At the hands of the zombies, all living human beings are objectified–they are objects of the unquenchable hunger for living flesh.
Interestingly, zombie narratives are also very much about the objectification of the object. Perhaps nothing, but is there anything wrong with questioning the default settings of our cultural minds?
There was a time in human history when an object, was more than just an object–things had meaning. In the Medieval world, garlic wasn’t just a flavour for stew, it was also a repellent for evil. You had to be aware of your relationships to things like black cats and ladders because they weren’t just cats and ladders. The flowers a bride carried not only covered up her body odour, but aided in her fertility on the wedding night.
In our modern world physical objects are just objects. They have meaning in themselves. They only have meanings that we attribute to them. We’ve objectified them. The meaning of a crowbar is it’s function in a renovation project at home. The crossbow’s meaning is in the additional challenge it offers while hunting the white-tail deer. The mini-van for its domestic uses to shuttle both groceries and cleated 10 year olds to baseball practice. And what about your overweight accountant for dealing with your tax return. I suppose he still maintains his own inherent meaning because he remains an autonomous human individual, but is he so for me, the subject of all my interactions with the world.
In the zombie infested world, these objects are no longer experienced as they once were. Almost all of an objects previous meanings are further reduced to their efficacy in supporting survival. They are not considered for their previous uses, or their inherent beauty, or sentimental value–only their efficacy at dispensing with a carnivorous corpse, or aiding your survival in one way or another.
The crowbar and the crossbow are useful as zombie destroying devices. If mini-van has fuel, it might be used as transportation for a supply run, or for repositioning. If not, it might serve as a secure place for a few hours of sleep.
Objects today are completely empty of anything but their physical properties. In the zombie movie, they take this reduced view of the object one short step further–these physical properties are only important in how effectively they are to the destruction of the brain of the undead or to provide me and mine with my basic needs–food, clothing and a relatively secure shelter from not only zombies, but other living survivors.