SPACE JUNK AND THE SECOND EVENT: The Cosmic Meaning of the Zombie Apocalypse

To be published in the forthcoming anthology, The Thinking Dead: What the Zombie Apocalypse Means (Murali Balaji, editor), Rowan & Littlefield, 2013.

• The anthology was inspired by the hit TV series, The Walking Dead

Author:

Barry Vacker 

Read/download the paper: Space Junk

• Note this version of the paper has not gone through its final edit, so there may be a typo or two. Apologies.

SUMMARY

This essay will explore the cosmic meanings of the zombie apocalypse by drawing from cosmology and critical theory to analyze two profoundly symbolic scenes in The Walking Dead. The first scene is the conclusion of Episode 1 (“Days Gone By”), when Rick is trapped in the army tank and the camera zooms out as viewers hear the song “Space Junk” by Wang Chung. The second scene is from the final episode of Season 1 (“TS-19”), when the survivors visit the Center for Disease Control and learn of the “Second Event.” These two scenes connect The Walking Dead to the symbolic legacy Night of the Living Dead and to current cultural conditions in which the zombie apocalypse signals the philosophical apocalypse — an intellectual death that reaches far into the cosmos and deep into our consciousness. The zombie is the human that is reborn, long thought dead, a body without a mind, now devouring brains, civilization, and the planet, all in a universe it does not understand nor care to understand. 

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