“That weren’t no man!”

I just watched the pilot episode of Frank Darabont‘s zombie TV series The Walking Dead.  I loved the scene where the main character, after learning about the nature of zombies, goes back to the first zombie he met, a woman with no legs who has been crawling through a field for who knows how many months, and basically “euthanizes” her.  “I’m sorry this happened to you,” he says just before shooting her in the brain and returning her dead body to an inanimate state.  The series (or at least the main character) takes seriously the fact that a zombie’s dead body is still a human body which is, in some sense, a person who deserves moral consideration.  This idea reminded me of an earlier post I wrote on the ethics of zombies. I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the series!


UPDATED: There are scenes like this in many of the episodes.  The best are the scene in the department store where they give thanks to the dead zombie before using his “guts” to help them escape and the scene when the woman kills her sister just as she is turning into a zombie.

In all these scenes there is a strong sense that the zombie, though an (un)dead body, is still the same person he/she was when alive. This doesn’t necessarily imply a rejection of the soul. The person isn’t simply identical to his/her body.   The zombie is a body whose mind/soul has left, but at the same time the person is not identical to the soul.  The zombie is a dead version of the same person.  Thus the person, according to The Walking Dead, is a whole of body and soul that cannot be reduced to either component but can be (at least partially) located in either component.  Contrary to what the CDC doctor suggests, “you” do not completely cease to exist when your brain dies.  You are your soul (or mind or brain), but you are also your body.  (The doctor doesn’t quite believe what he says either, since he continues to have a personal relationship with his dead wife’s brain tissue, not simply because it is scientifically significant but because it is his wife’s body.)

I may be saying the same thing as John Morehead in his comments on “zombie theology” where he reads The Waking Dead as offering a sort of nonreductive physicalism in which you are your brain but you are more than just the sum of your brain parts.  But I’d like instead to read the film as offering a paradoxical “holistic dualism”.  You have two components, but neither one alone is “you”.  You are your brain, but not just your brain.  (Though, like I said, this may be just another way of stating nonreducive physicalism.)

3 thoughts on ““That weren’t no man!”

  1. I’ve been enjoying the series too, altho I fast forward thru the gore. But I did think the part you mention was touching.
    It’s interesting comparing the Zomies here with the ones from Zombieland. Z’land’s are much livlier, but all these Zombies are pretty darn sneaky. And hungry, too.

  2. Thanks for bringing this series and theology together for discussion for your readers, and for mentioning my Religion Dispatches essay. I pushed the envelope further with a recent blog post on zombie Jesus that might be of interest.

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