When I was growing up there were two zombie variants. You had your Dungeons & Dragons zombies, and you had your Night of the Living Dead zombies. While I was too young to see that classic movie when it first came out, years later I watched it all alone, very late at night, on the Chanel 9 Creature Feature, which was sponsored by an aluminum siding company. No human being was ever more grateful for an aluminum siding sales pitch than yours truly that night.
At about the same time I was also binge-playing D&D, and in both contexts I still remember debating the moral and ethical issues surrounding the slaughter of zombies. It might seem that the only justification needed for hacking a zombie to pieces or shooting one in the face is the fact that they are intent on eating healthy non-zombie people alive, which is super creepy. But tigers and lions also display that same proclivity at times, yet except for a few low-brow, atavistic big-game hunters still wandering the world in search of their genitals humanity has generally moved away from the idea that every potential existential threat deserves to be turned into wall art or a throw rug. And besides — back in the day zombies moved so slowly you could always run away from them unless you were a total idiot, like, unfortunately, most of the characters in Night of the Living Dead.
If the mere threat of zombies wasn’t enough for me to justify their execution, then, there was the fact that zombies represented a desecration of the dead. Rather than allowing the deceased to rest in peace while politely decaying out of sight, zombification forced the dearly departed to get up and wander around in search of bloody meat, regardless of any physical injury or decomposition they may have previously suffered. Not only was this a cultural abomination, but it was super gross, and on that basis alone suggested a wide range of acceptable motives for zombie killing, from godly mercy to wholesome tidiness.
In the end, as young men often do, I settled on cheap contextual heroism as my ethical justification for hacking zombies to pieces or watching them get their brains blown all over the landscape, but even then, in the primal pre-narrative recesses of my mind, I knew I was getting away with something. I was killing without killing. Taking life without taking life. Murdering without murdering. [ Read more ]