I’ve been watching AMC’s new zombie apocalypse show The Walking Dead, and I quite like it. I thought its ninety-minute pilot episode was both frightening and sad, and the following two episodes have been pretty good too (even if Episode 2 was just Dawn of the Dead again).
However, I do have a gripe with the show, and it drives me crazy.
In two-hundred and ten minutes of The Walking Dead, no one has said the word “Zombie.”
I can accept for the purposes of the narrative that the entire world has been overrun with dead, decaying, flesh-eating corpses; they stagger and shamble aimlessly; they bite and scratch and eat intestines; they look like extras from Army of Darkness… but it breaks all credibility to assume that no one has mentioned zombies yet.
I had the same reaction to the movie Cloverfield the first time I saw it. While I liked the movie greatly, it did bug me that none of the characters in it, after witnessing the army trying to stop a giant monster that emerged from the ocean to smash the living hell out of a downtown metropolis, commented on any similarity to, well, Godzilla. Of course, I understand why they don’t: while we’d hear “It’s just like Godzilla!,” the studio execs hear “It’s just like GodzillaTM!,” and that TM can cost a lot of money.
But zombie? That’s not some trademarked monster concept, that’s a pretty well known pop cultural phenomenon. Case in point, here’s a useful guide to determining the potential danger of zombies in various movies… and just look at how many movies they’re in.
Hell, my four-year-old daughter can recognize a zombie. (For example, my current desktop background is
but while she doesn’t recognize this as a reference to one of the best lines of dialog in cinema history (“Listen up, you primitive screw-heads. This… is my boom stick!”), she does recognize it as it as “a guy with zombies.”)
But in The Walking Dead, people never use this term. Instead, the folks in the show make up new names for them, like walkers or geeks or even just The Dead, but zombies is weirdly (and conspicuously) absent from their lexicon. It’s like some weird alternate reality in which George Romero was never born and 28 Days Later is a Sandra Bullock sequel.
The other day the Ladybug was busy at the dinner table with one of her self-imposed art projects. She was taking pieces of notebook paper, folding them in half like a card. On the inside fold of each card she would write her name, while on the front of the card she would draw the same person, over and over again:
Me: Whatcha drawin’?
Me: You’re making zombies? They sure look happy for zombies.
She: Well, yeah. They’re Valentines.
Me: You’re making zombie Valentine’s Day cards?
Me: Hmmm. Well, it certainly puts a new twist on the Please give me you heart on Valentine’s Day theme.
Me: Nothing. Carry on.