Why the Zombie Apocalypse Proves We’re Becoming Better Men

Premium Membership, The Good Men Project

About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.


  1. wellokaythen says:

    I’ve definitely noticed some thick gender stereotypes in the _Walking Dead_ series. (I’m still on season 2, though, so no one tell me any spoilers.) The two main cop characters are practically cartoon characters of macho cops. They swagger and posture so much they can’t even stand up straight. (Ironically like zombies, actually.) They can hardly walk straight because of the way they swing their arms and strut bowlegged like apes. They are incapable of having a conversation without their thumbs hanging in their gun belts.

    What I absolutely hate about the show is that so far the women survivors basically sit around doing housework, babysitting, and fretting. Heaven forbid they actually do something to defend the group or go on a mission or even say “thank you for saving my life.” It’s the classic Flinstones caveman myth of man the hunter and action hero and woman the housewife. If there was a zombie apocalypse, this is not how most of the women I know would act.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Come to think of it, the zombies themselves resemble the worst stereotypes that our society has about men. Maybe the zombie mania right now is actually a critique of traditional masculinity, except using the zombies as the symbols. Look at all the horrible things that misandric people associate with males today. Maybe the *zombies* are the male stereotypes, not the zombie fighters.

      For example, negatively stereotyped men and zombies are both:
      Not really human or barely human
      Disgusting eaters
      Grunters and mumblers
      Have only one thing on their minds
      Obsessed with other people’s bodies
      Entirely self-centered
      Terrible listeners
      Incapable of empathy, communication, or self-awareness
      Invaders of other people’s space
      Creatures you’re better off without

      Yes, there are both male and female zombies in all these stories, but notice how there’s very little gender difference at all among zombies. They are generally treated all the same as gender-neutral monsters.

  2. You’ve touched on a great irony of all these shows and stories about fighting zombies. A lot of the anti-zombie tactics are actually pretty stupid. Gunslinging macho tactics are only slightly more sophisticated than the zombie brain itself. So, there’s one irony – mindlessly fighting mindless creatures.

    Taking on zombies head-on with firepower or muscle power as your central feature would be perhaps the stupidest way to fight them, only the best thing as a last resort. That would provide the least strategic or tactical advantage compared to the zombies’ own strengths and weaknesses. The best, most effective advantage over zombies we would have is that they are generally slow and totally stupid. I have yet to see a zombie show/movie where anyone gives any serious thought to *outsmarting* the damn things. I know that doesn’t satisfy what movie-goers are actually looking for. The average movie patron doesn’t want to risk feeling less intelligent than a movie hero.

    But, there’s no need to sink to the enemy’s level of incompetence. It’s all about the match-ups. Use your greatest advantage against their greatest disadvantage. Why not use some guile, some forethought, some actual brains? Brains aren’t just a food group, people.

    • Another way to put it:

      If you’re using melee weapons or even handguns against zombies, that’s because you’ve probably made several pretty stupid choices. Smarter choices would not let them get so close.

      • Exactly! Incendiaries, explosives, or a well positioned industrial chipper would be a lot better than small arms. Also, why do the protagonists always light out for the country? A high-rise suburban office building always seemed more defensible.

        • wellokaythen says:

          Based on the _Walking Dead_ series, one of the most useful things to have in a zombie apocalypse is an Anthropology degree. Not one of the cultural ones, but a social anthro degree. What survivors will have to do is make a transition from a large-scale industrial/agricultural society to smaller, scavenger/forager communities. You can’t keep applying the same social, political, and military rules to the new situation. You have to change the whole organization of society. Especially once the ammo and processed food runs out.

          True survivalists should do a little field work in the Amazon or the Congo….

        • In reply to Douglas:

          Military tacticians, especially the ancient masters, would tell you that a fortress you can’t escape from is no fortress. A high-rise building would be impenetrable to an enemy that can’t climb ladders, but by the same token it would be a trap for the people who fortified it. (Unless you’re banking on helicopters coming to your rescue.) One advantage of taking to the country is maneuverability, which takes advantage of the superior speed of humans over zombies. Holing up in a building destroys one of your key advantages. A high-rise fortress is great if you want to martyr yourself like an Alamo defender, but I’d prefer to avoid last stands if I can help it.

  3. John Weeast says:

    Zombie apocalypse scenarios aren’t new, they’re just in style now. There’s a reason government agencies have used the scenario for training purposes (although only recently acknowledged it publicly) and that’s because it’s the combination of every worst-case scenario.

    Nuclear war, while a big phobia of most for a long time, has evolved to be even worse due to technology shrinking the bombs and allowing them to now be held in a suitcase or smaller. Still infinitely more dangerous than zombies.

    Zombies are dumb and stupid. Look deeper and you’ll find that in every zombie apocalypse story, show or movie, the real threat isn’t the zombies but other humans. The zombies are a threat due to numbers, and at the beginning, it’s always smart to group up and fight the common enemy. But as time goes on, humankind always goes back to it’s basic instincts and survival of the fittest takes over.

    It’s the reason the government sets up programs that help people. Because we as a species can’t be relied upon to do it ourselves. Sure many of us will help as many as we could, but when it comes down to them or us, the majority will always try to save themselves. Some will give up their lives to save someone else, but how many will be willing to die with someone? I’m not sure many can deny that basic human instinct.

    Ok, probably too deep for this discussion lol, but where you see us becoming better men, I see it as us just recognizing what we really are. Not what we can or should be, but what we are at our core. Survivors.

    • This reminds me of one of those old 1950′s-era Twilight Zone episodes (or maybe it was The Outer Limits?) where the family in the bomb shelter after the nuclear war has to decide whether to open the door to their neighbors or not. The neighbors knock less and less until eventually the knocking stops. We’ve been thinking about/fantasizing about these things for a very long time. I imagine towards the end of the Western Roman Empire the people in Rome told a lot of these stories imagining the barbarians sort of the way we imagine zombies. (The word apocalypse is a very, very old word….)

  4. Back before internet gaming was common there was a “fake LAN” internet service with a slogan I love and still use today, “Kill Pixels not People.”

    It pretty much sums up a lot of our masculine power fantasies today. I get pissed off at someone at work? I’ll go shoot some dudes in Planetside 2. Kids driving me up the wall? Drop in a Mech and shoot some big stompy robots. Want to relax but still possibly blow stuff up? Launch some Kerbals into orbit. :)

    Pixels allow for all sorts of ways of “living out” these power fantasies, I find it sad that Zombies are still so popular when we could do so much more. Then again robots are just “future zombies” so… :p

Speak Your Mind