On The Walking Dead

Introduction: Triumph of the Walking Dead

In Medias Apocalypsis

By James Lowder

All zombies are created equal. That’s kind of their thing.

Sure, you may be able to spot little differences. One may haul around the teddy bear it cherished when it was still a little girl, while another may wear the remnants of its nun’s habit or its softball league uniform. They can be differentiated by the number of limbs still attached to their torsos or by their movement predilections–fast or slow, roamers or lurkers. In the end, though, the classic zombie is just a hungry mouth in search of the next bite of warm flesh.

Writers sometimes cheat a bit and grant their living dead a measure of residual intelligence. Fair enough. The best way to explore what makes a zombie a zombie is to push the boundaries, and tropes can, and should, evolve. Even the brain-munching, virus-spreading machine that has come to embody the term “zombie” in the twenty-first century had a twentieth-century predecessor in the will-bereft slaves introduced to Western pop culture in 1929 through W.B. Seabrook’s Haitian travelogue The Magic Island and, a few years later, the low-budget Bela Lugosi classic White Zombie (1932). George Romero changed all that. With 1968’s Night of the Living Dead he transformed the sad victims robbed of their souls through sorcery or chemistry into hyper-aggressive monsters. Since that landmark moment in cinematic horror, we’ve come to expect our zombies to seek out and devour the living, who, once fallen, will then join the relentless, hunger-fueled ranks of the undead.

Zombies in the Romero style  …

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