Plants Vs. Zombies: Death as Memory Eater

The mythology of monsters has always fascinated me. Vampires, gremlins, werewolves, poltergeists, zombies. Why do we feel compelled to imagine the monstrous, the grotesque? 

It seems to me that we cannot imagine something that does not exist in our physical or mental universe in some form or another. If this is the case, monsters represent distortions of the real.

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My 7-year old son Mateo recently discovered the joy, obsession, and frustration of gaming. I have never quite seen him like this before, but it reminds me of a smaller and less hairy version of myself.

The game is simple. Plants vs. zombies. Zombies vs. plants. The plants vary and each plant has different strengths and weaknesses. The zombies vary and each zombie has different strengths and weakness. Plants on the left. Zombies on the right. Fight!

If the monstrous is the distortion of the real then what exactly does a zombie signify?

I find the juxtaposition of the plant and the zombie in this game to be surprisingly brilliant, but the “versus” troubles me. Plant vs. zombie. Life vs. death. Zombie vs. plant. Death vs. Life.

In this game and in our popular imagination, the zombie signifies the devourer of life. Death feeds on the living. Death is the ultimate enemy. This distortion is a reflection of our collective mental unhealth. Think of the popular saying, “death is a part of life.” Popular sayings are popular for a reason. Whether we like them or not, they resonate in some way with the human experience.

If death is indeed a part of life then does it not follow that life is a part of death? Maybe plants and zombies are not enemies. Maybe they are like my two little boys – they fight and wrestle all the time, but they both know they need and love each other.

I know that sounds like the kind of thing people say because they are not sure what else to say. The kind of thing that sounds good in theory, but is meaningless in practice.

All I know is that a Zombie ate my dad in 2012. He knew his granddaughter for a few years. He knew his first grandson as an infant and his second grandson as an embryo.

I think what saddens me the most is that he is not physically present anymore, but it’s more than that. I think it’s that we cannot make new memories together anymore. I only have one memory of my dad holding my middle man in our living room. That’s really it. Maybe what the Zombies eat is the possibility of memory making, both good and bad. Honestly, I would take both.