Come the Zombie Apocalypse: On Love, Revenge, and Standing-In

November 17, 2010

I may very well have experienced a new zenith in my professorial dignity on Monday when, comparing Bel-Imperia's attitude towards romance in The Spanish Tragedy to the TV series The Walking Dead, I found myself uttering these words:

I guess the take-home message of today's class is that, come the zombie apocalypse, love becomes a matter of standing-in, of substitution, of surrogation.

My students somehow felt it was perfectly natural for the noble Bel-Imperia to slot Horatio into his dead best friend's role as her lover immediately upon hearing of the former beloved's death.

"Doesn't that strike you as a very ... utilitarian attitude towards love?", I asked.

"No!", they replied.  "Who else would you want your lover to end up with after you died but your best friend?"

"Hmm," I said.  "So in The Walking Dead we feel perfectly sympathetic with the cop protagonist's wife taking up with his partner when she thinks her husband is either in a permanent coma or zombified?"

"No," some shot back, instantly.  "That's awful.  How could she betray him like that?  And so soon after the zombie mayhem started!!"

"But ZOMBIES have taken over the earth!," others cried.  "We all need to band together however we can! Who can blame her for seeking solace an assistance, someone to replace her husband?  She's just trying to SURVIVE."

"Well, that's how Bel-Imperia feels," I said.  "The disintegration of the system of aristocratic justice is her zombie apocalypse.  But it is still utilitarian - she is just as interested in the role to be filled as she is in who fills it.  Love becomes a tool for revenge, and both love and revenge are entirely based on structures of standing-in."


"It was better in the comic," said my students.  "The TV show totally ruined it."

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