Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No Rules

My friend and fellow blogger Sean at Just a Jeep Guy recently posted his comparison between the British miniseries "Dead Set" and AMC's "The Walking Dead." To be fair, I have not seen "Dead Set," so I can't comment on it objectively. I know its premise - Participants in the BBC version of the so-called 'reality' show "Big Brother" find themselves the only survivors of the Zombie Holocaust. It starred the BBC version's real host and was a massive hit across the pond. It was run on IFC in it's entirety on Halloween, but my provider doesn't carry IFC, so I have to wait for the DVD version.

That having been said, Sean then goes on to list to the things he finds 'wrong' in Frank Darabont's groundbreaking "The Walking Dead." Needless to say, Uncle P had to take his friend to task for being just a bit closed-minded when it comes to the "Rules" of zombie fiction.

Among his objections (in red) and my responses to them:

"Zombies don't eat animals so the horse and rat should still be alive and well." - In George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead, zombies are shown eating insects, which means they are not limited to dining on human flesh. And in my 2004 screenplay Army of the Dead, a character says he saw "a bunch of 'em take down a horse in Central Park."

"Zombies have heightened senses and so are attracted to noise and human smells which cannot be covered up by covering yourself in zombie blood and body parts." - Zombie's senses have never been really explored, except in 1985's Return of the Living Dead, written by Dan O'Bannon (Alien) and original Romero collaborator, John Russo. The only sense they express in that movie is pain, and they say (Romero's zombies had never spoken before) that eating brains eases the pain of being dead. This is also the movie that introduced the idea that zombies are primarily interested in brains. Before that, they were only interested in living flesh.

"Zombies, like these in TWD, do not have the ability to think and therefore would not use rocks to break windows. Also, they shouldn't have the ability to climb ladders or fences." - Romero first introduced the idea of a thinking zombie in 1985's Day of the Dead, in which the zombie Bub expresses rudimentary memory such as shaving, using a phone and saluting. And in Romero's 2005 movie Land of the Dead, the zombies figure out that the lights across lake mean people are present, so there is no reason they shouldn't be able to use tools or climb ladders.

"In the second episode, we are at least 5-6 weeks into the apocalypse - most cars would have dead batteries by now and that scene of Glen flying down the road leaving Atlanta? Not a single broken down/abandoned car, dead body on one side of the road while the other is jam packed?" - Car batteries don't die after a few weeks or a month. My mother uses her car once a month and the battery is just fine. As for the highway being jammed in only one direction? Of course people would be trying to leave a city overrun by ravenous zombies, rather than trying to get into it. See Stephen King's "The Stand," in which cars jam the outbound lanes of the Lincoln Tunnel as people desperately try to escape the 'Captain Trips' virus. This makes total sense to me.

"Who has sex in the woods with zombies lurking about just weeks after her/his husband/best friends dies? Even if they where having an affair before the zombies came? I think the guild (sic) in addition to fear, would kill my sex drive." - Who doesn't get the thrill of dangerous sex in the outdoors? Fear and lust are two very closely related emotions, and if (as I have intimated and suspected) Shane and Laurie had been carrying on an affair before the whole zombie thing went down, they would certainly continue it, especially if they both thought Rick was dead. Of course, Laurie's guilt does prompt her to remove the wedding band she wears on a chain. And their fevered, animalistic rutting is certainly consistent with people who have something they want to hide from others.

The point is, when it comes to fiction -- and especially genre fiction -- there are no hard and fast rules. Writers create their worlds according their own visions and specifications.  Is anyone about to tell Anne Rice that vampires can't be religious or Stephanie Meyer that they don't sparkle ?(OK - bad example - vampires do NOT sparkle). 

In Uncle P's 'zombie-verse,' zombies don't actually have senses, but are directed by chemical responses emitted by the bio-engineered virus that controls them. In every version of a fictional story, the actions of the characters are dictated by the parameters of the author's own reality, and there simply are no rules.

Sean, I know you're reading - and that you have read the mini-version of this I posted in your comments - but please know that I'm not faulting your logic, but rather trying to expand your thinking on what genre fiction should be. In the end, all good fiction (regardless of genre) should comment on the unchanging Human Condition, and I'd say "The Walking Dead" is doing a bang-up job of it, whether you agree with it's particular set of 'rules' or not.

And speaking of genre rules, here's an example of some extremely silly ones that work because the plot adheres to the parameters of the story's own reality. I give you the latest trailer for Tron: Legacy:

More, anon.


Anonymous said...

First, I was in a bitchy mood when I wrote that post but I stand by it. I am open minded and understand that for every zombie there is a new set of rules. What I didn't make clear is that the faults as I saw/see them I felt really came from writer's contrivance and the director saying we need something here.

I would never compare zombies of one movie to those of another but I think that there are certain criteria that must be met or else you're no longer a zombie movie and are just a monster movie.

As for the road entering Atlanta, you honestly believe no one used that side to flee town? And with all those cars, there are no zombies?

Stephen said...

Now this is what I call Zombies:

Prospero said...

There's Stephen, always ready to make me smile.

And Sean, I didn't mean to be bitchy back. I just felt like I had to defend the show I've so fallen in love with, cheesy or not.