Episode 437: Toughen Up

Zombie Cliche Lookout: Tough Guys

As we often discuss here, zombie stories overlap a lot of other genres. Obviously, horror is the big one, but it is by no means the only one. We get survival, action, human drama, et cetera, et cetera. Out of this mix of influences we can glean some things about surviving in the zombie apocalypse, at least when it comes to the zombie apocalypse given to us by popular culture. Unlike, say, the slasher genre, survival in the zombie apocalypse doesn’t seem quite as arbitrary. Not having sex, for instance, isn’t likely to improve your chances of survival.

Instead, survival is a question of being smart,  being willing to defend yourself, and mitigating risk. That all sounds easy enough, right? Well, characters in zombie stories are generally hobbled by the writers. Often, this comes in the form of the characters just being idiots. I can think of no better example of this than the motorcycle gang member from the original Dawn of the Dead who kept trying to get his blood pressure checked into the middle of a giant battle with the zombies. As you can imagine, things didn’t work out too well for him. Other times, they just have to battle against bad luck, overwhelming odds, and other hostile survivors.

About this Episode:

Poor Sam is so spent by this endeavor that he can’t even manage to stand anymore. Poor guy, maybe he needs a nap?

Discussion Question: What is Toughness?

Here’s a question that sounds really simple, but I’m hoping it engenders some good conversation: what, exactly, is toughness? Obviously, there’s physical ruggedness and strength, but there’s also a degree of mental fortitude in the equation. What makes one “tough”? Can you be physically weak and still tough? How about the other way around?



I have always loved the way “toughness” is defined in engineering and material science.

In materials science and metallurgy, toughness is the ability of a material to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing.[1] One definition of material toughness is the amount of energy per volume that a material can absorb before rupturing. It is also defined as the resistance to fracture of a material when stressed.

Toughness requires a balance of strength and ductility.[1]


There is a difference between “strength” and “toughness”. The toughest people I know may not be the strongest, physically, but they display a mental perseverance and adaptability that, in my opinion, makes them tough. It’s about the ability to carry on no matter what that makes one tough.

Nom Zoms

I feel like to be tough is to be mentally strong just as much, maybe more, than physically strong. The that’s why I believe that the victim in a bullying case is tough because he is mentally stronger than the bully, just to put it into an example.


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