When I first heard folks discussing “The Walking Dead,” I thought they were talking about Congress. But no, it was zombies. The undead. Flesh-eating creatures. Bodies that do harm.
The nation of Haiti embraced the zombie legend a long time ago. In fact, there’s an old Bela Lugosi movie about that called “White Zombie.” Apparently, in the voodoo culture, you can get a curse put on you and rise from the dead. Or something. This voodoo stuff is not easy to assess.
Way back in the late 1960s, a movie director named George Romero put out a film called “Night of the Living Dead.” I remember seeing it and thinking, “What the heck was that?”
Romero set his zombie hordes in Pittsburgh, and they ran around cannibalizing Pirates fans. Nobody was quite sure how these zombies came to be — something about a comet — but they were nasty. They were also slow. If you were in shape, you could taunt the zombies and run away. Of course, there’s always the “I tripped over something” factor, and so many zombie-taunters got their “just desserts,” so to speak.
Anyway, now we have a cable TV series that attracted more than 16 million viewers last Sunday: “The Walking Dead.” Most of the viewers were ages 18 to 49. Apparently, younger Americans love this zombie stuff. Earlier this year, they flocked to see Brad Pitt fight the undead in “World War Z.” I missed the film, but heard it was so intense that Brad’s hair got mussed up on at least three occasions. Zombies generally have bad hair. In fact, their entire grooming routine is sorely lacking because they have no interest in anything other than eating the flesh of human beings. No, you don’t have to be a lawyer to be a zombie.
Over the years, horror movies have become increasingly graphic, and the zombie surge exploits that. Vampires only bite you on the neck. Zombies are buffet people. No limits on the intake. Also, various monsters such as The Wolfman and Frankenstein’s creature often had a soft side. Before Lon Chaney Jr. became a hungry wolf, he confessed to a nice gypsy woman that the whole thing was not his fault, and he regretted ever having to see a full moon. You almost felt sorry for Lon — until, of course, he disassembled some guy walking through a mist-shrouded forest in the middle of nowhere.
Zombies could never show a soft side to a gypsy woman. They would eat her before any conversation could start. There is no reasoning with zombies. As our cliche-ridden society says: They are what they are!
But we Americans apparently like the zombie culture very much. Somehow, we identify with humans like Brad Pitt slaying as many zombies as possible. By the way, that’s legal. Zombies have no protections under the law. And liberal Americans do not object to using heavy weapons to kill the undead. Assault weapons are fine as long as you undergo a background check. But that policy can be waived if the zombies are actually rampaging through your house.
As a positive person, I am not on the zombie bandwagon. Too much angst. I believe that when you die you go either to heaven or hell — not to cable TV. But that’s just me. Millions of my fellow citizens obviously see it differently. To them I say: Boo!
Veteran TV news anchor Bill O’Reilly is host of the Fox News show ‘‘The O’Reilly Factor.’’ Visit his website at www.billoreilly.com.