Episode 647: Empathy

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Zombie Cliche Lookout: Losing in Common

When most of us talk about the zombie apocalypse, we talk about the “fun” things. Improvising weapons, killing zombies in all sorts of creative ways, and “scavenging” cool supplies. What we ignore are all the painful elements, and there are a hell of a lot of them. No one really wants to survive the zombie apocalypse. Even if you survive, you do so at a tremendous sacrifice. At a minimum, your comfortable way of life is gone, but most will suffer losses far beyond this. Many will lose most or all of their loved ones. In the face of that, killing zombies somehow seems a little less fun.

Of course, this can give survivors something else to bond over. Sharing a tragedy often brings people closer together. We’re able to understand another person’s pain much easier when we’re experiencing similar pain. On the other hand, when those who have lost much encounter those who have been comparatively lucky, it might engender negative feelings toward the lucky survivors.

About this Episode:

It came up recently in the comments that Sam wouldn’t be interested in Tara as a love interest because he lost his wife Sarah only a couple of days ago. Furthermore, he also just learned that Sarah was pregnant, making the loss that much more poignant.

I see Sam as the type of person who wouldn’t be terribly open about sharing his feelings, but might comment obliquely about it.

Discussion Question: A Serious Zombie Story?

Most zombie fiction, and I’m including games here, downplay the horror of loss survivors would go through to some extent. This raises the question: could a more physiologically grounded zombie story work with audiences? Would people respond to a story where characters spend more time coping with loss than smashing zeds?

14 thoughts on “Episode 647: Empathy”

  1. Dave, is Sam’s wife’s name Sara or Sarah? If the latter, then that’s a typo you’ll have to correct twice! 😀

    • It’s Sarah. I’ll fix that.

  2. Concerning the serious Zombie-story.
    I think yes, as long as people know going in what kind of a story this will be. If I expect a lot of smashing and gore… etc… I would be utterly disappointed; if I expected it to be more of a story about how humans deal with a ZA… I’d be disappointed if the whole story came down to Z-smashing and not much more.

    It’s all about expectations. I do guess that the audience would be a little smaller. The production-costs too maybe. I once saw a zombie-movie which is more about dealing with loss and the human emotions involving a ZA. It’s small budget (I think), there’s not much zombie-smashing and can be a little slow if you expect a lot of action…. but I liked it. I mentioned it before in the comments once (i think); the movie is named; “the battery” (2012). I think you’ll like it.

    • Just looked it up on IMDB. It’s made with a budget of USD6000,- and it’s an Indie-movie.

      • Nice; I’ll have to check that out.

    • Excellent points, FL. I know I’d like to see a more psychologically heavy zombie movie every now and then. Smashing zeds is fun, but there’s are other approaches out there that could be really interesting.

  3. I’m finding it difficult to keep remembering how short a time we’re talking about. Sam losing his wife happened, what, over a year ago in real time?

    Maybe on some off-day, you might post a chart, xkcd-style ( http://xkcd.com/657/large/ ) to help us keep it straight. I don’t really mean something as complicated as the example I linked, but perhaps parallel lines, one for each major character/group, with little markers for major events and turning points so we can see when things are supposed to have happened in relation to other things.

    Not a criticism, just a thought.

    • It’s really a good idea. I’ve been thinking about doing something simple, like a plot summary for people to quickly catch up.

  4. I like a good story. I like a good Zombie action. It’s all about balance here.

    I think that TWD found a nice balance for example. All their stories aren’t so great of course, but it’s always at least above average enough (for me at least) for people to stick with it, and the action is really omnipresent.

    I myself think that a movie format is best suited for gore/action, while a long run TV show format or even a video game like TWD from telltale is best suited for solid serious stories with characters development.

    • This doesn’t apply to FTWD that somehow managed to mix poor story and inexistent action… Geez…

  5. Dave, I checked and Sarah doesn’t have her own character bio, nor is she mentioned in Sam’s. If you get some free time, you might want to fix that. I don’t think Tara and Gramps are going to be seen much after this arc finishes up, but maybe you should add their bios as secondary characters to avoid confusion going forward while you’re in there adding info to existing characters. 🙂

  6. People have tried to make zombie games and movies and shows more about the aspect of surviving the end of the world rather than killing zombies. ‘The Z house diaries’ comes to mind when talking video games. You have to ballence your characters relationships else they start fighting and injuring each other :p

    The only problem holiwood has in making zombie shows to focus on the people rather than the zombie killing is that Holiwood has a very warped sense of what people act and think like.

    People do seriously dumb things for sake of drama, they never communicate or even let the person finish talking to warn them about the coming zombies, kids never listen to their parrents, and …well, so far everything I have said is actually not so warped these days from reality really… :p

    Point is if the show’s characters are actually realatable, likable, and give me a sense of realism in the face of zombies then yes, I would enjoy seeing the story focus on something other than killing zombies.

    If its like the Fear the Walking Dead where I want to scream, “Just tell them zombies are coming to eat their brains already! It would solve so many problems!” Then it better have a lot of zombie smashing….

    • Also, so far this is really the only zombie story I like these days. Everything else, if it isn’t blood and gore its sex, cursing and stupdity wrapped under the guise of ‘controversal and edgy’ to give use scenes of sex, cursing and stupdity.

      So thanks for making a grade A Zombie story I like and dont feel bad about reading! Drop fewer curse words and I will be golden! XD

  7. Go to a Redbox find movie called Maggie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin. Very much NOT your Walking Dead zed movie very much about loss.