Last Saturday, at Flying Saucer’s BeerFeast, I was at first amused and then mildly amazed at the number of people with rotting faces milling around the tables of the biergarten. Though Halloween is still two weeks away, the zombie pub crawl season is in full swing, and the Saucer was crowded with ghoulish revenants cheerfully shambling around after beeeeeeer.
You could easily make the argument that the zombie shtick is pretty played out, but then you see people creatively reinterpreting the genre, and the fun sort of seeps back in. In contrast to bloodsucking icons like Vampirella, Elvira, Parker Posey in Blade III, and Col. Wilma Deering in the “Vorvon” episode of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, there’s nothing inherently sexy about zombies. No matter how you dress them up, they’re still putrid, decomposing, and mindless. You can change the game of a vampire, turning him or her into a sword-wielding, gadget-springing anti-hero or a mopey, glittering pussy, but not zombies. They’re either scary, or they’re funny. It’s never satisfying to make them anything else.
And in fact, that’s part of their appeal. Zombies are us. They don’t have desirable supernatural powers. They look miserable. They aren’t motivated by any complex character traits other than a ravenous hunger for flesh. While vampires get the luxury of exceptional strength, speed, and longevity, zombies are the monster equivalent of people waiting in line at a Sizzler. They are a totally relatable metaphor for faded dreams and expired potential, because even the most prodigiously talented human begins to dodder once cruel life begins wielding its hammer or old age sets in.
I thought about this because I saw an attractive couple in his-and-her Ninja Turtles costumes, offering us a glimpse into a world where Leonardo and Michelangelo not only existed but had the misfortune of becoming zombies. And this idea –– that an infinite amount of fictitious universes can intersect in a reality where resurrection as cannibals is real –– is precisely why I think zombies are still pretty cool, no matter how much you deconstruct them. I also saw a zombie Walter White and zombie Jesse Pinkman and a zombie Bob Ross. And at one point, zombie Duffman strutted past a zombified Super Mario and his equally undead mushroom-headed sidekick Toad. And in most cases, the makeup and costumes were pretty lifelike, or deathlike, as it were. It was like I was living in Toy Story or that “Imaginationland” episode of South Park, and if you were especially impressionable –– an Amish person, say, or an Amish person on ’shrooms –– the Flying Saucer’s spot on the zombie crawl would have been an Earth-shattering experience.
Or not. Lots of people are cynics. They like to suck the fun out of everything. –– Steve Steward
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