On this season (5th) on SyFy’s zombie-apocalyptic comedy show, Z-Nation, the survivor group has just made the long journey North to a place called ‘Newmerica.’ The safe haven is made up of numerous outposts that are so far into the cold mountainous landscape, that the undead do not bother roaming around the area. However, I use the word ‘undead’ lightly because in the biggest outpost, Altura, we are shown that it’s not only the living that resides there…but also the undead ‘talkers.’
‘Talkers’ is a term used to identify people whose bodies have died but whose souls remain conscious. It was coined by the face of Newmerica’s new political campaign, George, who has written a new version of the US Constitution to include the talkers as legal citizens…even though they are technically deceased.
George’s campaign aims to bring together the living (who still have a pulse) and the talkers (who may be decomposing but still retain the personality and memories they had in life) in order to produce a harmonious new way of life in Newmerica. However, there is a line drawn in the dirt, talkers can become full zombies [Zs] (who are no longer conscious and only driven by an insatiable hunger for human flesh) if they do not receive Z-biscuits, which are cookies with traces of human brain in them.
Fully turned Zs are not allowed into Newmerica and are killed on-sight. But the ongoing argument throughout this entire season so far is: should talkers be considered as citizens for this new world, even if they are different or could be a potential threat in the future? Additionally, should talkers be treated like fully turned Zs, even though they are still conscious and able to develop and express original ideas?
Those are difficult questions to answer and personally, when I was presented with those dilemmas, my mind was immediately reminded of the current events in the USA under the presidency of Donald Trump. The parallels between the debates happening in Newmerica and in the actual United States are eerily similar. It has been said by many great scholars that horror is not a genre, instead, it’s a reflection of societal fears at that particular moment in time.
Just as the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) was a direct response to the fear of Communism and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) provided some relief from the terror caused by the AIDS epidemic, it seems that current zombie visual culture is a reflection of our modern-day political turmoil.
Undoubtedly, Trump has caused civil unrest in America, and arguably around the world. Immigrants are being deported without warning, even those who have legally been working in the US for years. The debates about institutionalized racism are discussed on high profile media channels and it is hard to overlook the numerous ethical and moral dilemmas that now plague the people of the United States.
This article is the first of many in which I will draw direct parallels to zombie visual culture (mainly Z-Nation) and the current political situation in the US. A final thought to keep everyone thinking about these issues: Newmerica is surrounded by big walls, keeping out the unwanted visitors, and the poll they just had in Altura was a vote on whether talkers should be considered as citizens and treated as equals…well doesn’t that just seem like a major metaphor for the current US Midterm Election? Americans are voting to get the minority, female and LGBTQ+ voices heard and to have a shot at an equal society, but one that is not surrounded by Trump’s ridiculous big wall (he doesn’t have the undead to keep out).
The more I think about the current situation in the US and the events portrayed in Newmerica, the more similarities emerge. If you didn’t understand why horror fanatics always claimed that horror was a type of social barometer, directly acting out our societal fears on the big screen, then I urge you to watch this season (and all the rest) of Z-Nation because you will undoubtedly see a universal human fear played out right in front of your very eyes.