Zombies, cannibals, Charlie Sheen & Joy Behar: Shocked? Not yet..
I would suggest that we’ve all become pretty jaded these days. Nothing takes us by surprise anymore. Charlie Sheen naked! Frothing at the mouth! In a trashed hotel room! With a hooker! What, again? How about “Man eats roommate!” Was that the German cannibal or the London one? Maybe “Larry King is a sex machine!” Will that crazy but oh so quotable Joy Behar ever quit? It might be hard but cast your mind waaaay back to October 30, 1938 and consider that seventy-two years ago, almost to the day, a radio play – that’s a play on the radio - meaning no visuals, no 3D, no pictures, no ANYTHING – caused nearly two million folks to lose their minds almost completely because they thought the Earth was under attack by aliens. A million more weren’t sure but decided to freak out just in case. One little radio dramatization of “War of the Worlds – featuring a dashing young Orson Welles – directly affected nearly six million people, and then millions more after the fact. Fast forward seven plus decades where squadrons of real, live, wound-dripping zombies march the streets of 26 major cities worldwide and almost nobody notices. Truly, we’ve come a long way baby.
AMC, the TV channel, is to blame for all the hoopla as they went about hyping their all new series about zombies. The Walking Dead, directed and produced by Frank Darabont (he of Shawshank and Green Mile fame) is ginned from the requisite comic book base and is being touted as the next greatest thing ever when it comes to series television.
Naturally, needing maximum publicity for it’s premiere this Halloween night, the marketing gurus of AMC hired a gaggle of actors to lurch and moan their way up and down the streets of a veritable who’s who of global destinations including New York, Rome, Washington, Taipei, Hong Kong, Athens, Madrid, Johannesburg, Lisbon, London, Buenos Aires, Bogata, (Bogata!) and many, many more.
And it was brilliant. A great idea all around. What better way to get attention and poach a good share of free publicity than setting hundreds of zombies loose on unsuspecting citizens of the world. The press on something like this should be off the hook. Imagine it. The dead walk! News at eleven. Women and children scream, running for their lives as zombies invade big city USA! The spotlight will be CRAZY! Well, actually not so much.
Oh sure, AMC got their publicity – tons of free news clips from lazy newsies filing their Halloween pieces– but the visuals surrounding the events are almost stupefying. The videos show the horrifically made-up actors doing their best George Romero’s on city streets as most folks seem to ignore them and rush past. The curious ones whip out camera phones even as others smile and wave. What the hell? You would think a world so seemingly on edge thanks to things like rising crime and terrorist threats would feature at least a few panicked folks. None. Not a sausage. I can’t find one incident at all where some confused yokel or brain dead yuppie at least lost their cool a little and ran away screaming.
No arrests, no attacks, no unhinged citizens falling off bridges, firing off guns or brandishing vinyl albums as weapons, nothing. In fact, the only “resistance” the zombie hoard faced was when they approached the Lincoln Memorial and were turned back by the park police because they didn’t have a permit. A permit! I’d say this marks us as once and for all as completely immune to even the most heinous pop cultural vomit. That we’re sitting ducks for the next zombie invasion is a whole other issue.
Imagine – so inured are we to all things promotional, that the appearance of actual live (well, dead) zombies is treated as a photo op vs. a good reason to run away. What would it take to get us to actually panic? What say Zombie #1 suddenly ripped an arm or two off some passer-by and started eating them? “Look, he’s in on it too” we’d shout. More clicks from camera phones. The screams of agony certainly wouldn’t help – they’d probably draw golf claps as the masses marveled at the realistic performance of it all. “Oh, he’s very good isn’t he?” CSI has made us immune to blood and guts and promotional overload has left us calm when insanity encircles us. Can the very existence of Borat be explained any more clearly? As a society, nothing ruffles our feathers anymore. Except for trans fats maybe. Or salt. But not zombies, that’s for damn sure.