. Pirates got big, Ninjas got big, monkeys...I think their time has passed as well. Zombies seem to be sticking around for a bit longer though. It's probably partly due to the whole "decomposing" thing. All joking aside, what makes nerds, a generally erudite and intolerant bunch, so happy to have an antagonist that is slow, dim-witted, operates in hordes, and attempts to eat brains?
Hey, wait a second, I think there might be something there.
Zombies are the exact opposite of what a stereotypical nerd wants to be. They're barely above fungi when it comes to IQ, and have an unstoppable need to attack those that aren't one of themselves. Is it just me, or does this sound exactly like the kids that made fun of you in high school because you'd rather read than watch "Grey's Anatomy"? In fact, when you think about it, what do zombies usually want to eat? Brains? What's the only way to kill them? Kill their brains? If someone was coming up with these metaphors, they weren't digging very deep (probably about 6 feet). 
What naturally follows the intelligence disparity is the common criticism nerds have for "normal" people, that they act like sheep, meandering pointlessly around in herds. Or hordes. Used to social exile, imposed either by self or by others, nerds generally scoff at being part of a large group. They don't want to be following the trends that everyone else follows, because everyone else is stupid, and probably wrong. If you hadn't noticed, this is where the intolerance comes out. Although they commonly accept people who are "different" into their ranks, many nerds find non-nerds to be unbearable. Therefore, any nerd anathema is most definitely going to exist in some sort of large group. This serves another purpose as well. By making their antagonists a seething mass, each individual is deidentified, and it doesn't really matter who's head you're having to lop off to get to the rescue zone. It could be your old gym teacher, that cute girl who said you smelled funny when you asked her out, anyone. 
All that being said, I have to say that I'm still a zombie fan. Although I like to think of myself as a very tolerant person, I'd definitely agree that part of my liking of the zombie metaphor is a bit of distrust and dislike of the general public. Not exactly as a mass of individuals, but the whole societies themselves. To me, the zombie hordes represent the selfish, immutable cultures that are sending all of us to hell in a handbasket, finally imploding upon themselves, making way for a new world, while still representing major obstacles to that world as they slowly rot away.
Or maybe I'm just hungry for BRAIIINS.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Thought you should have at least one comment on your blog site....very profound analysis connecting nerds & zombies. Has a certain resonance from my days as a HS nerd in the 70's: tuning in to Zappa & ELP while peers were banging their heads to Kansas & Led Zeppelin (thereby killing their OWN brains and saving us the trouble). Further discussion: Shotguns vs baseball bats as sporting equipment in Zombie hunting??