The Vampires vs. Zombies discussion has been around for years, and while many said zombies could be the up and coming new romantic lead, it never made any sense to me. Vampires are clearly sexy: they’re mysterious, dark, and brooding, but still mostly human. They have history. They have intelligence. They have individual personalities. They’re “normal”—at least until you discover the danger lurking beneath. Even then, that danger comes in the form of biting your neck! Totally sexy, especially in that stereotypical “bad boy” way.
Zombies, on the other hand, could never be sexy to me. They were always too freaky looking. For one, they’re usually covered in rotting flesh, with skin falling off and yellowed teeth gnarling. On top of that, they’re no longer capable of saying anything other than “braaaaaiiinnnsss,” if they could even get that out. Whenever anyone tried to romanticize zombies, I said “no way.”
The 2013 film Warm Bodies got close, with its Romeo and Juliet story about a zombie-hero, R (Nicholas Hoult), and his human love interest, Julie (Teresa Palmer). But by the end, Julie’s love not only conquers all, it essentially turns R back into a human. Those zombies have a more serious enemy to fight anyway: a more far-gone kind of zombie called Bonies.
But now, with the help of Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright’s awesome television series, iZombie, starring Rose McIver as newly zombified medical student-turned-coroner Liv, I can finally see zombies as a romantic lead, and it’s thrilling.
Yes, the Veronica Mars creator took a few liberties with the well-known zombie mythology and made his zombies more like the humans they were before they became undead—as long as they eat brains quickly and regularly after they change. If they don’t eat brains regularly, Thomas told Entertainment Weekly, “They become the quintessential or old school zombie, or what in the show we refer to as ‘Romeros’ ”: the snarling, gurgling, meandering zombies that we know and love to hate. Thomas essentially made his zombies more like vampires: undead humans with carefully guarded secrets.
But that doesn’t mean we’ve seen it all before. iZombie revitalizes both the zombie genre and the procedural genre through a new conceit: Not only do Thomas’s zombies have distinct personalities, remembering who they were before, but they temporarily adopt the personality traits of the brains they ingest. This sometimes wreaks havoc on their lives as they know it, but it also allows Liv to help solve crimes.
Liv also wrestles with her newfound place in the world and in the lives of those she loves: her mother and brother (who we haven’t seen in a while now), her best friend, and her former fiancé, who she split with after becoming a zombie. She doesn’t know if love can be part of her life anymore, since she fears for the safety of those she’s with. When she meets another oh so sexy new zombie, she realizes that love is still possible. And it shows me that it is possible to make zombies the new romantic lead. Well played, Mr. Thomas. Well played.