Episode 621: Kind Stranger

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Zombie Cliche Lookout: Not Just Looking Out for Yourself

In order for humanity to survive the coming zombie apocalypse, we’re going to have to work together. This has always been a big part of zombie stories. By way of example, I’m going to stick with one of my favorites: Shaun of the Dead, which quotes Bertrand Russell in saying “The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation”. If everyone is only interested in their own safety – or worse still being a badass last man on Earth – they’re putting the survival of the species in jeopardy. Of course, it’s awfully hard to justify taking risks because you’re concerned about the species, especially in the early days of the zombie apocalypse when you don’t really have an idea of the scope of the outbreak.

But I digress.

Not everyone is going to be only worried about their own wellbeing. There will always be those who will try to help their fellow man, even if it puts themselves at risk. Of course, a lot of those people will end up dead because of that; but hopefully not all of them. We need those men and women around.

About this Episode:

It’s not safe outside, Sam. Best get in the house with this strange woman. Who knows, maybe your luck is turning around?

Discussion Question: Faith in the Zombie Apocalypse

Recently we had a brief discussion in the comments about religious belief, and lack thereof. I find this to be a fascinating subject, so I figured we could talk about it here in a little bit more structured fashion. How do you think people will change (or not) their religious beliefs in the face of something as apocalyptic as a large-scale zombie outbreak? Will atheists suddenly become believers? Will believers lose faith? How will the various fundamental subcultures deal with things?

39 thoughts on “Episode 621: Kind Stranger”

  1. There seems to be a sudden change again to daylight. Did Dave mess up again? 😀

    • Yeah, I messed up again. Unfortunately, I won’t have time to fix this until this evening or tomorrow morning.

      • Okay, when you do have time to fix it, please also add mouseover text! 😀

        • Done and done.

        • The only thing left to do now is make sure Friday’s comic is properly lit! 😀

          I do wonder, if her door was open, shouldn’t there be some light shining out from it? Or is she deliberately not using a light because she’s figured something out about the zombies outside?

          Which brings me to an interesting Discussion Question of sorts: Would zombies be attracted to light sources in hopes (insofar as zombies are capable of such) of finding something to hunt?

  2. Also, in the About This Episode, is Dave trying to say Sam’s suddenly going to be offered a living arrangement in return for some intimacy? I just hope they don’t make too much noise because that’ll certainly attract the zombies! 😀

    • Hah, I didn’t intend it that way, but you never know how things will work out.

  3. oh nice now he save

    • We don’t know that. Maybe she’s a cannibal?

      • Dave im sorry u wanna friendship with me im understand next time

        • Dude, we’re cool. Don’t worry.

  4. The TV show “Z Nation” does a good job of showing what some faiths would be like in the event of a zombie apocalypse, with there being little cults set up that worship “the resurrected” and try to “help” others to achieve this higher form. I also believe that a lot of religious people would die off as they were slaughtered by zombies at their churches, mosques or chapels when they all ran there to beg for salvation.

    • I need to give that show another chance. I gave up after a couple of episodes.

      • It’s really quite good as long as you don’t take it seriously. It doesn’t take itself seriously, so why should you?

        • Good point.

  5. Dave, you do need to give Z Nation another chance. It’s no Walking Dead, but my take is that they knew they could never compete with TWD and decided to take another direction. I found it very entertaining and at times both funny and scary. I think they found their stride after a few episodes and made something well worth watching out of it. (I almost gave up on it after the first two or three myself, but then I got laid off and had some time to kill and gave it another shot between engagements. I’m glad I did.)

    As for religious faith after an apocalypse, I have to think that folks disposed to believing are going to find themselves even more so, and some number of folks will be disillusioned with faith after the “how could a good God let this happen?” question, as always. But “classical” (if you’ll allow me that extravagance) zombies as undead and undying monsters really do raise a few sticky metaphysical questions. After all, if we are being honest with ourselves, there is no virus or other traditional infection that could cause a dead body to reanimate and remain animate indefinitely without nourishment. There simply wouldn’t be energy to power the body forever without eating. It follows, then, that the force animating truly dead bodies must somehow be supernatural, since they’d collapse and stop moving very quickly if they were relying upon normal physical processes to remain functional. To me that’s always been a weakness of zombie universes where they explain the plague by pointing to a viral or bacterial contagion – yes, a virus might cause the quick death of the bitten, but it cannot explain their perpetual mobility as undead.

    Now, it does make sense to understand the process of transmission in terms of a contagion breakout, at least insofar as being bitten leads to rising as a zombie. But it cannot be that any mere infectious agent could cause the zombie plague of TWD. An infectious agent would result in a plague where the zombies eventually die off as their sources of nourishment become rare, exactly as 28 Days Later played out. (For my money this IS a zombie movie, even if the zombies are nontraditional in some ways. I accept that others will disagree.)

    It’s this specific metaphysical reality that suggests to me that religious faith would be widespread after the fall of man in a zombie apocalypse. People are going to notice that what’s happening to the dead can’t be explained by ordinary physical causes.

    This topic reminds me, by the way, of Jack Crow in John Steakley’s Vampires, who talks briefly about how he knows God exists because vampires do. A very entertaining passage in a delightful but little-known book. I was one of the ten people who loved the John Carpenter movie based upon it, too.

    • Some interesting points here. Perhaps I gave up too quickly. The bad writing and inconsistencies (the zombies kept changing between slow and fast seemingly at random) really turned me off.

      You’re absolutely right about traditional zombies not making a bit of sense from a biological perspective. In order for them to work, it has to be outside out understanding of the world.

      • There is an episode of Z Nation that comes to mind specifically when talking about religion after the fall. I don’t want to say too much about it because I am hoping Dave will give the show another chance (and also that anyone else who hasn’t watched it will, too – it’s funny and scary and quite campy and I liked it). Now, this particular episode takes a religious turn that I frankly wouldn’t expect to happen in a real zombia apocalypse, but it’s an interesting turn.

  6. Well put Mike.

    I think the reaction of individuals will depend on the nature of their faith itself.

    Hollywood and most other mass media tend to stereotype people of religious faith as weak minded individuals who need a “crutch” to manage the realities of everyday life. And like most stereotypes, this one contains an element of truth. There is no shortage of religious groups out there in the world that border on cult status with adherents mindlessly quoting passages of 2000+year old text that have been subjected to countless revision and translation at the hands of sexually repressed monks or half mad clerics. These are the individuals that are endlessly dredged up by the media to appear on talk shows and declare Gods outrage at homosexual fornication and such or declare the Muslim woman who allows any part of her face to be seen as a harlot. I am confident that a significant majority of these people are likely to behave predictably by either praying for salvation until they are eaten by zeds or throwing away their faith as false when God doesn’t immediately deliver them from danger. Others will double down on their beliefs seeing Gods non-intervention as a sign that mankind is unworthy. (Ever read “The Stand” by Steven King?)

    But what you need to understand here is that these individuals represent a very noisy minority. Judging all people of faith by these groups is like judging the entire homosexual community by what you see at a Gay Pride parade. (I love equating the bible thumpers to flamboyant homosexuals, can you tell? I hope Im not offending any Gay people with this, I would hope they would savor the irony)

    So lets leave those folks out of it and take a larger perspective for the moment.

    If we assume that there IS a loving and compassionate God in existence and he/she/it is operating on a grand plan (lets leave Spinoza and his impersonal God out of this) then we can logically assume that we lack the much larger perspective needed to comprehend it. (its not so unlikely as it many seem, Super Symmetrical String Theory states that they are 10 spatial dimensions making up the fabric of the cosmos but we can only perceive of 3 of them) Yes there are horrible things in the world, and if we accept that there is a God then we HAVE to accept that they exist with his approval. Unless we accept God as completely impersonal (Spinoza again) then we HAVE to accept them as part of any overall plan or part of some kind of integral balance. At the same time, if God did facilitate the creation of man as a species he did so in such a way that gave us a drive to survive and expand.

    Long and short of it…….the vast majority of religious people are going to get pissed at God, shake their fists at the sky, then quietly say a prayer and get down to the business of surviving.

    • I have to disagree with you a bit here. While there are lots of examples of nutty religious characters in the media, most of them are extremists in one way or another, and are often contrasted against those with a more grounded faith, so to speak. I don’t think the media is really against people of faith in general, just the stereotypical extremist of all stripes.

      As a counter example, people without faith are often portrayed negatively. At best, they’re socially awkward, at worst psychotic.

      The media doesn’t really do nuance terribly well.

      • I probably consume less media then you do, but Im hard pressed to come up with a religious character on TV (more current) who isn’t a nut or a reactionary. The only Atheist character I can come up with who is “socially awkward” is Brian from “Family Guy.” Im not necessarily disagreeing with you, but as a person who takes a great deal of pride in being objective Im concerned I may be developing a bit of a persecution complex regarding my religion. If you have any specific examples of negative/neutral portrayals of Atheists and positive/neutral portrayals of the religious I would like to hear them. I may need an “adjustment”

        • Some negative atheists: Dr. House (asshole), Dr. Bones (extremely socially awkward), pretty much every atheist in Battlestar Galactica, Dexter (murderer), Mal in Firefly (he comes around and finds peace in Serenity), etc.

          Positive theists: Shepherd Book (the wise man of the cast), Jed Barlet from The West Wing (uses his faith as strength), Booth (helps Bones deal with reality, seen as grounded), etc.

          I will definitely grant you that religious extremists are easy targets, but those with a baseline faith are often seen as more grounded, moral, and social than atheists. Atheists are often portrayed as jerks who act like their smarter than everyone else, extremely awkward, or outright evil.

        • Thanks Dave.
          I always had Dr House pegged as the “brilliant but jaded hardass with the heart of gold” type myself. Its funny you brought that show up because it was the “One Day One Room” episode I was thinking of when I was writing the previous post.

          And as far as the BG folks go, don’t they all just turn out to be friggin Cylons in the end anyway??? LOL

          You raise an interesting point here though, I will take a closer look at these types of characterizations from now on.

  7. It turned to daylight pretty quick, or is it dawn now?

    Also, is that tin in the crate LEGO? I’m guessing it is, but I’ve never seen that piece before!

    • Yeah, that was my bad. Fixed now.

      Yep, that bucket is indeed an official piece.

      • Is it the one from Belville, with holes in it for a handle, or the one with protrusions for a handle attachment? Browse these two links and see which one it is:




        • It’s the Belville one.

  8. Mark me as #3 person to love John Carpenter’s Vampires. The “Gook” vampires were more like zombies on a special diet then vampires.

    As to the religious question: there will be a major shift in religion. Basically like everything else people’s outer facades will be ripped away and the truth revealed. Those that looked religious but did not truly believe will lose all hope and swear “God is Dead”. Those who sorta believed put were too busy for “church” will try to bury themselves at your local place of worship.

    Leadership will play a big part. A charismatic leader using either old or new religious beliefs will attract alot of followers as desparate people will be easier to convince.

    As to being ripped apart while hiding in their place of worship (@shiftedbeef). I am guessing you have never been to a Baptist Church in Alabama where “Turkey Shoots” are still used as fundraisers. Just saying 200 rednecks organized by their local pastor to protect themselves and their families even Romero admitted this would be just their thing (Dawn of the Dead helicopter flying over redneck carnival).

    • I might have to check that out. I love Carpenter’s earlier movies. The Thing is one of my all time favorite horror films, and I reference They Live way too often as far as my wife is concerned.

      Definitely an interesting comment on the ‘redneck’ church. I grew up catholic, and my church (in a very small town in rural Michigan) always had a special blessing at the beginning of deer season. I imagine a lot of the cars in the parking lot had a rifle in them.

      • ” I reference They Live way too often as far as my wife is concerned”

        And you had children with this woman????????

        • Hah, two of them.

        • LOL. Im one to talk. My wife HATES scifi. Her appreciation for Monty Python and Mel Brooks movies does make up for it to some degree though.

    • You raise a great point, Rattraveller, but those “Redneck Armies” would be more regional. Where I live (Canada) most people with a faith are… tuned down. We banned the The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) from “protesting” in our borders and we don’t have a Bible belt. In my opinion, faith would play a part in the Canadian Zompocalypse, but not a huge one.

  9. I think extreme circumstances tend to bring out extremes in everything else. Natural disasters tend not to have a permanent impact on people’s religious beliefs too much, but prolonged, desperate circumstances do. That’s not to say that brief, one-off disasters have no effect, but something like living through the Black Death or living the life of an impoverished serf somewhere tends to increase religious devotion (I just finished my dissertation on the PTSD effects of the Irish Potato Famine in the literature of the day) in ways that a single tornado or tsunami or terrorist attack don’t. When people feel that their daily survival is primarily determined by forces outside their control for long periods with no end in sight, they tend to seek out a relationship with a higher power capable of directing or influencing those forces. People who have experienced great personal loss can go either way (eg. “That this happened proves there is no God,” or “Without God, this loss has no meaning.”).

    I say this not to deride religious belief. I’m a religious guy myself, but I’d say more atheists are made believers by a cancer diagnosis or foxhole than the other way around.

    Crazy circumstances do make for a proliferation of crazy cults, but I think you’d see a proliferation of belief in more traditional religious communities, traditions, and practices. Most people will tend to return to what they know, and so most people will go back to whatever beliefs they were raised in but left behind (provided they didn’t continue practicing as adults). Some people will join communities for survival reasons, but as people will tend to be wary of other people, if that community is practicing a tradition that seems strange (ie. a new cult), most people will avoid them.

    • “I think extreme circumstances tend to bring out extremes in everything else.”

      Quite well said, sir.

    • I have to say that a study of PTSD after the Potato Famile sounds intriguing, by the way.

      • LOL. After the Potato Famine. Stupid autocorrect.

  10. There was a book series that came out a few years ago, the Rot and Ruin (by John Mayberry, I believe) that (spoiler) in the later books had a group that used the zombies of the book for they’re justification of killing people. They said that these zombies were the more pure form of humans, that they claim God perfected, because they would not sin like previous humans. And yes, as we mentioned, the Z-nation series had quite a bit of religion. Now turning back to history, we know that an outbreak leading to an apocalypse could have either affect of strengthening some in a religion or dividing some that religion. For example, the black plague. Some in medieval Europe stuck with the church (one of, if not the most powerful institutions in the time), who claimed that they would be safe, and that those who were sick and dying were sinners being punished by God, while others turned to witchcraft or alchemy or various other practices that made them feel safer then Christianity. (I would like to point out that some people did leave the church at this because of the vast corruption and the simple fact that the church seemed to care more about money for its hierarchy then the religious beliefs for all, not simply the black plague. And with that, I will also say I meant no offense to anyone, this part specifically.)

  11. Little surprised that Father Gabriel from TWD hasn’t been mentioned (apologies if I missed it).
    I thought that his situation was well handled in the show. He obviously had a strong belief before the zombies. But since the apocalypse that belief has been strongly tested and now he is really struggling.

    It’s going to be interesting to see if he can reconcile with his faith, or whether his inner conflict is just going to make him more of a liability. And what that means for the rest of the group.