Enough with the braaaaains!

September 30, 2011

I’ve been busy with a lot of other stuff, so DotL has been on the back burner lately. As pretty much all my miniature projects have been on hold for a while, I’ve been posting mostly about zombies, and this post’s no different. It’s also one of my few and far between editorials, this one a bit more rant-ish than usual. It’s about a pet peeve of mine, that I’ve no doubt mentioned before:

Enough with the braaaaaaains!

No, seriously. I’m sick and tired of the enduring connection between zombies and the eating of the human brain. This is what I’m talking about:


Why does this bug me? Because the whole zombies/brains thing stems from Return of the Living Dead. While a fun film, it’s not a real zombie “classic” if the term can be used in this context. Let’s take a look at some of the seminal works of zombie film:

Romero’s original trilogy. Night, Dawn and Day, what do the zombies eat? Flesh.

Fulci’s Zombi films. What do the zombies eat? Flesh.

Resident Evil franchise. What do the zombies eat? Flesh.

Dawn of the Dead remake. Flesh.

Shaun of the Dead. Flesh.

Zombieland. Flesh.

Braindead/Dead Alive. Flesh.

Pretty much any zombie worth its salt. Flesh.

Return of the Living dead films. Braaaaains.

Do we see a pattern emerging?

In fact, I’ve kind of developed a personal habit of immediately looking down on any work of zombie pop culture, that starts heading down the braaaaains road. To me, it speaks to me of superficial knowledge of the genre. Sounds silly? Might be. Then again, imagine the case that in 20 or so years, whenever you mention “vampire”, people start talking about glitter (as per the Twilight novels). Vampire books start focusing on the whole glitter aspect. Eventually, the glitter thing becomes the defining feature of vampires in general. Horrible.

While this might sound and even be peevish, there is a larger issue underlying this. Zombies have been the early 21st century’s pop culture hit, and that has led to movies, books and comics coming out of the woodwork. It’s inevitable that a lot of that material will be of subpar quality, mainly cheap cashing-in on the phenomenon. When you try to find the works worthy of your interest, it’s not a bad idea to see if the creator seems to have some grasp of the history and nuances of the genre. If the focus is on braaaaaains, there’s a good chance that it’s simply a case of riding the hit wave. The atrocious Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is a perfect, if dire, example. The opening line reads

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

And that should’ve been reason enough to skip it altogether. I eventually gave up about half-way through.

There is a lot to the cultural niche that is zombies (see these two for example). While it’s strongly anchored in gory and often trashy entertainment, there are also more interesting, subtle undercurrents: the primal human fear of death, alienation and loss of individuality, the mirroring of whatever is currently the top unknown fear (radiation, pandemics, terrorism) and the questions of whether humanity is capable of cooperation and worthy of survival to mention a few. To skip all this and go with braaaaaaains displays a major lack of said.

The next time you’re thinking of picking up any work on zombies, whether it’s a film, a book or a comic,  see if it passes the ODotLOZDH (Official Dawn of the Lead ordained Zombie Dietary Habit) test: flesh=good, braaaaaains=bad.

You’ll thank me for it.


  1. Braiiiins.


  2. I bloody will now.


  3. I’m so glad that I’m not the only zombie fan to share your view, Mikko. An excellent editorial and I agree with you 100%. I’m at the stage now that whenever I see the word “Braaaaaaains!” I just cringe. It’s not clever and it’s not funny.


  4. […] of the Lead Zombies and Miniature Wargaming « Enough with the braaaaains! Electronic goodness October 1, […]


  5. I have seen it suggested that although eating brains was seen in ‘RotLD’ zombies eating brains and even chanting ”Brainnnnssss” in popular culture can be traced to;
    The Simpsons Season four Episode five Treehouse of Horror 3 “Dial Z for Zombie”
    . This has been repeated constantly since ,1992 plenty of time to seep into the collective unconscious and become accepted.
    As you said ”Return” was a fairly obscure whereas the Simpsons are mainstream culture.


    • Thanks for the comment, Steve! That’s a really interesting note. Will definitely have to look into that, since that sounds like a very reasonable theory. My beloved Simpsons, are you to blame…oh my!


  6. Full agree, although I like the idea of Markus Heitz’s audiobook “Fetzer – You’re undead, you’re a star!” where the more intelligent zombies go for the brains and the everyday zombie does not bother breaking open a hard skull when there is tasty flesh all over the rest of the body that can be reached with less effort and just bites into anything that comes into the reach of his teeth.

    The Twilight thing had me laughing at first, until I realized “The kids nowadays grow up with this crap – they actually don’t know better”… I wonder when the first vampire halloween costume will come out that has rhinestones packaged with it.


    • Hahah, that’s a nice twist on the flesh/brains question. The concept of the intelligent zombie is something I’ve always had trouble with. For me zombies are scary and effective precisely because they have no personality, but are simply inhuman, undead automatons only out to kill. Give them too much intelligence or personality and they’re no longer as effective.

      The Twilight thing might be reality, I’m afraid. There’s a screen capture circulating on the internet of a Facebook exchange between two Finnish teenage girls, going something like:

      “Hahahah tonight on MTV (Finnish tv channel): Interview with the vampire starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt!!! OMG That’s so funny”

      “LOL that’s so lame what a cheap Twilight/Sweeney rip-off”

      Need I say more?


  7. Interesting and intelligent post… I think the B word has gained meme status so don’t expect it to go away soon… My personal bugbear is “Nom nom nom”… until the average regular web user isn’t a 13 year-old Yank this juvenile language will stay… so give it a decade or so and it’ll be spoiled brats from China forming web culture – but then it’ll be in Chinese, the blessing being we won’t even understand it.
    See? Not half as bad.


    • Never really thought of it that way. The Chinese certainly makes it more appealing. To be honest, the idea of zombies going around saying “noooooooommmmm” does have something going for it.


  8. […] qualification required to be a published zombie novelist seems to be the ability to write “braaaaaaains“. The fact that Maberry manages to include a lot of suspense and gory action into the mix is […]


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