Sleeper Cell

A guide to Zombie etiquette

Consider the zombie.

They’ve been rather prominent figures in pop culture as of late, with a resurgence in zombie movies, zombie songs, zombie pub crawls, and even organized re-creations of the zombie dance scene from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video.

Personally, I have never met a zombie, notwithstanding my teenage nephew when roused before 11 a.m. But because it’s my job to take a gimlet-eyed look at our cultural landscape, I decided to learn more about zombies, which basically came down to watching 20 zombie movies over the past couple of months.

First, I learned that the dead can be reanimated by various methods. Sometimes their semi-recovery is courtesy of biotoxins, chemicals, or radiation gone awry, as seen in Night of the Living Dead and I Am Legend. Sometimes it’s by way of witchcraft or other supernatural means. For instance, the hapless dead in Pet Sematary are reactivated after being interred in an ancient burial ground, which has unearthly powers. (Important takeaway from Pet Sematary: Don’t reanimate toddlers; zombie tots are particularly vengeful.)

Despite all this media attention, however, we have rarely had a glimpse into the zombie lifestyle. Theirs is a cloistered brotherhood, and not many of their ways are revealed to us. No matter what their origins, however, every zombie exhibits pretty much the same conduct. And let’s face it: They’re jerks.

On the whole, zombies eschew personal hygiene. They are not capable of communication, nor do they have any memory of their former humanness. Zombies usually lumber about slowly and stiffly, working against the rigor mortis that set in before they were reanimated. (This sluggishness seems to serve a dual purpose: to terrify the victim—and to tax their patience. Can’t we just get this over with already?)

Further, although they may be single-minded and unflappable, qualities that would serve them well as a real-estate agents, zombies are also impervious to reason and cold to one’s beseeching. They will invariably destroy your car and/or your house. As if all that weren’t bad enough, the undead travel in groups. And, really, is there anything more annoying than a clique?

The food that zombies seek is human flesh. That’s you and me, friend. Zombies rip into living humans like so much potato salad at a church picnic. What’s more, they help themselves to us without ever asking permission, or using a napkin! And they probably don’t even wash their hands.

Which brings me to this, a modest proposal for the undead. Why don’t zombies just eat each other?

Their whole deal is to rise from the dead to feast upon the living. Fine. But wait just a minute: Aren’t they living? At least living enough? Enough to meet the protein demands of oafish, self-centered, aggressive beings who contribute so little to our American way of life? Zombies have a right to feed themselves, you say? Well, I shall quote my mother in the most literal application of the axiom, “Your rights end where my nose begins.”

Some will argue that zombies need fresh meat. Yet zombies routinely demonstrate indiscriminate tastes: Witness the woman who eats the bug off the tree in Night of the Living Dead. Who knows where that bug has been? And when you see some of the live flesh they consume, you can’t help but wonder how eating one another could be any worse. Clearly zombies have few mores governing their social interactions, so one can safely surmise that the cultural taboo against cannibalism does not apply. Some films posit that zombies must eat brains exclusively because it eases the pain of unlife. Here’s an idea for the undead: Take a page from the playbook of the living—consider alcohol.

Perhaps they should consider autocannabalism. That way, they are only hurting themselves, with no awkward confrontations within zombie society after, say, Steve accidentally eats Cindy’s cousin. After all, zombies will still have the opportunity to be brought back from the dead, no matter what has happened to them! Talk about a win-win.

Yes, we all have a right to eat, but with those rights come responsibility. The zombie community needs to ask itself how it will create a future for itself, because if their rate of carnivorism continues, they’ll exhaust the world’s supply of living flesh and they’ll have no choice but to eat each other. Or to become vegetarians.

Either way, the solution begins with them.