In Praise of Fast-Moving Zombies

The trend toward fast-moving zombies in film has drawn the ire of many zombie movie fans. They prefer the slow, lumbering zombies from the original George Romero movies.*

But if one is concerned with plausibility – if you find there is something more satisfying about stories that are internally logical and consistent, even if the opening premise is totally fantastical – fast-moving zombies are more compelling.

Here’s why: Slow-moving zombies just aren’t threatening enough. Sure, on a personal level, they could be a problem, if (say) you were trapped in an isolated farmhouse surrounded by a swarm of slow-moving zombies, and no help was on the way. But otherwise, slow-moving zombies just wouldn’t threaten the existence of an affluent, heavily-armed modern nation. Slow-moving zombies couldn’t bring about the apocalypse. It’s just not plausible. Here’s just one, very specific example:

Tanks. Right now the U.S. military has something like:

Though each of these armored vehicles (except the bulldozers) is equipped with heavy, destructive guns, you wouldn’t need to fire a shot. Against slow-moving zombies – which bust open like over-ripe melons when hit with any blunt object – these vehicles could fuel up and spend the day running over zombies. If the zombies were massed, a single armored bulldozer could wipe out, like, 100 zombies per minute. The vehicle armor – sufficient to stop bullets from AK-47s – would protect the crews from harm. They have radio communications and integrated navigation technology. It wouldn’t be a close fight.

The only plausible scenario by which U.S. military bases would be overwhelmed involves fast-moving zombies: An outbreak in a military base. Shots are fired but positions are over-run. Communications centers are trashed. Fuel depots explode. Tank and helicopter crews are wiped out, etc. You get the idea. But it would have to happen fast.

I think it is possible to live in the United States and just have no idea how big and well-resourced the U.S. military really is.

Slow-moving zombies just wouldn’t be enough of a challenge for the U.S. and other first-world nations. It would be a terrible crisis, sure. Lots of people would die. Demand for counseling services would exceed supply.

But it seems naive and highly implausible – even within the plausibility-stretching world of zombie movies – that slow-moving zombies would be able to overwhelm the United States military, or the highly effective and well-resourced militaries of other very affluent nations.

Slow-moving zombies would pretty quickly become a third-world problem – and a big one, sparking economic disruption, panic-stricken migrations, contagious illness, societal breakdowns and rule-by-warlords. And these problems would be mostly clustered among those with the fewest resources to do anything about it. As Daniel Drezner sadly notes in Theories of International Politics and Zombies:

The plague of the undead would join the roster of threats that disproportionately affect the poorest and weakest countries.

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