‘Warm Bodies’ Reverses the Zombie Trend — Part 2 of 2
Published by Savannah Bria in: Film -- Date: 16 Feb 2013 Comments: 0
Part 2 — The Love (or, Why We Hate Everyone, But Shouldn’t)
We’ve shown that society is ready to move on from the thought of a destructive apocalypse. So we decide, as a species, to get up and move into “action” mode: then what? What exactly makes this move special? And why does it have to be framed as a farcical zombie romance?
Of the many themes presented in Warm Bodies, I have to say the clearest are most certainly love related: love conquers all, fatal attraction induces change, working together creates strength, and let’s not even get into the tantalizing Romeo and Juliet throwbacks everywhere. These are common themes, all done before, nothing extreme.
I find this amusing given the varying degrees of extremism in the film, both zombie and human. When the zombies choose to give up on clinging to their semblance of humanity they eventually decay into skeletal, ravenous monsters known as “bonies,” creatures who live only to consume anything with a pulse. As for the humans, the symptoms are less severe but when they give up on the world of before, opting only for survival and giving up on the “cure” for the zombies, they become battle hardened, stone cold survivalists, interested only in prolonging their own lives and the lives of their children or siblings. Both John Malkovich and Dave Franco’s characters are excellent examples of this. So on both sides there are clear extremes, extremes which are ultimately vilified on both sides.
And why? In the Hollywood system, zombie films have a very clear enemies and heroes. Action films do too, for that matter. So too do epics, thrillers, mysteries, and any other way one could frame an apocalypse scenario. To have more than one villain is to illustrate that situations involving people are invariably complicated. And what format is better to display the complicated interactions of humans (and former humans) than a romantic comedy?
By reframing our view of the apocalypse (a concept we’ve already gone over), Warm Bodies illustrates our changing view of “the masses” and our responsibility to one another as a societal whole. And thus we twenty-somethings begin to fully realize both our actualized potential and responsibility to the world. But in addition to forcing us to realize this, the film also provided a solution, one listed in the themes named above: love.
It seems pretty silly. These days, any answer to society’s problems in which the solution is “just love, man. Love each other,” involves way too many hippies, and not enough illegal substances, for my, or anyone else’s taste. After the many clichéd references to the Summer of Love it’s difficult for us to look upon the idea of loving one’s fellow man merely for the quality of being human, and nothing else, with disdain and distrust. We needed another way of framing it. We needed a way that wasn’t clichéd and tired. We needed it to be framed in such a way that we didn’t know we were being told to love one another. There are only two major times in which society has been told to love one another, one involved long haired, sandal-clad hippies, and the other involved the 1960’s and copious amounts of LSD.
…Do… do you see what I did there? I’m talking about Jesus. Jesus told us to love one another, but it took much much longer to figure out that, yes, for us to prosper as a species, we must learn to act in a manner outside ourselves as individuals and together as a whole.
The divide is pretty clear. There are those who choose to cling to religion (particularly, but not entirely, ruled by Christianity), believing that true Christians (or what have you) look out for one another, caring for each other in a cold, unfeeling world. They do what is right even if it’s not the popular thing, striving to stick together against all odds.
On the other side, there are the (nonreligious) lefties, believing that taking care of one’s fellow human is not just a volunteer effort; it is a requirement of humanity. They believe that they are the last caring piece of humanity, striving to put out a system with built in catches for those less fortunate every day. They are the last defense for the poor, the mentally ill, the weak, the old, and those who sometimes feel depressed.
Nowadays, it seems like humanity is at a clear split: the filthy freeloading liberals, and the tightass conservatives. So. Which side represents the humans? Think hard. Do you think you know? Really? Are you sure?
Well, you’re wrong. If you picked a side, you lost the game. Warm Bodies takes that split and redefines it.
See, Warm Bodies is pointing out the very obvious flaw in our rhetoric today. It’s not about liberal vs. conservative, or religious versus non-religious. It’s not about Zombie versus human. The real necessity is for zombies and humans to band together against those who are, by design (not necessarily intent), moving in on our destruction: in this case represented by both John Malkovich’s character (as an extremist leader) and the “bonies” (as exploiters of the common good).
See, we needed a message that told us to love each other, not because of what we provide for one another, but because of what we bring to the table simply by existing, as human beings. We needed a way to frame the message in a way that didn’t sound too much like a hippie jam sesh. Yes, It is natural to want to exploit one another by taking everything one can, without giving back. Yes, it is natural to want to shut others out, defining anyone with a dissenting opinion or type as unacceptable. But ultimately, if we are to progress as a species, we have to stop giving in to these so-called “instincts.” We have to rise above and learn to love each other, the same as both Jesus and our hippie ancestors would. The only way in which we can increase the divides we see amongst one another is to continue to deny the bonds we share as human beings.
But of course, in the years preceding Warm Bodies, we couldn’t possibly realize this message. We were so wrapped up in our own cynicism, so busy preparing to deal with the ever-consuming threat of zombies, that we became slave to the very idea. We spent so long trying to avoid zombies that we became them ourselves. We didn’t care about each other, only about ourselves, and how to ensure our survival past 99 percent of the rest of humanity. “That’s not going to be me,” said literally everyone, watching a dead, shambling corpse shuffle across the screen. “I have a zombie plan. I have food and guns and supplies, or at least an inkling of how the apocalypse will go down. I’ll be better than everyone. I’ll be stronger, faster, and more fit for survival. I’ll manage the resources better. I’ll take everything and make it work for me.” I’ll take. I’ll consume. But we never took into account what would happen if we just stopped with the planning for ourselves while bitching about various political platforms and just started preparing each other.
If the extremes of both sides are the ones holding the power, it is the people in between who suffer. Just as the humans are bound by the protocol created by the battle-hardened, soulless humans, so too are the zombies ruled by the bonies, even though they have no pulse.
In our own ways, each of us is both human and zombie, controlled on both sides by those who exploit us and those who demand our acquiescence. These power-holders are each side of exactly what happens when we lose our ability to hope, our ability to care. I think the ultimate theme of Warm Bodies is that if we give up our ability to love both ourselves and one another, if we give in to the cynicism of the age and start polishing our shotguns with grim resignation, we are the ones who will be to blame for the apocalypse. Though it won’t be the kind of apocalypse we expect: instead of an end of society because of the decay of humanity, it will be an end to humanity because of the decay of society.
So, to recap: a farcical apocalyptic romance uses the teachings of Jesus and a rough approximation of socialist leanings to remind us that if we don’t love and tolerate the hell out of each other we’ll create an apocalypse from which we can’t escape. The moral of the story is, if you’re approached by a shambling moron in a stressful situation, don’t smash his/her brains out. It might be a learning experience.
This article was originally posted on Atheiatrical.