Culture

In Case You Missed It: State and Brain

zombies

The ONE time I have to take a three-week hiatus from writing, the world sees the most gruesome, terrifying, barely imaginable news days. Coincidence? More than that. Completely random and inconsequential!

As a personal game I play, I like exploring the jokes people make. When a huge, weird event happens that unifies a nation in lite fear, you can bet that the same few lines will be heard in bars and smoke breaks across the country. The face-eating story has put people into two camps: You either joke that this is the sign of an imminent zombie apocalypse, or that the biting is due to the inherent weirdness of Florida. Both are lame jokes, but they are also the lens through which people diffuse tragedies of startling weirdness.

The Florida joke is based on pretensions about Florida being absolutely insane, and I agree fully with the joke-teller. The sheer amount of weird news Florida produces on a daily basis leaves one to imagine that all residents have to avoid a gauntlet of driving babies and coked-out dogs on their stroll to pick up their morning paper bag of spray paint. Anything can happen in Florida, allowing for a distance between what happened and how terrible it actually is. The Florida joke in this situation is almost too cavalier, as it kinda needs to be: dudes are now totally fucking eating other dudes’ faces. It’s on. As a joke blaming face-eating on Florida, it reeks of a weird state pride that only happens when something terrible happens across state lines, when it’s another person’s problem.

The other joke, signs of the zombie apocalypse, is expected. Zombies are at the height of maximum saturation. Even the CDC got on board and had some preparedness kit suggestions. We all ran with the zombie connection because it makes the most sense: you eat a face, you’re a zombie. Easy. I’ve been trying to crack the popularity of zombies. Maybe post-9/11 America needed a more manageable boogieman, or maybe a boogieman fueled off of a rage infection, making the ability to keep calm amidst chaos the only thing that keeps us human. Now I see the popularity coming from the ability to make anything threatening become cute or cool. Zombies have been so pervasive and simplified that they can no longer be a fear, Nerf-ed even more than our current vampires. There is a surprising lack of fear over dudes eating other dudes’ faces, when really, I can’t think of anything more terrifying than drugs that give people the “rage virus.”

Both are safe jokes, as they should be. No one’s overtly being an asshole. Everyone just really doesn’t want their face eaten, and no one knows what else to do. There’s no real clear thinking happening, other than “fuck bath salts” (which might just be dependent on how susceptible a person is to rage). Everyone is too confused to approach this rationally. In times of confusion, we as a nation must either make fun of a fellow state or communicate with the world in horror tropes. I suppose this is modern English.