A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York.

By Nina Pajak

Zombies. Why does it always have to be zombies?

Long marginalized by society in favor of vampires and werewolves, their sexier cousins (through marriage, twice removed), zombies made a resurgence in popular culture a year or so ago. The Center for Disease Control even released a tongue-in-cheek (so they say) guide to surviving a zombie epidemic. Several people high on bath salts made us wonder if there was an actual “Zombie Apocalypse” upon us (so far, we’re safe).

I’ve generally quietly avoided or carefully sidestepped being forthright with my opinion of zombies and all things zombie-related, lest I be thought bigoted or culturally insensitive to the “living-challenged.” But now with “The Walking Dead” back on television and Halloween approaching, and thanks to the wise questioning of one self-proclaimed gore-loving reader, I realize I must be honest.

I hate zombies. I don’t mean I hate them like I recognize they are evil monsters who must be stopped at all costs. I mean I can’t stand the thought of them. I can’t bear to watch them on television or in movies. While I recognize that there may be value in a show like AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” as my husband insists there is, I cannot abide its being on in my presence. If he insists on watching it when I’m home, I have to leave the room. And that’s hard, because we sort of only have two inhabitable rooms if you don’t count the bathroom. Which, let’s be honest, sometimes I do.

It’s not just that I’m scared of the thought of a rapidly decaying, sentient corpse hellbent on satisfying a monomaniacal, bottomless desire to eat our brains. I am, of course. Terrified. Very, very terrified. I mean, they’re already dead! How can you kill something that’s already dead? Plus, they’re infectious! What’s worse than a brain-eating undead leprous psychopath? One with brain-eating undead leprous psychopath cooties. It’s too much. Sure, they tend to walk pretty slowly, which typically gives non-infected humans time to plot against them, but never without casualties. And each casualty means one more zombie to kill.

And that brings me to my next and most important point: zombies make me sad. I can’t watch a zombie movie without thinking that this hellbeast the heroes are now forced to blow to smithereens was, not long ago, someone’s mother. Quite possibly the mother of the person forced to re-kill her. Imagine how horrible it would be to see your husband murdered in front of your very eyes, only to have to then savagely dispose of him in the most violent manner possible lest he take a chomp out of your face? How do you come to terms with that? How did Will Smith bring himself to kill his dog in I Am Legend after she’d been his best and only friend? Why did the screenwriters have to infect her? How manipulative and cruel is that? What’s wrong with them, those sadistic bastards? God, I hated that movie!

Vampires and werewolves have proven through appearances in various media that—though it isn’t always in their nature or their first choice—they are capable of controlling their impulses in order to get along with humans. Heck, sometimes they even fall in love with humans. If someone you know becomes a vampire or a werewolf, all is not necessarily lost (though I’d consider upping my personal security). But not with zombies. Zombies have no brain function beyond the drive to kill and devour. They can’t love anyone. They can’t conceive of mercy or discipline or loyalty. They can’t even breathe through their noses. No, there’s reasoning with them at all. Whether it’s your mom or your dad or your spouse or your best friend or the guy who was just fighting beside you who you thought would be your love interest borne out of a shared traumatic experience, if they go zombie you have only one choice. You’ve got to destroy them. There is no time for grief.

It’s not just unpleasant and frightening. It’s downright tragic.

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