by Savana Newton, Ball State University
Seattle’s been hit by a zombie invasion, and not even singer Rob Thomas was able to make it out alive; that is, if you’re a character on the CW show iZombie. With a female-zombie protagonist, we see this world through the eye of the ‘other’: we watch as Liv Moore comes to terms with her new reality. She moves from being a medical resident and paragon of perfection to a brain-eating morgue attendant who occasionally solves crimes. It’s a tough road for Liv and the rest of the hidden zombie-kind, especially since their existence is starting to become a very real threat to the non-zombie residents of this overcast town. In Seasons One and Two, as we come to grips with Liv’s life and how zombies exist in this world, we are really treated with a look at the ethics of being a zombie. However, there is a shift between the end of Season Two and into season Three. Once the zombie secret is out to a wider group of people, the creators of the show shift their focus to exploring “us” vs. “them” dynamics between the zombie and the human community, in which the human residents draw a decisive line between themselves and the zombie residents of Seattle.
In this way, the show harkens back to the history of Seattle and the forced resettlement of the Native American people by white settlers. Scholars Jean and John Comaroff claim a connection not only between zombies and the action of removal but also between zombies and colonialism and imperial encounters: “Zombies themselves seem to be born, at least in the first instance, of colonial encounters; of the precipitous engagement of local worlds with imperial economies that seek to exert control over the essential means of producing value, means like land and labor, space and time” (Comaroff 795). When people are forced to give up everything that makes them unique because a secondary controlling group forces them to abandon key parts of their culture and land, a zombification of self seems only natural. In the case of iZombie, while the humans of Seattle are not responsible for the actual zombification of some of the city’s residents, they are responsible for the marginalization of this group as shown in Season Three of the show.
Zombies are treated as ‘other’ and stigmatized in this way all throughout the series. For example, Max Rager, the energy drink company, is run by a man named Vaughn Du Clarke who is using zombies as his own personal lab rats. Mr. Du Clarke even hires former zombie Major Lilywhite to ‘take-out’ all the zombies that remain in Seattle. And those are just events that take place in Season Two. In Season Three after Max Rager is no longer a threat, Fillmore-Graves, a group of all-zombie military contractors, decide that the best thing for all of zombie-kind is a self-imposed exile to an island off the coast. They believe that, by relocating to this island, they will escape persecution by humans when zombieism is discovered by the wider population, but after a terrorist attack against a group of zombies, they decide fighting back is the only option.
In the show’s Season Three finale, Fillmore-Graves infects the Aleutian Flu vaccine with zombie blood, thus turning everyone who took the vaccine into a zombie. The goal of this action was not to harm the living; in fact, those who were all but lost to the viral contagion were cured. Rather, the goal was to take over Seattle. The repressed ‘other’ decided that they were sick of hiding and that they would no longer be removed or attacked simply because of a condition that they cannot change, so they took over Seattle. Chase Graves, head of Fillmore-Graves, closes his broadcast to the citizens of Seattle by stating, “Let’s show the world there is no need to fear the other” (3:13 “Looking for Mr. Goodbrain, part 2”), and yet we leave Seattle in a veritable war-zone as the remaining humans attempt to take back their rainy city. Regardless of Fillmore-Graves’ assurances or foolhardy faith in humanity, as long as there is an ‘other’ to be feared, they will be fought; in iZombie, the ‘other’ just happens to be zombies, but they are only a representation of real world stigmatization that is ordained daily. The ‘other’ will always be relevant in our society as long as people continue to stigmatize and separate those that they do not think ‘fit in’; the showrunners of iZombie are attempting to demonstrate to every person who watches the show that by stigmatizing people, we are setting ourselves up for mutually assured destruction. We are given Liv’s point of view in this show because the most important thing that we could ever expose ourselves to is the worldview of those who are not like us because, in the end, the most important distinction to be made is that we are all, in some way, human, even those who are zombies.
Comaroff, Jean, and John Comaroff. “Alien-Nation: Zombie, Immigrants, and Millennial
Capitalism.” South Atlantic Quarterly, pp. 780–805., doi:10.5749/j.ctt1pwt6zr.13.
Thomas, Rob, and Diane Ruggiero, creators. iZombie, CW, 17 Mar. 2015.
“Looking for Mr. Goodbrain part 2.” iZombie, created by Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero,
season 3, episode 13, CW, 27 June 2017.