Reality Bites: MythBusters Zombie Special

There are a millions reality shows on the naked television. We're going to watch them all, one at a time.

Even as an avowed fan of the genre, I worry about the pervasiveness of zombies in pop culture. Then again, it's almost Halloween, so I can get away with it here.

Zombies are so ubiquitous at this point that I'm not sure why the recent MythBusters special even raised an eyebrow. It wasn't a naked ratings grab, as far as I could tell (the show is consistently among Discovery Channel's most popular), and there was little danger of hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage taking things too seriously (though the concept of a "zombie apocalypse" has aggravatingly crossed the boundary from genre construct to potential reality for some people). Fortunately, they treated the whole endeavor with exactly as much gravity as it deserved.

Adam informs us there's a myth(?) that axes are superior to guns for combatting the undead. I imagine this is in reference to Max Brooks' Zombie Survival Guide. And true enough. in a - *sigh* - real zombie apocalypse, you'd want something that won't run out of ammunition, so unless you're safely ensconced on the roof of a gun store like the sniper dude in Day of the Dead, you'll want a melee weapon with some reach.

Helping Adam and Jamie in their "research" is Michael Rooker, AKA "Merle Dixon" from The Walking Dead. Rooker offers the volunteers who will be helping demonstrate the efficacy of the competing weapons (i.e. serving as targets) a few pointers. Good idea, since I can't imagine anyone who's grown up in the last 30 years has *any idea* how to fake a zombie shamble.

Using "science" to establish the attack parameters, Adam averages 14 kills, and that's with a foam-headed axe he's not really swinging (it's a safe bet his noodly arms would give out a lot faster with the real deal). Jamie, armed only with a single action or pump paintball gun, only averages seven kills. The lesson is clear: get out there and convert your AR-15s to full auto, kids. Never mind what the Illuminati/New World Order collaborators in our government tell you.

Meanwhile, the "Build Team" (Tony Belleci, Kari Byron, and Grant Imahara) tests the "myth" of outrunning a zombie horde, using zombie parameters outlined by TWD's Greg Nicotero (in essence, the zombies from Night of the Living Dead are canon). The exercise takes place amidst 150 zombies on a football field-sized area on the Alameda Runway, which we're told represents a population density equivalent to that of Manhattan (90,000 people per square mile). Kari makes it through with relative ease, though it's possible the MythBusters fanboys in zombie attire just didn't want her to look bad.

Increasing the population density to 180,000/sq mile complicates things, until Kari uses live bait (Tony) to distract the horde. I like the cut of her jib. Distracting the zombies also seems to work, "work" meaning "effective against a bunch of humans told how to behave in advance by the guy who played Merle." Personally, I've alway found Kevan Davis' Zombie Infection Simulator to be the last word in such exercises. Running across open spaces to a clearly demarcated finish line is one thing, trapped in a densely packed urban environment is something else. And what about traffic jams? Barricades? Abandoned military checkp...

No, stop it. You're only encouraging them.

Finally, Jamie and Michael Rooker test the myth that a mass of zombies could break down a door. This one turns out to be true ... to a point. Entranceways can be reinforced sufficiently to repel masses of undead, given enough scrap wood and power tools.

So what did we learn? Michael Rooker hates zombies; Kari Byron would be the most likely to survive a zombie apocalypse because she's so darn adorable; and any doorway can be made impregnable, provided you have an unlimited supply of surplus lumber (and a shitload of deck screws).

And also that we're all screwed if the undead turn out to be the dreaded "fast zombies."

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