Zombie apocalypse movies and video games are hitting too close to home. In the wake of how the coronavirus is ravaging the world, the seemingly outlandish concept of an undead infection plaguing society feels all too real. While gory action horror films, games, or tv shows featuring the undead like The Walking Dead or Resident Evil might seem far removed from reality in normal times, zombies and their thematic physical representation of a monstrous viral disease has become all too relatable ever since the coronavirus forced us to drastically alter our lives. Many trappings of the genre, like living within quarantine or the desolate empty streets, have become thematically relevant to modern life, and for some people, watching zombie films like 28 Days Later or playing a game like The Last Of Us (and yes, The Last Of Us counts as a zombie game despite how the infected aren’t referred to as zombies) brings an uncomfortable attention to the ways the coronavirus has changed our real world for the worse.
Speaking for myself, I didn’t know how I personally felt about the zombie genre amid the coronavirus outbreak until recently. After my disappointment with The Last Of Us Part 2’s delay and my enjoyment of the recently released Resident Evil 3, I’ve come to the realization that I really can’t get enough new zombie shows, movies, or games right now. Despite the coronavirus being an omnipresent threat, I feel an odd sense of comfort with zombie fiction even though it feels so relatable. Even though the coronavirus stresses me out to no end, I still love stories about the zombie apocalypse.
The reason behind my current enjoyment of the genre takes a bit of explaining, but before I dive into detail, I first want to explain the phrase “riding the wave.” “Riding the wave” is a mental health term associated with dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). The focus of dialectical behavioral therapy is to help folks with illnesses like borderline personality disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and depression help manage and regulate their emotions in a healthy manner. In terms of “riding the wave,” folks experiencing emotional distress might benefit from approaching their intense emotions in the same way that a surfer rides a wave. Rather than fighting against these volatile and destructive feelings, “riding the wave” teaches people to instead ride the emotion out until it eventually dissipates.
If you have mental illnesses then you know riding a volatile emotion out is incredibly difficult. Afterall, feelings of depression or rage are intense emotions that want to level those experiencing them, yet speaking for myself (someone with OCD, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety) the results are worth it. These emotions, as all consuming as they are, don’t last forever. Eventually, they end and those afflicted make it to the other side and are better for it.
In normal times, heavy metal music helps me ride the wave. As a genre, heavy metal music contains dark subject matter about death, suicide, and depression, and while these themes might be triggering for some folks (and I mean triggering in the mental health sense, not in the memes that so many assholes spread on the internet), the music works for me. The heavy guitars and the dark subject matter inherent to bands like Slipknot and Gojira compliment the emotional tsunami in my brain. The intense music acts as a physical representation of the plague within my mind, matching my dark thoughts to the point I find comfort in it. Before I learned how to “ride the wave,” I would try listening to more upbeat commercialized songs to distract me from my pain, but this music didn’t feel real; it didn’t match the pain and darkness in my brain like heavy metal does. Against all odds, heavy metal comforts me in times of despair and sonically reflects my internal sea storm. Hence why I can utilize this music to aid me in riding the wave.
Zombie apocalypse stories similarly allow me to ride the wave amid the coronavirus outbreak. While I fear becoming infected with the coronavirus and I worry about susceptible loved ones becoming sick, playing games like Resident Evil 3 and The Last Of Us comfort me because it reflects our current worldwide landscape. Despite being fiction, movies like Dawn Of The Dead and 28 Days Later feel realer than say escapist entertainment like Onward that contains a virus free plotline. In fact, any storyline lacking a viral component feels fake to me because it represents a more innocent time than our current coronavirus plagued hellscape. Even though zombie movies and games are imbued with dark subject matter, they feel more relevant now and allow me to channel my stress by “riding the wave.”
I understand that many people might disagree. Right now, numerous folks would prefer escapist entertainment sans the brain eating undead, and that’s perfectly fine. In terms of dialectical behavioral therapy, every individual finds different coping strategies that work better for them, and the same is easily true regarding how to approach zombified media during the coronavirus outbreak. However, no matter if we’re pro zombie or anti zombie during this crisis, we all have to find our own way to ride the wave.