Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Blame You For This, Max Brooks

Back in 2003, Max Brooks released a book called the Zombie Survival Guide (yes, this is another zombie post... deal with it). As the title would suggest, it's basically a worst case scenario handbook for the "zombie apocalypse." This was the first time I had ever heard that term. The idea had been kicking around since at least the Romero films, but that was the point it hit a critical mass. Now, should you do a Google search on those two words, you'll find that roughly 50% of the Internet is dedicated to zombies and their eventual domination of the human race. What flying saucers were to the 50's, zombies have become to the 00's (pronounced "aughts" by some).

But I'm afraid zombies have "jumped the shark." (Actually, in the 1979 Italian film cleverly titled "Zombie," there is a scene in which a zombie fights a shark. It's... amazing. Somewhere during the struggle the zombie literally goes over the shark. So I suppose it could be said to have happened 31 years ago.) All trends have this fate. They start out as small but intelligent labors of love. Then, somehow, it pops up on the radar and becomes a mainstream hit. Subsequent attempts to repeat that success lack the spark that made the first one engaging and things begin to falter. Finally the trend goes into free fall. Shoddy product floods the market in a last gasp money grab and it all crashes down.

This end stage of the zombie phenomenon can be seen best in the glut of writing that I'm calling "Zom-Coms." Zom-Coms throw years of zombie lore to the wayside in order to create a cutesy premise that (presumably) features zombies for the sheer fact that they sell well at the moment. Examples? Zombies as ad agents. The Beatles as zombies. Football playing zombies. Trekkie zombies. Zombie songs for holidays. Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon... with zombies. Teenage goth/zombie high school relationship dramas. Please. Stop. Making. These.

A related complaint: just because a book features a zombie, it does not also need to include a vampire, a werewolf, the creature from the black lagoon and an alien who is also a demon hunting telepath. Charlaine Harris might have made a fortune off of such an implausible jambalaya of bogeymen in the same story, but it should really end there. Each of those characters have wildly different rules and backstories. It's like Alien vs. Predator, certain combinations should never happen (see also: Freddy vs. Jason).

I know I've made this promise before, but this will be the last time I write about zombies. This current gimmick laden version of them has turned me off completely. I'm sorry zombies, but you are dead to me.
posted by jw