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The REAL Zombie Virus

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Wildly Exaggerated: The REAL Zombie Virus

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The REAL Zombie Virus

I don't get the fascination with zombies. I just don't. I don't necessarily have anything against zombies; I just don't think they're the greatest thing in the world and there is nothing cooler and there should be zombies in everything and I'm gonna be a zombie for Halloween and I love zombies because OMG ZOMBIES!!!!!

Once upon a time (2006ish), zombies had a certain counter-culture cool to them - the market wasn't oversaturated with zombie movies, being a zombie enthusiast was unique, and zombies were just about the ONLY product of popular imagination that didn't feature in a Harry Potter plot (unless you count Voldemort as a zombie, and who would do that?). But now zombies are EVERYWHERE! There's a new big-budget movie or TV show about zombies every freaking week! Everyone from Wil Wheaton to Charlie Brooker has churned out a zombie-related story, often with the zeal of someone who genuinely loves his subject matter (rather than that of a hanger-on capitalizing on the zeitgeist). The CDC even managed to get its blog to go viral (no pun intended) by disguising a basic list of emergency kit necessities as a "Zombie Preparedness Guide". Be honest: did you know the CDC even had a blog before you heard about that? Of course you didn't. But they were banking on the #1 rule of publicity that I just made up: use the word "zombie" often enough, and you WILL find an audience. That's certainly the theory behind this blog post, anyway.

I have a lot of dear friends who adore the whole zombie culture and genuinely think anything involving zombies is fantastic. I naturally assumed it was because they were single people in their early 30s, and most of us have had days so dark that having their brain eaten right out of their heads sounded downright appealing. But then I discovered that these people don't actually want to be attacked by zombies - they just like the idea.

So I'm lost.

In the end, I figured I didn't need to understand. The zombie takeover of pop culture had no adverse effect on me...until now. You see, in the past week, I've found various so-called "news sites" smattered with headlines like:
"Zombies Headed from North Henry County to Cobb" (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
"Zombies Take Over Henry County Highway" (also AJC)
"Cobb Co. Authorities Warn of Zombie Mayhem" (*

Here's the deal: the TV series "Walking Dead" is filming in and around Atlanta. In a hugely original twist, they apparently feature images of highways strewn with cars crashed by zombies or abandoned by survivors. In order to get these shots, they've had to close stretches of highways in the Atlanta suburbs. So really, this is a traffic story about how you have to take alternate routes around certain areas for a day or two. And in a city with a GINORMOUS traffic problem, that has probably been a serious concern for a lot of people, who could use some information on how best to navigate their daily commute in spite of the closures. Instead, they've been treated to a bunch of news editors/headline writers who are over the moon at the idea that they get to write pretend-zombie-apocalypse headlines. The implied dialogue goes something like this:
PUBLIC: I have 45 minutes to get to work and a major highway on my commute is closed. I know! I'll check the local news for information and advice!
NEWS SOURCE: Zombies! *laugh* HA HA! There are ZOMBIES on the road! Oh nooooo! *snort*
PUBLIC: Well, that headline is ridiculous, but maybe there will be some relevant information in the story...
NEWS SOURCE: A zombie alert - that's right: a ZOMBIE alert! *snort* *giggle* - has been issued for...
PUBLIC: Oh for the love of...

Not that I'm surprised; local newsmedia has always had a knack for ruining everything. But now we've reached a point where the local public is so desensitized that we don't even notice the word "zombie" in the headline anymore. We see "Zombie Apocalypse" and think it's either a traffic closure or a publicity stunt by a government agency. So now, when the REAL zombie apocalypse comes, this will happen:
PUBLIC: Yeah yeah, zombies blah blah blah. Why do they hire 12-year old boys to write their headlines? Oh well, I guess I'll click through to see which restaurants had their flat screens stolen last night. I don't want to show up at Taco Mac and find I can't watch the game!

And then we all die. Thanks a lot, local news. Thanks. A. Lot.

*NOTE: I'd like to compliment 11Alive on not only not having a zombie-related headline, but also on featuring the headline "Athens Woman Admits to Sexting With Weiner". It almost makes up for the Wizometer.

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