Saturday, March 22, 2014

Philosophizing The Walking Dead S2E1 What Lies Ahead and Do Zombies Poop?

Welcome to our journey into the guts of The Walking Dead. What kind of journey? A philosophical, psychoanalytical and political kind. What I would like to do over the next couple months is dig thought the Walking Dead episode by episode to see what it can teach us. Thank you for following me on this journey. I look forward to reading your comments. Be forewarned: There are spoilers everywhere. Don’t forget to check out my previous article in the Philosophizing TWD series: Philosophizing The Walking Dead S1E6 TS-19 And The Eternal Return Of The Zombie

Zombie's want to eat the flesh and guts of living or dead things. They are compelled by presumably biological and/or metaphysicial forces pursuing the ruthless consumption of the flesh, but what benefit do they receive from their human and animal brain snacks? The meaty parts that they ingest (swallow might not be the right word) do not give them nutritional value.
The people and animal chunks get chewed, some fall out of a zombie's mouth, and some fall down its throat. Chunks clutter either in a zombie's throat, esophagus or stomach. Without a fully operational digestive system parts get stuck. Stomach acid is past is expiration dated and fails to do its job breaking down bits of people-bits. Flesh rots inside a zombie’s rotting stomach. More chunks pile on top. Let me quote my comrade Sigmund Freud, because it’s not appropriate, yet somehow feels relevant.
The kiss, one particular contact of this kind, between the mucous membrane of the lips of two people concerned, is held in high sexual esteem among many nations (including highly civilized ones), in spite of the fact that the parts of the body involved do not form part of the sexual apparatus but constitute the entrance to the digestive track (Sigmund Freud- Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality) 

Freud's point here is that while our lips may have a very specific sociopolitical value that is inscribed into how we understand what a kiss is, that does not mean that the common sense definition of monopolize the meaning of lips as a kissing device. The lips are very much the part of the digestive track. They serve a purpose that helps us keep the food we chew in our mouths, and closes lips create the suction we need to swallow. Zombies are not kissable nor do their lips provide the same level of functioning that the more kissable lips do.

Walking Dead, unlike other zombies are not a virus. Biting serves the same purpose as a zombie using a rock in order to kill a survivor. A zombie's teeth are just a tool to kill something rather than seek nourishment. Daniel Dennet begins his text Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by telling the story of a zombie-like ant:
You watch an ant in a meadow, laboriously climbing up a blade of grass, higher and higher until it falls, then it climbs again, and again, like Sisyphus rolling his rock, always striving to reach the top. Why is the ant doing this? What benefit is the zombie seeking for itself in this strenuous and unlikely activity? Wrong question, as it turns out. No biological benefit accrues to the ant. It is not trying to get a better view of the territory or seeking food or showing off to a potential mate, for instance. Its brain has been commandeered by a tiny parasite, a lancet fluke that needs to get itself into the stomach of a sheep or cow in order to complete its reproductive cycle. This little brain worm is driving the ant into position to benefit its progeny, not the ant's.

Unlike this ant, zombies in The Walking Dead 'what does the zombie get out of its behavior' is the wrong question. What benefit is a zombie receiving from digesting the flesh of the dead? It cannot be said that chewing up the living helps spread the zombies' genes, because zombie-ness is not a virus to be passed on, but something that the living already have. You die - you zombify. The key benefit that the zombies get is more zombies to join the crew to chase down the living to make zombies, but this is not exactly reproduction. For instance, let’s imagine a world where the zombies have won, and wiped out humanity. What would be left is a set of shambling, rotting corpses that would eventually cease to function. Like at the end of the 28 Days Later zombies would eventually die again from the elements which disintegrating them.

The burning side-question I have is; do zombies poop? I'd argue that zombies do not poop, and even if they did poop we may never know. First, zombies are dirty creatures that shamble through all sorts of muck to find something to eat and their clothing is so dirty and stinky that distinguishing between one stain another would be pointless. Second, as I stated above, the walking-dead do not exactly eat brains in the traditional sense. Gravity is more of a significant factor in people chucks descending into the zombie's digestive tract than the digestive process. I am skeptical that brainz could make the long journey through the intestines without suction and stomach acid. Thrid, until a story has a reason to add zombie poop into a plot we may never get an answer. Do you think zombies poop? Comment below. Zizek argues
one of the features which distinguishes man from the animals is precisely that with humans the disposal of [poop] becomes a problem. (Slavoj Zizek - The Plague of Fantasies)
One of the features which distinguishes man from zombie is precisely that with zombies the act of pooping does not become a problem. (izombiheartzoey)
Check out the next article in this series: Philosophizing The Walking Dead S2E2 Bloodletting or is Rick Menstruating?

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