I stated in an earlier post that I would return to a subject near and dear to my heart: The motivation of the Zombie. Does he eat to live or live to eat? Well, this strongly depends on what movie you watch or what book you are reading; don’t it?
Some folks are under the impression that the reanimation of dead tissue forces the host to seek flesh to curb the raging pain and anger within. In “Return of the Living Dead part Three” living dead girl Julie tells us that ‘the pain takes the hunger away’. So does this work both ways? In “I am Legend” the motivation is blood. And of course in movies like “28 Days” they just seem to want to kick ass, no real preference to eating or not.
With a plethora of theories and different ways to serve your Zombie up it can be confusing to the common man with little to no Zombie experience to discern what motivations are best for what sorts of situations. What if there was a simpler version to the matter? What if someone could sum all this ugly business up with one unifying theory that could cross between the supernatural, comet-related and even the modern contagion created Zombies?
In steps Dr. Logan.
In “Day of the Dead”, already stated as (in my opinion) the Best Zombie Film Ever, Doctor Logan reveals that the basic Zombie is just a boiled down version of us. “They are us,” he exclaims to Sarah as he shows off severed limbs and electrified body parts. The reasoning for their desire for flesh is that they are left with little or no brain function. What is left behind is what he refers to as “Primordial Ooze, that bit of Prehistoric Jelly we inherited from our ancestors.” And of course we all know what our ancestors spent all day doing when they weren’t seeking shelter? That’s right; EATING. Well mostly they were hunting, and cooking, and then eating, but you get the idea! Dr. Logan believes that Zombies are working chiefly off of instinct. So to this effect it could be stated that their drive to consume flesh comes from their need to fulfill the very bottom level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Physiological. The basic ‘need to feed’, as it were, is being satisfied by attacking every living thing the Zombie comes in contact with. However, this theory is tested immediately by select film and literature where the living dead ONLY feast upon the flesh of other humans; the most recent case being the remake of Romero’s classic “Dawn of the Dead”. In this particular film the Zombies seemed to be ignoring the easy morsel of doggy in favor of the folks on the roof. We should keep in mind though that these cases of exclusive human preference are few and far between in the Zombie genre and should not be taken as the norm.
Go back to the Physiological needs in the Hierarchy. We could state that with the concept of homeostasis being on the bottom along with feeding; coupled with the idea that pain keeps the hunger at bay and visa/versa, one could conjecture that seeking human flesh could be considered a perverted version of homeostasis. That feeding actually perpetuates the systems needed to motivate the animated dead to continue to function.
Dr. Logan also points out to us that because the living dead are so close to ourselves that they can be trained or tricked into behaving. “Just like we were all tricked into being good little boys and girls…” There are theories out there that outright contradict this idea. Max Brooks’ popular book “World War Z” has more than one person exclaiming that the Zombies have nothing in common with us. They seem convinced that the living dead in the pages of the story have no humanity left, that there is no previous memories or strong instincts forcing them to carry out their grisly mission. But one has to wonder, is this because giving the Zombie any kind of human qualities would put one in a moral quandary about destroying so many Zombies with so little remorse?
I am not so sure about Logan and the whole “training” thing. However I totally dig the idea that Zombies are working on instinct and I do think that they are a dull reflection of our own lives as shown in the hilarious hit “Shawn of the Dead”. That what makes them so scary to me, they are one step away from us. Zombies are so close to ourselves but so far removed from what we know to be right and wrong. They commit the ultimate taboo without a second thought and want nothing more than us to join the party. Terrifying!