The action hero represents not so much a fantasy ideal of who we want to be, but the ideal of the world we want to live in but know we can't. You'd be insane to want to live in a real action movie world; we'd all be dead by week's end, thanks to monumental collateral damage. But in the confines of a movie, it doesn't matter if the good guy accidentally knocks over the entire city of New York; he was doing so to get the guy who killed his brother, and that guy is an asshole who may or may not be Peter Stormare. Can you just let that prick roam free?
Paul A. Hebert/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Basically what you have is a righteous individual who is doing right free from consequences or, when there are consequences, they're mostly just there to test your mettle and make you an even bigger bad ass by the time the credits roll. Whatever the case, you're going to end up as a badass and probably winning. That shit's dope.
Are you sick of zombies yet? All signs indicate no. Or, maybe you're just sick of really shitty zombies. Because a lot of zombie fiction is really, really bad. For every Dawn of the Dead, there are 30 Zombie Hunters that tease you with the idea that Danny Trejo is the star and then uses him for 15 minutes before having him killed off by the worst, shit-smear special effects this side of a Neo Geo game.
The reason zombies persevere and continue to entertain us, and the reason so many zombie stories fail thanks to not understanding this, is because they represent what we fear about our world. They are obviously the embodiment of death, but what death? A mass, virulent contagion, a death that kills not just you but the entire goddamn world. Society dies with you in the world of zombies.
Who wants this anyway?
Even if you live, who gives a shit? The world becomes a festering butthole. The zombie apocalypse represents the wet dream of 24-hour news networks -- it's disease, it's death, it's families turning on themselves, chaos in the streets, medical technology gone wrong, the failure of government, panic on a mass scale, everything is fucked, and we're all doomed, aaaaaagghhh!!
Like it or not, the appeal of the zombie is likely to never die out completely because we've explored it so deeply now, it's part of our culture, and it's the one true monster that represents everyone. Vampires and werewolves are the minority, serial killers are the insane, aliens are from beyond, but a zombie? That's just you afflicted with something beyond your control. It's you at your basic self -- a thing that feeds: no mind, no value system, just hunger that can't be controlled. A zombie represents the shit hitting the fan in the most catastrophic and unfixable way.
It's been fun, world.
It's worth noting that one of the most common complaints people have about zombie fiction (looking at you, The Walking Dead) is that it focuses so much on the living to the detriment of the dead. Writers and filmmakers think that zombie fiction is so compelling because it showcases how we deal with these situations, the real nature of humanity and biddy bladdy blah. No. Not at all. Every kind of fiction and nonfiction showcases the human condition, even The Adventures of Milo and Otis, and there aren't humans in it. Zombie fiction is about dead people eating the living, that's what audiences want to see. Force us to endure the living too long, and we may as well be watching a Lifetime movie starring Judith Light trying to spend the holidays with her estranged daughter. Who gives a shit? Not even Tony Danza would watch that.
For more from Felix, check out 5 Absurd Characters You See in Every High School Movie and 5 Things People Claim to Hate That Are Suspiciously Popular.
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