Not Evil, Just Hungry


Zombies not evilThe zombies are leaderless, but they are also, more or less, motiveless.

Frankenstien’s monster sought inclusion in community, Count Dracula was driven by conquest, but the zombie’s motivation is far baser. Alsford says that villains are motivated by “the desire to dominate, to subsume the other within the individual self and that without compunction. . . . The villain uses the world and the people in it from a distance, as pure resource” (Alsford 120). Although this characterization of true villainy seems to describe the zombie horde, the word “desire” is too strong for the undead found in Night of the Living Dead, where we find more of a compulsion than desire; desire implies a self with at least an emotional if not spiritual longing. Zombies are not driven by any such motive—not revenge or the quest for power, not even the desire to destroy for the sake of destruction—but by the most immanent of motives: hunger.

The living dead simply “eat warm flesh, a fact that Romero graphically records and never allows us to forget. . . . Romero’s living dead tear at their food and devour it like starving animals to whom all of existence is only a matter of hunting for food and eating” (Waller 276).  Zombies are, thus, not evil in the same sense that monsters always have been. They reveal that without the transcendent, there is no longer room for evil as a motivating force—these monsters are simply hungry, and who can fault them for that?

In the absence of God or another source for an objective morality, our modern monsters can’t represent the transgression of a moral law–they can’t be evil.  The monsters are, again, a reflection of modern selves, for in neither the monster, nor the modern self can we clearly identify the source of evil.

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