TV Review

TV review: AMC's 'Walking Dead' feeds our zombie love alive

Americans are suckers for the post-apocalyptic vibe, the great social do-over. Unlike nuclear war or alien annihilation scenarios, a zombie epidemic leaves the world intact while offering the scant survivors a chance to reboot and reorder civilization. Of course, this never ends well.
By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 31, 2010

Early this week, on the same morning that the Lincoln Memorial was briefly visited by a couple dozen zombies who were there to promote AMC's irresistibly gross but curiously lifeless new Sunday night series, "The Walking Dead," the Internet was abuzz with yet another viral video clip.

In this one, it appears that a lefty activist is being dragged, pushed and stepped on by supporters of Rand Paul at an Oct. 25 candidate debate for the Kentucky Senate race.

The clip has a zombie-movie feel to it, and not just because I had the first three episodes of "The Walking Dead" knocking around in my brain. It was something about the way that the Paul crowd paws and pulls at the activist and then forces her to the ground. One man then appears to try to stomp on her head and neck. After it was over, the would-be protester, Lauren Valle, told the TV news crew she was shaken and sore, but fine.

Still, she had that freaked-out, wary look in her eyes.

* * *

Slowly, as is their wont, the undead have shuffled across the vastness of Western culture, and then shuffled all the way back again. Set loose by West African and Caribbean voodoo traditions and later revivified as a Cold War-era, counterculture metaphor by George Romero's campy "Night of the Living Dead" in 1968, zombies have proven themselves immune to the whims of monster trends and fads.

"They're coming to get you, Bah-bara," taunted horn-rimmed Johnny in the cemetery. "There's one now."

There, wandering among the headstones in his tattered funeral suit. Then more. Then too many of them. Then pandemonium, apocalypse, the end of everything.

Barbara, they are still coming. So much of our collective culture feels zombified in 2010. We move in packs, everywhere, lured by the slightest hint of political outrage or ironic comedy or something disgusting and weird to click on and watch. A lot of times it's literally about zombies. We have become zombies who watch stuff about zombies.

Twenty-three million of us clicked on a YouTube video to see Michael Jackson's "Thriller" re-created in Filipino prison yards ; and you can sometimes see the same putrifried dance, on a much smaller scale, at Class of '85 reunions, where most everyone looks . . . terrifying. There's Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennet with decomposed flesh falling off her chin on the cover of the best-selling "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." There's always a Facebook invite to yet another event where people dress up as zombies and slowly amble along the streets or shopping plazas.

Just look around at all the zombies. Everywhere. Mobs lined up outside the Apple Store, groaning with the desire to devour Steve Jobs's braiiiin. The moans coming from town hall meetings and campaign stops; the stench left in the "comments" field of online articles; the shrieks and cries coming from cable news networks.

Look at how many thousands of people will shuffle in whatever direction Jon Stewart and Glenn Beck tell them to go, lured there by the scent of fresh meat and moldy whiffs of constitutional parchment. Imagine the founding fathers, up out of the soil that contained them, wormy and squirmy, watching the Don't-Tread-on-Me crowd march by and stomp on dissenters. Join the crowd? Or eat them?

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