Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash
I would forgive you if you forgot that the 2013 teen zombie flick, Warm Bodies, existed, but as the presidential election draws closer the zom-com takes up more and more space in my brain. Not because the two candidates are closer to the grave than any in history, and not because the incumbent is the best example of the soulless, living dead that I’ve ever seen. I can’t get Warm Bodies out of my head because of its vision of the apocalypse, and more specifically the “cure” the movie offers to bring the world back from the brink.
Warm Bodies is fairly typical of Hollywood’s supernatural YA adaptation boom of early 2010s. Set after the zombie apocalypse, the story follows the romance between Julie, a human girl, and R, a zombie who just happens to be sexy and “not like the other boys.” R and Julie’s forbidden romance (wow, nearly ten years later I just realized it’s a Romeo and Juliette story, someone take the keys to this blog, I am unworthy) triggers something in R, and throughout the film the power of love slowly transforms R and the rest of the zombies back into humans.
In the end, love restarts all the zombies hearts (you know, the organ primarily responsibly for experiencing love), humanity is saved, and the zombies peacefully re-enter society. The movie is unbearably charming and earnest, and I love it in spite and because of its commitment to the belief that love conquers all. But the metaphor at the heart (*wink*) of this movie leaves a lot of questions on the table, especially since that metaphor is so applicable to our own personal apocalypse.
If the “love is the cure” line sounds a bit familiar, you may recognize it from former Vice President Joe Biden’s milktoast platform, a soft rejection of fascism if you will. Biden has built his campaign on his ability to cut through the partisan malarkey and work with folks he doesn’t necessarily agree with. That may have been cool in 2013 when Warm Bodies was in theaters and nazis were chillin at home, but hi Joe, have you seen what “across the aisle” looks like these days?
I’m not going to argue against love conquering all, because it’s honestly a pretty bad look. But when the power of love cures the all the zombies—whether that’s your racist uncle or the republican representatives who were only too happy to get their Thriller on—what happens next?
In Warm Bodies, Julie quickly gets over the fact that R ate her boyfriend, mostly because the ex had gotten to be a real stick in the mud about fighting zombies. After love cures the rest of the zombies, we see a half un-zombified Rob Corddry flirt with a 100% not zombie lady who probably lost loved ones in the whole apocalypse thing. He offers her an umbrella, so that at least partially makes up for it?
Even as an impressionable teen watching this movie in theaters (remember those?) I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is that all it takes? They’re all good now?” Sure, the zombies were sick or something, and it wasn’t totally they’re fault, but they definitely ATE PEOPLE! For years! And no one’s got a problem with any of this?
And so, Warm Bodies Lives rent free in my brain, because what are we going to do if (big if, still traumatized by 2016) Biden wins and we just go back to the way things were before? Will we all just forget our co-workers marched with literal nazis?
Warm Bodies is required viewing on the apocalypse watchlist because it’s one of few films where the apocalyptic threat isn’t defeated but re-incorporated, which weirdly makes zombie Romeo and Juliette the most true to life end of the world film.
Spending the rest of our lives battling zombies or racists or wherever we are in this metaphor isn’t sustainable, and since we all have to share this apocalyptic hell scape we call America, the Warm Bodies outcome is probably the most likely. But as we try to heal the gashes in our country that separate the living and the undead we can’t substitute reconciliation for reparation. We can’t just pretend the zombie next door didn’t eat our cousin three years back. Because ignoring festering wounds is how you find yourself in a zombie apocalypse in the first place.