Wednesday, April 3, 2013

OH NO! Zombies Ate My History Homework!

If your whole life (death?) revolves around watching the Walking Dead, watching the Talking Dead podcast, visiting Walking Dead fan-sites, reading Walking Dead graphic novels and fanzines, then your world --like so many others' worlds, Adjunct Proff's included --is on hiatus until the next series installment.  But not to worry: Adjunct Proff is ready to fill the breach in our sadly temporarily depleted lives by filling you all in on the origins and continuing influence exercised by fears of the Zombie Apocalypse on our collective zeitgeist (German for whatever is friggin' buggin' you now).

Zombies ate my zeitgeist!  Either that, or
there's a zeitgeist peeking at me when I pee!
So, zombies have been around since... "Weekend at Bernies 2?" --the zombie movies of the 1950's drive-ins?  --the days of Vaudeville shows?  How about ever since the first friggin' story that human beings bothered to scratch onto a clay tablet sometime during the Akkadian period of Sumerian civilization?  Yup, those wacky Mesopotamians are at it again --this time giving voice to humanity's fear of the Zombie Apocalypse.  It's all right here in the first real story ever cuneiformed: The Epic of Gilgamesh:

Ishtar spoke to her father, Anu, saying:"Father, give me the Bull of Heaven,so he can kill Gilgamesh in his dwelling.If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,I will smash the door posts, and leave the doors flat down, and will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!"

Now I don't claim to be able to translate ancient Akkadian cuneiform, but that sure sounds a lot like any given day on AMC's "The Walking Dead."  Why do zombies show up troubling the minds of ancient Akkadians?  Was this a recurring problem, dead rising from the grave and eating the living?  

We turn next to the ancient Greeks, who knew a thing or two about fighting monsters.  Ladies with snakes for hair?  --half-man-half-bulls who lived in an underground maze?  --whirlpools with teeth?  No problem: the Greeks would kill 'em all, then sit down with Homer and tell him all about it so that he could stick their adventures in his next epic poem.

"To which mighty Achilles said, "D'oh!"
Everybody knows the Iliad and the Odyssey. These two poems made ancient Homer's rep as da mos' def-jam mutha of the Greeks, yo. Nobody knows about the Nostoi, yet another epic poetry spin-off of the Trojan War. This story follows Achilles' kinsmen, the Myrmidons, and their long, adventure-filled journey home from the Trojan War. On one island, guess who they come across? These guys:

“It was there on that island when they noticed the men of ragged appearance. 
Their skin was a dull pale gray and the scent of putrid flesh was upon them. 
Their eyes were black as beings void of souls, they approached the Myrmidons with all the madness of a wild beast.”

And who might these dudes be? I dunno, maybe WALKERS?!? Guess what the baddest-of-the-badass Trojan War veterans, a.k.a. the Myrmidons, did then?  Did they stop those ancient Greek walkers with precise sword-head-shots?  Noooooo- they ran for it and "cursed Hades for sending these fiends amongst them."  Wow, where's Michonne when you need her?
About three thousand years in the future...

Fast-forward to Ireland in the 700's.  Archaeologists have recently uncovered a pile of skeletons buried sometime in the 700's with --get this -- bricks in their mouths.  When asked why the usually sensible medieval Irish did this wack-burial-job, anthropologists hypothesized that they were buried with a brick in their mouth in order to prevent them from --wait for it --rising from the dead like a zombie!  I am SO  COMPLETELY  NOT  making this up!  Ok ok, St. Patrick may not have driven the snakes from Ireland (see my St. Patrick's Day blog for more on this) --maybe his miracle was keeping the medieval Irish zombies DEAD  AND  BURIED  instead of running around the Emerald Isle noshing on the living.
...and they're magically delicious!

I could go on and tell you about Voodoo and Rastafarian religious practices, as well as relate Christian beliefs in an end of days that will occur before the return of Jesus Christ from, ah, Rancho Cucamonga, but you already know that  if you're hard-core zombie-apocalypse-preppers like me --that, or the demographic targeted by "The Walking Dead."

So, what's my favorite zombie scenario?  I really, really liked that movie, "Shawn of the Dead," where this British guy, his slacker buddy and his girlfriend survive the British zombie apocalypse by hiding out in the local pub that she gives him grief about spending so much time in before the British zombie apocalypse.  Funny, witty, edgy and ironic without being annoyingly British smuggish.

Let me leave you with this one brain-stretcher.  As already blogged-about in her award-winning blog, Jenny Lawson, a.k.a. The Bloggess, and her husband, Victor, a.k.a. the saint who's still married to The Bloggess, once had a conversation that went like this:

Me: Oh my God, did you see the name of that cemetery?  “Resurrection Cemetery”.  What a terrible name for a cemetery.
Victor:  It’s because they believe in the resurrection of believers, dumbass.
Me:  Still.  Some things just shouldn’t be resurrected.  Just what we need is a bunch of damn zombies wandering the earth. 
Victor:  Yeah, that’s not “resurrection”.  That’s “reanimation”.
Me:  Same difference.  Although I guess “Reanimation Cemetery” would be slightly more disturbing. 
Victor: It’s not the same difference.  Zombies are reanimated, but they don’t have their previous mental capacity so it’s not a resurrection.  Technically it’s “zombification”.
So, just what IS  this resurrection anyway, hmmm?  Isn't it the same quality that FREAKS  US  OUT  in zombies?  It's like, Jesus  JUST  WON'T  STAY  DEAD!!!  But worse of all, it means that for 2013 years, a lot of people have been worshipping, have constructed an entire religion around, and have committed unspeakable acts in the name of  A  ZOMBIE!!!  Ponder that one until Rick, Karl, Daryl, Michonne and the whole live-and-undead gang return for Season 4 which will be, no doubt, Totally Killer.
...and, unlike all those other zombies, Jesus can also walk on water
--which makes him slightly more creepy, come to think of it!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks to The Bloggess for not suing me for quoting from her hilarious blog, or for plugging her even more hilarious book, "Let's Pretend This Never Happened" --You Rock, Bloggess!