There Be Monsters: A Warning

Published at Sacred Matters on August 28, 2015.

I have a hard time watching The Walking Dead. I hate to admit this as a scholar of zombies, but I will anyway. The show is hugely popular with viewing audiences, and fans of zombies, who first proved skeptical of this melodrama with monsters, have come around. On Sunday evenings in the fall and spring, viewers tune into AMC to see what will happen next. What new methods can be used to kill zombies? Which of our survivors will last throughout the season? What will they have to do to survive? Who will kill or be killed? I decided to begin a project on zombie apocalypses, in part because of The Walking Dead’s popularity but also because of burgeoning amount of zombie media, the books, films, products, television shows, memes, and apps that center on zombies. My decision also hinged on the uncritical embrace of zombies by fans, critics, friends, relatives, and my students. Zombies, I heard again and again, were fun. While they saw fun, I saw trouble. Where they appeared unbothered by gore, I couldn’t help but be struck by it. How could any of this be fun or entertaining? The gap between our perceptions was wide. Monsters are always already warnings, so I needed to know of what.