“What is it that is never changed even though everything is changed? It is love.” - Søren Kierkegaard
“… the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew.” - Adolf Hitler
OK, at least Hitler acknowledges that Jews are living beings, but what do these two quotes have to do with zombies? Two history changing philosophers, two very different views on the nature of people……
The beauty of the zombie archetype is that is so maleable. On the one hand, many zombie movies dehumanize the creatures with the implicit “claim” that they are dead (and usually ugly). The fact that zombies have metabolism (hence they can move) surely proves they aren’t. On the other hand, there are those movies that humanize them, albiet impaired, as good, evil or somewhere in-between beings.
Historian Niall Ferguson, in his book “The War of the World”, writes about the subject of dehumanization and how it fueled the horrific conflicts that were the hallmark of the 20th century. The theory goes that it is fundamentally against human nature to kill another human being. As a species, we would not have survived without this instinct. So the second part of the theory goes like this: in order to kill, a mental process must take place so that the other person is seen as sub-human before he/she can be killed. No one exploited this idea more than Adolf Hitler. He industrialized propaganda to influence millions into thinking other cultures of people were sub-human to the Arian race. Maybe this instinct explains why there is bigotry, racism and hate in the world, and we have we to work so hard to suppress it.
Maybe that is the appeal of the dehumanizing type zombie movie. Who doesn’t enjoy watching all the hilarious ways zombies meet their demise in the “Walking Dead”? It gives us a way to touch that instinct on a class of human looking creatures and not have to hurt anyone real. Look at the popularity of “zombie survival” cults. Zombies aren’t real people. So we get to imagine ourselves living in a world where we get to slaughter zombies all day long. Am I suggesting that zombie dehumanization is a form of “safe racism”? I’m not really sure, but I prefer safe sex.
“True Love Zombie” is the other type of zombie movie. As in many movies of this type (“Fido”, “White Zombie”), it is story that tests the theory that love can be the one constant in a person’s life that gives them life. That no matter how things change, even if you turn into a zombie, if the love stays constant, there is hope. The one thing that differentiates Paul from the other infected in the movie, this that the love he shares with Rhonda helps to transcend him from the scourge of the dread Terrorist Syndrome Virus.
As human beings we all need love to feel alive.