If you’re a fan of AMC’s zombie drama “The Walking Dead” — which airs its 90-minute season-five finale on Sunday, March 29 — and you live in a certain corner of the Keystone State, you may want to rethink your love for brain-eaters — because your cerebellum might be on the menu.
According to a new article in The Wall Street Journal, called “Zombie Apocalypse? Where to Hide,” one should absolutely avoid Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Researchers at Cornell University have developed a statistical model for simulating the spread of a fictional zombie epidemic. Detailed in a study submitted to the scientific-paper repository arXiv, the model identifies northeastern Pennsylvania as the U.S. location most at risk of being overrun by the undead.
Also steer clear of Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Bakersfield, California.
But on the map in the article, there are a few places less likely to be overrun with the undead: Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Boise, Idaho; and Missoula, Montana.
Said today’s (March 24) Missoula Independent:
According to researchers, Montana and Nevada are the best states to avoid such a zombie epidemic. Missoula, it turned out, is one of the city’s singled out for being particularly amenable to surviving a zombie apocalypse.
As New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer blog points out, we do have the advantage as well of being home to Zombie Tools, manufacturers of blades sufficient for zombie slaying.
One gets the feeling that there are a fair percentage of folks that are going to be severely disappointed if the zombie apocalypse doesn’t actually happen. Of course, Catholics know that the dead rising from their graves is an absolute certainty, but it won’t be as decaying, shuffling creatures mindlessly devouring gray matter while their assorted bits and pieces fall off.
But that doesn’t stop Catholics from being as fascinated with zombies as anybody else. In late February, CatholicOnline did a story on the Cornell study, ending with:
The Cornell group is not optimistic about our prospects. The abstract for their research ends with the line: “We build up to a full scale simulation of an outbreak in the United States, and discover that for ‘realistic’ parameters, we are largely doomed.”
Well, that’s cheerful.
As Patheos‘ own Bad Catholic blog observed in 2012:
The Zombie Apocalypse has become such a common part of daily discussion amongst my generation that we should take a brief moment of silence to contemplate the utter strangeness of the phenomenon.
Zombie movies are being born faster than gnostic heresies.
Zombie tales don’t always function as Catholic metaphors, as notes a notable apologist in this 2012 piece in Our Sunday Visitor:
“I think it’s a mistake to read the current interest in zombies as tied to present social and psychological trends,” said Catholic author and blogger Jimmy Akin. “Literature invariably incorporates elements of the time in which it was produced. Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ for example, has an unmistakable subtext involving race relations. Modern zombie treatments include 9/11 themes. But it’s a mistake to see these as being ‘about’ the incidental subjects they treat. They are ‘about’ the walking dead and how terrifying it would be to encounter them. This is one of those situations where a cigar is just a cigar.”
But there are “teachable moments”:
“Zombies are compelling because they take one of our most powerful fears — death — and confront us with it in a particular disturbing way,” Akin noted.
However, Patheos blogger — and “The Walking Dead” fan — Katrina Fernadez wrote a 2013 post called “Happily Declaring ‘The Walking Dead’ to Be Fully Catholic”:
The Walking Dead is more than a zombie show. It’s a show dripping with themes of redemption, grace, forgiveness, turning away from the past and coming back from wrong doing. It’s the damaging effects of sin, and the corrupting nature of evil. It’s humanity stripped down to its barest forms.
As for me, I don’t care for zombie stories, because I just don’t find brain-chomping cretins to be that interesting (and they’re extremely gross). I’d rather have the elegant vampire, defying death in style; the werewolf, struggling with an animal nature that overwhelms the human one; or the Frankenstein monster, a meditation on the foolishness of man trying to play God.
Zombies are disgusting, filthy and stupid; all they do is eat your brains while shedding rotted parts along the way. I accept that the human stories in “The Walking Dead” are fascinating, but there are still zombies.
But I did watch a bit of the U.K. science-fiction drama “In the Flesh” on BBC America, in which the zombie malady can be kept at bay, leaving sufferers lingering in the land between life and death, not fully dead nor fully alive, but still in possession of their human faculties. From a 2014 story I wrote for Zap2it.com, featuring an interview with star Luke Newberry, who plays a suicidal gay teen who came back to “life”:
“There’s no sell-by date,” says Newberry to Zap2it. “There’s no time limit. If I get shot in the back of the head, then that’s it, but until someone does that, I’ve got X amount of time. I’ve got as long as I want, and how do you plan your life if you don’t have a sell-by date?“He has his routine. He gets up, puts his lenses in, puts on his mousse” — what Newberry calls Kieren’s makeup — “clothes on, and has to try to live. He didn’t want to live. He ended his life.“He wanted out, and he got it. Now he’s got a second chance. He’s realizing so many more things, within his second chance, and he’s getting to face the demons that he couldn’t face in his previous life.”
Roday: “Zombies was something that was on our board forever, too. To be completely honest, a lot of us finally getting to do zombies has to do with it being the final episode, and me directing, and everybody saying, ‘OK, Roday, you can have zombies.’
“We did not have real zombies, but they looked awfully good. What was cool about it was, it was a taste of zombies. It was a kitchen-sink sort of horror episode, where we didn’t hang the whole thing just on zombies. That probably would have been a mistake. We gave you a little bit of everything.”
In the end, a zombie, like any monster, is a literary or cinematic manifestation of our fears, as the shadow sides of ourselves are given fangs or or fur or mindless bodies that look like us but are stripped of any humanity. Although Catholics know that evil is real, not just an outgrowth of our own darker impulses, we still can’t resist watching our internal struggles played out in graphic horror.
See, though, the thing about zombies — they’re ugly and repulsive and covered in gore, so it’s easy to know they’re dangerous. But real, demonic evil often comes in with a whisper of silk, a smooth word or a lingering touch. Spotting zombies is easy; but missing the subtle signs of Satan and his minions could cost you your soul.
Perhaps that’s the appeal of “The Walking Dead”: the challenge of understanding and recognizing the good and evil among the living rather than the undead.
Image: Courtesy AMC