Survival planning turns undeadly

PhD candidate sees reasons behind fears of a zombie apocalypse

There is a running joke amongst my close circle of friends about how we’d cope, maybe even thrive, in a zombie apocalypse.

We came up with a business idea: Apoca-luggage, for all your bugout needs, and our roaming Mad Max food truck Apoca-taco. These plans, of course, are secondary to ones aimed at maintaining our own well-being. They include where we would all plan to meet up, how we would defend ourselves, which garden we would raid and what stores or neighbours we would have to knock over for supplies.

While it is mostly tongue-in-cheek, anxiety in my household felt all too real last week when I received a text from one of my survivor friends that a zombie-like incident took place in Florida where a man ate another man’s face. While I lamented that my request for a bugout bag for my birthday wasn’t more aggressive, I successfully convinced my boyfriend that my addiction to Twitter on Blackberry really is a pre-apocalyptic survivor skill. I think by now some of you are scoffing at my ridiculousness. But I know others are probably actually closet zombie planners, too.

TV shows such as Doomsday Preppers on National Geographic offer a hint that I’m not alone in this thought process. I recently spotted at a U.S. Wal-Mart an aisle dedicated to paint can-sized tubs filled with typical ‘prepper’ foods of powdered milk, chicken supplement and freeze-dried fruit. I even found Zombie Max ammo in an outdoor store (YouTube the promo video, it’s worth it), conveniently shelved beside paper targets featuring zombies as the bull’s-eye. In Winnipeg, an entrepreneurial bunch hosts a workshop for urban survival and disaster preparedness also playing on the whole zombie thing.

I know the fact that someone wants to chase me to the ends of the earth to eat my brain seems unlikely, but zombie flicks and bath salts causing gruesome incidents have me jumpy. “Really?” you still query. Yes, says Kelly Doyle, a PhD candidate at UBCO in Kelowna that will be writing a dissertation on the zombie as a political and cultural figure.

“In the wake of 911, we have had this rupture of identity and complacency in North American society,” she said.

For her, watching the film 28 Days Later, in which a virus infects people causing a rage to overwhelm them and turn them into flesh-eating monsters, was what first caught her attention.

“Films like Resident Evil that are about biological warfare coincided with historical events like mad cow disease and anthrax. They have made people anxious,” said Doyle. “28 Days Later, for me, made me think we could make some mistake like that where there is some kind of virus that really creates a change that is irreversible. If it doesn’t make us zombies, it could create an apocalyptic situation in so many other ways. So for me, the idea of a doomsday apocalypse might be more that our species could propagate something we couldn’t come back from.”

Doyle said unlike their sexy villain counterparts of vampires and werewolves, zombies are too real of a monster. They are people who do the most disgusting thing we can think of, and worse yet, we fear how the people who survive will respond.

As a zombie film buff myself, I always put myself in the shoes of the survivors, which sometimes means yelling at the screen when they make their stupid decisions or somehow find time to get romantic amongst the chaos, even though they haven’t bathed in eons. Other times while watching I am putting mental post-it notes up in my brain — yes, the crossbow could become a useful skill.

Doyle said maybe what I really fear most is what becomes of us as survivors.

“A group of survivors always tears itself apart. So it is not really the zombies in the end that is the undoing of humanity, it is the people themselves, their selfishness, which I think is even scarier. That fear of what we are capable of is sitting below the surface of all of this … maybe we are the monster, maybe it lives in us. For me, the zombie, more than any other monster, brings that directly to the forefront,” said Doyle.

So what kind of monster am I? I’ll take comfort in knowing our jerry-rigged escape plan has some merit, and I am probably at least five steps ahead of others who will undoubtedly be taken first.

Wait, does that make me the monster again?




Kristi Patton is a reporter at the Penticton Western News who is determined to keep zombies away from her brain.