Familiarity’s a funny thing isn’t it? Mainly because becoming familiar with something involves being around it for a substantial period of time, or, more accurately, over-exposed to it for a substantial period of time. I’ve noticed today that the media utilises familiar settings in order to get some kind of point across, usually developing into full-fledged generational tropes by their cycle’s end. I’ve got no problem with familiar settings. They’re safe, rooted, and, for the most part, you can hardly go wrong with them.
It’s familiar settings trying to be something they’re not that piss on my cereal. Probably the best example from today’s popular culture is the premise of a Zombie Apocalypse. The evident “carnival of the undead” has spread from television and film, to my beloved comic books (these aren’t half bad actually but shh) to eventually people assembling a team and building a fortress somewhere in the Nevada desert (or in Gosport, depending on how far you can get before the zombies catch-up). At times you do have to wonder, are we in Zombie Apocalypse overkill?
“You just want to grab popular culture by the lapels and scream “Will you and zombie apocalypses just fuck already?” Either let it plug your every available orifice or start making moony eyes at something else for a change. It’s like watching a pair of wallflowers on prom night.” – Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, Zero Punctuation (The Last of Us)
Zombie Apocalypse has become one of those backdrops that remain at the bottom of your band’s set-up chest for a while, until someone eventually drags it back up and yells “HEY! REMEMBER THIS!!!” It’s gone from being an almost niche concept to the main feature of almost every book cover you see (the best so far being “Pride, Prejudice and Zombies”). Even the epic fantasy genre is getting in on the action, what with the main storyline of A Song Of Ice and Fire essentially being a Westerosi Zombie Apocalypse (hahaha, see, I managed to get it in somewhere!).
That being said, I don’t totally agree with Yahtzee. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m quite the nerd. I’m up for a good Zombie survival chat as much as anyone; discussing perfect base locations (Kuwait would be ideal really), what weapons and supplies we would need , how long it would be before we start eating each other etc etc. I do however agree that it’s downright stomach churningly pretentious when zombies are dubbed with a different title just to avoid being called “zombies” as part of a lame attempt at avoiding connections with the “Necromantic Ragnerok” (seriously guys, stock up on tinned peaches!). This has resulted in people trying to come up with new ways to reinvent zombies simply by changing their name and slightly jumbling their method of contamination, “Walkers” “Biters” and “Infected” to name but a few.
I’m an avid watcher and reader of “The Walking Dead” so I guess I’m part of the guilty party that funds this ever growing zombie empire ( the key phrase being “guess I’m part”). The difference between “The Walking Dead” and various other “stampedes of the undead” themed devices (I’m looking at you “World War Z“) however, is that it is fully aware of it’s setting and essentially legs it 200 miles in the opposite direction. It focuses more on the conflict between human characters when placed in an apocalyptic situation. They just happen to be surrounded by Zom…sorry…”Walkers.” This is what makes it entertaining, as I doubt you could keep people hooked for long with a load of moaning corpses on screen (If I’m correct “The Only Way is Essex” is doing that already).
Although that being said “The Walking Dead” and other zombie apocalypse themed drivel seem to end up driving home the same message; That secretly every human being is a cold-blooded murderer and would willingly turn against one another for a tin of baked beans. Essentially, the “zombie” aspect is used as bait to lure viewers in, and then once the plot’s established, all the zombie business kind of falls by the wayside, and everyone starts shooting each other, subsequently increasing the zombie population (good going Apocalypse Logic).
So do I have a problem with the Zombie Apoclypse? Well, not for the most part. Like I said, familiar settings aren’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s why we like them. We know that they won’t have many surprises lurking in the shadows. I have a problem when familiar settings try to reinvent the wheel and be unfamiliar (unless you’re “The Walking Dead“). When you’re working with a trope as household as the Zombie Apocalypse, then it really doesn’t need reinventing. If it isn’t broken, then put the tools down and step away from the vehicle (no seriously back the fuck up).
Segue: If the night of the living “white biting infected walking undead” happens, and you need a prepared team mate, let me know. I have a fully outfitted bunker in Nevada (tinned peaches included!).
‘Til Next Time