Adventures & Insights

One man's adventures in the physical and intellectual worlds…

How Do They Survive? (The Zombie Conundrum)

I think a lot; about both normal things and abnormal things (I’ll let you decide which sphere I spend the majority of my time in) and this one thing has been bothering me for quite a while. It’s a two-part philosophy that has been part of zombie fiction for as long as it’s been around:

If the only way to kill a zombie is to destroy its brain and zombies eat brains to “survive” – how does the zombie population grow exponentially?

Naturally, zombie fiction has evolved over the years but there is this one standing backbone to the whole genre. I just have this one question that I struggle to answer. We all know that somewhere along the line, the Zombocalypse brings all the dead back and the only thing they want to do is munch on the living. We all know the rules and hopefully we have our apocalypse kit prepared, but how are zombies managing to multiply so rapidly if their only sustenance is the very thing which, if destroyed, will kill them?

Obviously I’m not talking about the first Alpha Generation zombies; the ones that first clawed their way out of the ground or leapt off the ER tables or rose from whichever version of death they had been stricken with. I’m talking about the Beta to Omega Generations – those who have been attacked and turned. If lore is to be taken seriously the Alphas would have eaten their brains, therefore destroying the new zombie before it could even draw un-breath and thus logically, leaving fewer cadavers with the opportunity of joining the undead horde.

Of course, we have the casualties of survivor groups to consider and as everyone knows there are always a few of those. The scratches or bites in non-lethal areas that cause the victim to slowly succumb to the call of the grave and leave the group with the (generally) unpleasant task of dispatching what used to be their lover, best friend or some similar human with whom they’ve nurtured an emotional bond. However, as we all know, groups of survivors are often small, barely numbering more than 10 and in the instances where the group is large, they’re typically well-prepared and fortified.

And so I am left wondering how the zombie population reaches overwhelming proportions. The original idea of zombies lusting after brains logically means that the Alpha Generation would have to form the majority of the population, which is feasible due to the size of the World’s population. However in all the movies I’ve seen – especially recently, characters are having to kill loved ones and neighbours and it just makes me wonder how that’s happening when the two fundamental components of the genre appear to cancel each other out.

Have I missed something here? I know there are a number of zombie experts out there (as a werewolf guy myself I make no claim to know anything about zombies) so if I’ve overlooked a vital piece of information then please let me know – I’d hate to be less than totally prepared!


14 responses to “How Do They Survive? (The Zombie Conundrum)

  1. Trevor June 1, 2016 at 1:39 am

    Here are a few ideas that I hope will help solve this problem. It is likely that zombies don’t eat all the brains, only the frontal cortex, leaving the important brain stem intact. Leg and arm movements are controlled deep in the spinal column, so it is possible to have large amounts of brain missing or damaged and still be able to lumber around. The primitive violent and hunger of zombies can be explained as someone with serious brain damage, but with a functional brain stem and thalamus. It’s also hard to explain how zombies could eat someone’s brain, since the skull is so difficult to crack open. Most victims killed in zombie movies are bitten on the neck and arms, or have their intestines pulled out – basically soft tissue damage. I’ve never seen anyone killed by a zombie that then goes on to crack their skull open. Finally, it is worth mentioning that in season 1 episode 6 of the Walking Dead Rick is told by Dr Jenner that all survivors are infected with the zombie virus and no matter how they die they will come back as a zombie. This means that new zombies will emerge from surviving communities even without being bitten. However, I think the premise of most zombie films is that the bulk of the zombie hordes are the first generation zombies originally converted by the original contamination, infection or other reactive agent.

  2. garden zombie game May 23, 2013 at 2:20 am

    Yeeeaahhh. Because if Mitt takes office, sooner or later, the zombies will come for all of us.
    Crocs are also not a good option for a zombie apocalypse.

  3. therosebandit March 13, 2012 at 12:40 am

    As a similar person, claiming not to be well versed on any of the aforementioned items, I am thinking that Zombies might now be something of a worry to you (or at least it shouldn’t). 😉 I think it is all about confusion and scare tactics personally….one movie says this one show says that…but what does the original folklore say? Bring it back to basics and all will be made clear.

    And even if the population of Zombies was growing out of control, were all a little “Zombie-esk” now don’t you think? Maybe that is another one of their tactics…to get us to turn to their Zombie ways…hmm… there’s a thought!!


    • Christian Emmett March 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm

      You’re exactly right about the mutation of lore throughout the history of any good monster. Some get a little more stretched than others and zombies are definitely a good example!

      Personally though, the zombies don’t cause me much grief – you can kill those. On the other hand, ghosts have no body! That REALLY freaks me out.

  4. educlaytion March 8, 2012 at 4:19 am

    btw Christian, head over to eduClaytion for the new movie tournament!

  5. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson March 8, 2012 at 3:56 am

    Oh, you are going to really piss off Clay with this loophole.

    • educlaytion March 8, 2012 at 4:17 am

      What mean you Renee?!?! Fun stuff Christian. First off, I love the loopholes. Knox McCoy points these out masterfully as well. Here’s my theory on fake reality. The zombies never win. Humanity would never be totally wiped out by them. Most movies/books/stories are about the immediate time period for a group of survivors. If you read World War Z, one of the best books I’ve read on ANY subject, author Max Brooks is telling the story years after the zombie outbreak, after the humans finally came back and reclaimed the planet. Zombies eventually succumb to lots of things like total deterioration from the sun and elements. Get into Canada and they’re all stuck in snow and ice! Love these conversations though. Thanks Renee!

      • Christian Emmett March 8, 2012 at 10:00 am

        You know what mate? I am going to grab a copy of World War Z today. You’ve mentioned it before and I think it’s past time that I read it!

        I also think that you’re right about zombie fiction. They’re doomed from the start, there’s no doubt about it. It’s good to see you back in the blogosphere again, welcome back!

  6. The Edmonton Tourist March 8, 2012 at 12:45 am

    I am pretty sure you are worrying for no reason. Being undead and all, they don’t survive which is how they became undead in the first place. I think the eating brains part is just scare propaganda to instill fear into people and a way to sell zombie defense kits. If I get attacked by zombies, my plan is to just run fast than the guy behind me. I’m not going to worry about all the details. Bottom line…relax and I dont think it would be a bad gig to be a zombie.

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