The Hard Question

Why don't zombies just eat one another?

The Hard Question
Illustration by Craig Staggs

Let's face it: Zombies are assholes.

Someone had to say it. After ages of riding roughshod over us, they have never been called to account for their behavior. I, for one, would like to challenge the accepted tenets of their conduct and explore one particularly vexing question that has never been addressed.

It is generally understood that a zombie is a human corpse that has been brought back to a sort of life. The dead can be reanimated by various methods. Sometimes witchcraft is used. In other instances, zombies get their second lives from biotoxins, chemicals, or radiation gone awry, as in Night of the Living Dead and I Am Legend. In Pet Semetary, the dead are reactivated after being interred in an ancient burial ground. (Important takeaway from Pet Semetary: Don't reanimate a toddler – toddler zombies are particularly vengeful.)

Such zombie movies allude to how zombies are reanimated, but rare is the film that offers much insight into zombie life itself. Theirs is a cloistered brotherhood, and not many of their ways are revealed to us, nor the reasons for their conduct. We can only suppose certain things. But no matter what their origins, zombies consistently exhibit the same conduct.

Zombies can no longer speak, nor do they recall their former humanness. They usually lumber about slowly and stiffly, working against the rigor mortis that had begun to set in before they were reanimated. (Surely it must be terrifying to see such a beast shambling toward you, but their sluggishness must also tax the victim's patience.) And although they may be persistent and unflappable, qualities that would serve them well in just about any job, zombies are also impervious to reason and cold to one's beseeching. They will invariably destroy your car and/or your house and/or other personal belongings. They are indifferent to personal hygiene. They search for food in groups – and we all know how annoying cliques are.

And the food zombies ruthlessly seek is human flesh. That's you and me, friend. Story upon story show zombies ripping into humans like so much potato salad at a church picnic. What's more, they help themselves to the flesh of the living without ever asking permission. This is where their heretofore annoying behavior crosses the line.

So the question must be asked: Why don't zombies just eat one another?

There. Someone had to say it, and I suppose I have thus unloosed the elephant in the living room. I realize this may be an unpopular proposition, but hear me out. There are many reasons why zombies simply ought to look to one another to address their nutritional needs. After all, it is apparent that zombies have few, if any, laws or mores governing their social interactions, so one can surmise that the cultural taboo against cannibalism does not apply.

Now, many people – living and undead alike – may argue that zombies need fresh meat. But zombies routinely demonstrate indiscriminate tastes: Witness the woman who eats the bug off the tree in Night of the Living Dead. Lord only knows where that bug has been. When you see some of the live flesh they'll eat, you can't help but wonder how their brethren could be any worse.

Some films will go one better and posit that zombies must eat brains exclusively because it eases the pain of unlife. One word: alcohol. Booze. Liquor. The undead might want to take a page from the playbook of the living.

Film director and zombie enthusiast Sean Abley points out, "Their whole thing is to 'rise from the dead to feast upon the living.'" Good for them. But wait – aren't they living? At least living enough? Living enough to meet the protein demands of lumbering, self-centered, aggressive beings that do not contribute to our American way of life a whit?

You may say zombies have certain rights. Perhaps, but with rights come responsibilities, like finding a food source that does not decimate the population. To quote my mother, "Your rights end where my nose begins."

Perhaps an even better solution would be autocannibalism. This way, they are only hurting themselves, with no awkward confrontations within zombie society after, say, Steve accidentally eats Cindy's cousin. Further, zombies will still have the opportunity to be brought back from the dead – no matter what has happened to them! This seems like a win-win scenario all around.

Regardless of the rationalizations zombie apologists may offer, there is simply no excuse. Furthermore, if such a rate of zombie carnivorousness continues, they'll exhaust the world's supply of living flesh; eventually zombies will have no choice but to eat one another. No matter what, the solution begins with them.  

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