Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Virtues of Trying Something (like Zombies!)


“How do you know you don’t like it, unless you try it?”

Millions of parents have used that very line on recalcitrant toddlers stubbornly turning their little button noses up at a proffered serving of broccoli (oatmeal, liver, whatever*). A few years later, teenagers goad each other the same way--only by then, the “it” in question usually pertains to beer, drugs, or prospective hook-up material.

The funny thing is, we never entirely outgrow the concept; there’ll always be something out there we’re positive we don’t like (don’t agree with, don’t believe)... without ever having tried it (or finding out about it). In our eternal, infernal stubbornness over certain things, we will always be about three years old.

The solution is simple enough: go out and try the things we have strong opinions--but no actual knowledge--of... taste, read, explore, sample, experience (and then form conclusions). [Okay, brief interruption, here... if you’re sitting there thinking I’m about to go off onto some terribly meaningful tangent--and good grief, I hope you aren’t thinking that!--well, I’m not, ‘cause I’m not that kind of blogger, m’kay?]

Anyway, while I’ve never overcome my revulsion of beer (sorry, beer-drinkers, I just don’t get what you like about the stuff), and to this day see no point in sticking a Brussels sprout in my mouth (after going this many decades without doing so, am pretty sure I can continue along my sprout-free journey with no regrets), I’ve long been ready, willing, and able to try reading (or watching) almost anything. (Please note the “almost”; speaking in absolutes only invites someone to come out of the woodwork waving some godawful piece of piffle around. There are limits, ya know?)

I never would have guessed, for instance, how much I’d get into zombies. Supernatural stuff in general, sure; from the moment as a wee girl when I plunged into the “Wizard of Oz” series, wherein all manner of fantastical creatures cavorted across the pages, my imagination was hooked. Fairy tales and swords-and-sorcerers stories full of powerful, magical beings and happenings (plus cool medieval settings, romantic themes, and more-intricate world building) continued the trend of wanting to believe. Several years later, vampires--creepy-yet-sexy, with that whole rising-from-the-grave (they used to be us!) thing--became fascinating. Werewolves (scary, yet somehow relatable, especially to an animal-lover) followed on the vamps’ heels, with an appeal all their own. But... zombies?? There is nothing sexy about the undead.

Turns out zombies (depending on the particular lore an author or screenwriter goes with) can be more than just shambling, decaying, brain-munching meanies, though. (Occasionally they’re even sentient, which really puts an interesting spin on things.) Sometimes the zombies are the heroes, or the objects of pity and sympathy... and sometimes they’re strictly the bad guys, making carnage of justifiably-freaked-out humankind. Either way, there’s almost something about the dynamics between the breathers and the no-longer-need-to-breathes, that's just... compelling. 

So, all of the above? It’s my very (very, VERY) long way of getting to this one point: I’m freakin‘ jazzed that The Walking Dead returns February 10 (in the States, at least) for the last half of season three, because I’ve been going through some big-time withdrawal pains. (And, to tie in with my opening salvo, I was a late-adopter; it wasn’t until a friend persuaded me just last fall to--wait for it--try it, that I even started watching... and that, as they say, was that. I was hooked, and proceeded to blast through the entire first two seasons in a couple weeks’ time, thanks to Netflix.)

Yep, it’s a gore-fest par excellence (not that I’m especially enamored of flying gore, but, eh... this IS zombie stuff), and violent to the extreme (but never without reason, which makes a difference to me)... but it’s so much more than that, too. It’s a show about basically starting from scratch with the bits and pieces of shattered former lives, then learning how to cope in a crazy-scary new world in which your former neighbors (friends, relatives) might, with little notice, suddenly be out to eat you alive (for real, not metaphorically). 

Like I said, though, there’s a lot more than just survival-of-the-fittest horrors here. The Walking Dead is just as much a psychological study, showing the myriad ways people cope with impossible situations... and what changes and then breaks (or doesn’t manage to break) them. It's great TV--really well-acted, with plenty of likable (and not-so) characters, and story arcs that don't always go where you expect. It feels true... and horribly (yet brilliantly) right.

Oh, yeah... I know where I’ll be Sunday night. (Now, don’t fret; I’m not gonna miss Downton Abbey, either. That’s what DVR’s are for... ;))    


*I quite enjoy steamed broccoli, have no problems with (though no especial cravings for) oatmeal, and cannot abide the smell, taste, or thought of liver. (And yes, I did try it. Under duress, certainly, and the threat of a swat, probably. Never again.)

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