Christian Commentary

Zombies and the Fall of Europe

Kari Atalla, Blogger-Singer-Songer-Writer

7 October 2018

Disclaimers and Spoilers: As important as the takeaways are, I am not recommending the following movie. It’s not so much about the violence as it is about it being committed by a polite 14-year-old girl who dislikes her behavior, but not enough to be horrified by it, at times even aloof about it. Though Melanie understands why she is feared, she practically assesses her “appetite” as a regrettable instinct to be accommodated in the moments when it cannot be controlled. The juxtaposition of the character’s naïveté visually colored by her savagery is terrible by design; it is necessary to the movie’s credibility as more than melodramatic gore for gore’s sake. The reasons it is still a valuable piece of art (not to be confused with pleasant or beautiful) are explored in the body of this article.

I Am Legend. 28 Days Later. World War Z. Although I’m not a huge fan of the genre, these are probably the best modern zombie movies I’ve ever seen (the last one barely making the cut). Just so we’re crystal clear, I don’t endorse or enjoy everything depicted in these films, but overall, I can appreciate the angst as a rallying cry (humanity defeating the zombies, usually by the merits of the former) or the scariest PSA possible (the zombies defeating humanity, usually by the flaws of the latter).

While it’s easier for me to delight in the witty romance of a Tracy-Hepburn or Hanks-Ryan flick, I cannot discount the redemptive themes of these humanoid monster movies. Many of them are downright allegorical. And so, because I love the sci-fi guy I married, I have learned to appreciate whenever I can this ultra-terrifying approach to old-fashioned Westerns (and vice versa).

Image: Amazon

In this frame of mind, we decided to take a chance on The Girl with All the Gifts. With more than four out of five stars in user ratings, an actress I recognized in the starring role (Glenn Close), and free on Amazon Prime, there wasn’t too much of a gamble on this one. Like anything else, we could shut it off if it was stupid.

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From the very beginning, the movie is jarring. The audience can’t fathom the circumstances that would warrant calm children kept in solitary confinement, escorted by angry armed soldiers through a military facility with their unimposing forms secured by leather straps to wheelchairs. They’re going to school. Their teacher, Ms. Justineau, brings out the best in these bright students. She is softer toward the children than the soldiers, and we can’t for the life of us makes sense of the guard’s overreaction when she attempts a gesture of warmth toward one girl, Melanie—until he educates us with his reminder to the teacher. Baring his arm, the guard tempts a student from a safe distance, and one by one, the children lose their minds trying to attack him. They’re zombies.

Without getting too deep into the plot, the basic idea is that a remnant of the military personnel must lead Dr. Caldwell, Ms. Justineau, and Melanie through a zombie-overrun London more than ten years after the physically-contracted virus first began infecting the population. Dr. Caldwell believes she has figured out a medicine that would inoculate uninfected humans, but she laments that she needs Melanie to volunteer her life for it. The teacher, protected by Melanie from zombies at the base, now protects her from the doctor, who herself is torn over what to do, unable to determine whether Melanie is human.

In the meantime, the team discovers a column of vines on which seed pods are housing the virus, just waiting to be activated by flood or fire. If the hard shells are opened, the virus would then become airborne, effectively wiping out humanity. Dr. Caldwell again pleads with Melanie to be the cure, and she tries to understand the new tone of apology in the doctor’s pleas. “Are you saying then that I am not just mimicking human emotions? That I am alive?” she asks, desperate to be accepted. The doctor hesitates and then answers, “Yes. You are alive”—and we are relieved to see the first promising lights of plot resolution, just sure that that was all that poor Melanie wants to hear. Nope.

“Then why should we die, so that you may live?”

Melanie turns on the doctor, threatening to attack her so that she can race back to the vines. She sets the column on fire. The spores fall like snow, infecting all the remaining survivors. That is, everyone except Ms. Justineau, who is safely sealed in an airtight room. The movie closes with the roles reversed, the tearful but dutiful teacher in solitary confinement, accepting defeat and conducting lessons for Melanie and others like her over a loudspeaker.

Those last eight sentences happen in the last ten minutes of the movie. All at once, humanity’s heroes are now the villains, and the villains are now a bona fide race with a noble claim on the globe. We aren’t given time to recover. It’s not the first time humanity loses to zombies, but this is different. Time-and-space different. We’re supposed to embrace this outcome.

Why? The West has been so long been taught to hate itself that we can no longer justify our continued authority in the world. That’s right, everyone. This zombie movie is an allegory of the rise of Islam in modern Europe.

No stranger to lucid dreams, I was prepared for a sleepless night, but the theory, not the violence, kept me awake as I revisited the different elements of the story. Soon, I decided to try a couple of Google searches to figure out if I was seeing something that just wasn’t there.

Though unimpressed by the movie overall, Robert Abele of the Los Angeles Times did mention that “it lopes toward its ending. . . undistinguished by any remarkable direction or performance— save Close’s late bid for mad-doctor zest.” Hero-villain flip, check.

Then, I read this review from Hollywood in Toto:

“While some zombie movies embrace social meaning or metaphors, [Gifts] is far less obvious. You might spot something about one potential message, though.

“It’s the most chilling aspect of the film.

“’It’s not our world anymore,’ one character confesses.

“Is that a progressive acknowledgment of our increasingly diverse culture? A nod to the rise of radical Islam? Or merely the notion that it takes one fungal outbreak and we’re all back to survival mode?”

The only thing I would change about that excerpt is his use of “or.” Thanks to a push toward globalization, this world is shrinking by the minute. The dark side of global unity is global vulnerability. There are so many paths to catastrophe, and frankly, it wouldn’t take much. As my husband often quips, the only reason the building hasn’t yet collapsed is that the termites are holding hands.

Back to The Girl with All the Gifts, though. In the book, Dr. Caldwell reveals to Melanie that there is no cure. However, director Colm McCarthy offers us the hope of remedy. Why the change? It replaces the inevitable—humanity doomed— with a moral question about what ought to be.

Let’s suppose that humanity in the movie represents the West. What did humanity do? Humanity bound children as monsters. Healthy adults wage war against infected adults and children (the absence of healthy children itself noteworthy). Humanity was willing to acknowledge the value of a zombie child and still ask her to sacrifice herself for the sake of humanity, not her own kind.

And let’s suppose the zombies represent the next generation of Muslims brought up in Europe. What did Melanie do? She helped her enemies. She just wanted to be accepted. Her brutality was a reality of her unchangeable nature to be accommodated, not a barbarism to be overcome. “They just want to survive,” she offers, empathizing not with the ambushed man but with his killers.

Which is the more grievous party? Humanity. The West. We have been told that our survival is at the expense of others. We have been told that the shortcomings of the Islamic culture are generally provoked by our own polished but equally barbaric shortcomings. Only a barbaric culture would ask a person of intrinsic human worth to help defeat her own kind. Only a barbaric West would enrich itself amidst the poverty of the Middle East.

By the way, I’m not saying Muslims are zombies. Okay, some of them are, but the main point is still the same. The cure works for everybody, Westerner and Muslim alike: regeneration at salvation through the biblical Jesus Christ alone.

Why not cheer for the cure? Well, European atheism, for starters.

Jesus Christ as the answer, the Christianity that lifted the continent out of spiritual darkness, is vital to the history that the atheists of Europe loathe. “Nothing created everything” offers little nothing in terms of a counterargument to the invading nations.

David Wood of Acts 17 Apologetics Ministries brilliantly addresses the emptiness of atheism in his short video “Atheism, Islam, and the Dawkins Dilemma.”  Complete with graphs and statistics, he begins by examining a presentation by the famous atheist Richard Dawkins:

“’The purpose of all living things,’ says Dawkins, ‘is to spread copy-me programs written in DNA language. Flowers are for spreading around instructions for more flowers, bees [for more] bees, elephants [for more] elephants, and birds [for more] birds. . . We are machines built by DNA whose [sole] purpose is to make more copies of the same DNA.’

“Why is this interesting? While many people are declaring themselves to be atheists, birth rates among atheists are so low that the atheist population is actually shrinking as a percentage of the world population.

“In Dawkins-ian terms, atheists and agnostics are poor propagators of DNA. As a group, Muslims are the best propagators of DNA. . . So, if Islam leads to increased production of DNA, it’s clear that Islam helps human beings fulfill their sole purpose in life. Atheism, by contrast, is detrimental to human purpose. Apart from contracting some sort of debilitating disease, nothing keeps human beings from fulfilling their purpose like becoming an atheist.”

Wood then goes on to explain the Dawkins Dilemma. Essentially, if humanity’s purpose is to propagate DNA, atheism hinders humanity and should be abandoned in favor of Islam. However, if atheists do not want to convert to Islam, atheism needs a higher, biology-transcendent purpose for humanity. The failure of atheism to provide that higher purpose is also grounds for abandoning atheism. No matter how you look at it, atheism implodes.

That said, Wood goes on to explain the reason for the high birth rates of Islam, namely the violence prescribed against women as intrinsically inferior to men. The treatment of women in Muslim countries is categorically brutal. It’s an unfathomable, intolerable norm largely rejected by the West (even as some women’s rights groups deliberately ignore this reality). One might call it barbarism.

Though unimpressed by the movie overall, Robert Abele of the Los Angeles Times did mention that “it lopes toward its ending. . . undistinguished by any remarkable direction or performance— save Close’s late bid for mad-doctor zest.” Hero-villain flip, check.

However, in McCarthy’s world, everything from the Crusades to the modern entanglements in Middle Eastern affairs is the West’s equivalent of Islam’s shortcomings. We’re just two exclusive cultures fighting over a fixed pie. The struggle will not last forever.

Near the end of the movie, Sergeant Eddie Parks, the leader of the survivors, realizes that he has breathed in the airborne spores. He has a decision to make in a matter of seconds: convert, or die. As the seed pods continue to open, he pleads with Melanie to shoot him before the virus overtakes his system. “Don’t let me become like them,” he says, nodding toward the undignified dead.

Shuddering to think of how many in the European audience identify with the sergeant in this moment, I asked a Christian friend of mine in Europe to watch the movie and send me her take. The no-go zones in major cities, the rise in crime, the terrorist attacks— despite the efforts of Geert Wilders and others like him, only Stalin-grade atheism would stand a real chance against these new realities, but nobody (with a grasp of unrevised history) wants another Soviet Union.

So, what did my friend have to say about the movie? “Sorry, but that movie doesn’t even seem to be available here,” she wrote.

“I can’t imagine why. Too afraid y’all would see it for what it is and rise up?”

“Haha. The joy of socialist censorship.”

This movie wasn’t for the persuaded. It was for us.

Kari Atalla repented and put her faith in Jesus in 2007. Check out her music projects for free on Facebook and YouTube. Follow her on Twitter – @Kari_Atalla