The Rise of the Feminist Zombie

They're not the only ones looking for brains.

Feminist Zombie
(Image credit: Diyah Pera/The CW)

The way I see it, we're on a three-step zombie cultural assimilation plan—Plan Z, if you will. Phase 1 was "Slow-moving but belligerent sacs of infectious goo." Like moving targets that sometimes bit back but were mostly too wiped out to do anything but groan and shuffle around, the standard-model undead is there 1) to prove the protagonists' cleverness, bravery, humanity, etc. and 2) to otherwise act as a featureless horde, and 3) to prompt us to consider our own survival if/when an unmentioned cataclysmic event occurs outside of the movies.

Then we move on to The Needy Girlfriend. As a lovelorn vessel who resurrects herself by sheer determination to win her man back, she wastes her last and only spark of life pining away for a guy who, customarily, has already replaced her or wanted to dump her before she bit the dust anyway. This is Aubrey Plaza in Life After Beth and Ashley Greene in the dreadful-looking, upcoming Burying the Ex, and sometimes her plotline ends with the man dispatching her to wherever they send reanimated level-65 clingy girlfriends. Really.

It might be unfair to expect every girl zombie to get a backstory and a happy ending—it's not like all of them can be reintegrated into society, after all—but to reduce her to nothing more than a longing for a guy just reads so incredibly lame.

(Short aside: They're slightly off-topic here, but shout-out to all the badass female zombie slayers hacking off limbs and defending their towns on TV/the silver screen. Brandish that katana, girl.)

So that brings us to the third class: Liv Moore of iZombie. After a designer-drug-fueled boat party transforms her from hyper-driven medical resident to lethargic, semi-human slug, uninterested in anything except hot sauce-doused frontal lobe nuggets, she finally snaps out of it when she begins solving crimes and helping the poor, murdered citizens of Seattle. Suddenly, she's smart and commanding and brave, and arguably even more alive than she was before.

What's different here is that it's not "love" that brings her back—it's purpose. And that's why movies like Burying the Ex feel like a step backward in both zombie evolutionary theory and feminism. But who knows? Maybe in the middle, she'll go, "Bye, Anton Yelchin. I'm off to become the first Zombie-American Supreme Court justice." Maybe she'll end up with him but develop some personality traits along the way. Just give her something. Because, even if she's not quite the woman she used to be, she's still more than a body that just won't quit.

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Chelsea Peng
Assistant Editor

Chelsea Peng is a writer and editor who was formerly the assistant editor at She's also worked for The Strategist and Refinery29, and is a graduate of Northwestern University. On her tombstone, she would like a GIF of herself that's better than the one that already exists on the Internet and a free fro-yo machine. Besides frozen dairy products, she's into pirates, carbs, Balzac, and snacking so hard she has to go lie down.