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Three Reasons To Watch IN THE FLESH

Zombies are a dime-a-dozen these days. They’re everywhere in pop-culture, and it’s understandable that some folks might be feeling a bit fatigued by now. For the ardent fans out there however, one gem might have passed them by.

In The Flesh is a British televsion show that first aired back in March of 2013, and whose second season just finished up in June of 2014. It was created and written by Dominic Mitchell, and has won a BAFTA. If you’re even a small fan of the undead, it’s definitely worth watching.

1. A Different Take On Zombies

In 1968, George A. Romero introduced to the world the modern zombie with Night of the Living Dead. A departure from the traditional voodoo zombie, it was a revolution in horror, and Romero continued to develop the mythology through subsequent films.

In the fifty years since then, zombies have taken almost every possible form, from Romero’s undead walkers to the rage virus-inflicted living chargers of 28 Days Later (hey, if it walks and talks like a zombie flick, it’s a zombie flick). There’s even been a few sentient zombies here and there, with probably the most well-known example being Warm Bodies.

However, while Warm Bodies was a fairly lighthearted take on the idea of zombies regaining their humanity, In The Flesh combines a serious, politically driven focus with a refreshing take on the more supernatural elements of zombie fiction. Instead of the popular infection narrative, there’s a more pulpy “Rising” of the dead, and a war between them and the living. Scientists then developed daily medical treatment for the zombies which suppresses the symptoms of what is now known as “Partially Deceased Syndrome”.

Through medication and government rehabilitation programs, ‘PDS’ sufferers are now able to reintegrate into society. There are difficulties though, and this is where In The Flesh shines. The communities once plagued by the undead must now welcome them, and the plot focuses on the societal and political clashes between the two groups. The show addresses institutional oppression and trained prejudices openly in ways many others would hesitate to approach.

The zombie subgenre, despite its decidedly progressive beginnings with Night of the Living Dead, has historically had a really weird implied relationship with race and the working and middle-classes, somewhat unintentionally using the zombie as a metaphor for the terrifying Other (marginalized groups) and victim-blaming through analogies to ‘mindless consumerism’.

In The Flesh flips the trope on its head, approaching the Other not as terrifying and threatening but as groups of people faced with a harsh reality. In this sense, the show is yet another evolution of the zombie in a much more interesting direction.

2. Well-Written Women and Queer People, & A Sensitive Take on Illness & Disability

While ‘monster as metaphor’ can be tired and often troubling in ways it obscures the actual realities of marginalized groups, In The Flesh is more successful in its execution due to actual respectful inclusion of gender & sexual minorities, women, and people that live with mental and physical illnesses and disabilities.

Let’s not be too idealistic. The show definitely has problems with depictions of people of color. As in, there are hardly any. So if you’re looking for racial diversity, In The Flesh comes up incredibly short.

That’s not to ignore the fantastic female characters though. Women make up a large portion of the show’s cast, and there’s incredible variety in them as people. Women are treated as human beings with personalities, flaws, differing ideologies, and so on rather than as sexual objects. Even the female antagonists and minor characters are written with care and respect.

There’s also canonical LGBT+ characters! There’s no need for guesswork or digging through subtleties here, folks. Gay and bisexual people actually exist in the world of In The Flesh as more than cheap jokes, and the show is not shy about it in the least.

Lastly, as a group, people with mental/physical illnesses and disabilities are hardly ever in popular media, and when they are, they’re usually demonized or made insultingly infantile.

In The Flesh approaches depression, suicide, addiction, and disability not just through the zombie metaphor but as issues that can be faced by anyone. Being undead is treated just like any other illness, and the fearful and ignorant reactions to those with Partially Deceased Syndrome will be painfully familiar to audience members who live with illness and disability.

3. A Talented Cast

Let’s be real though, what good is a show with a potentially fantastic plot and characters if the actors can’t pull the weight of it? The cast here is top-notch. Luke Newberry, as the main character Keiren Walker, leads excellently. There’s tremendous chemistry between Newberry and his co-stars Emily Bevan and Emmett Scanlan that makes the relationships feel natural.

Wunmi Musako and Steve Evets perform as some of the best antagonists in recent memory, with real and understandable motivations. Their characters are the ones you love to hate.

The supporting cast also features lots of actors that bring great emotion to their subplots, keeping you invested in the fate of the whole community and not just the leads. There’s little wonder why In The Flesh won the awards it did!

If you’re a zombie fan, In The Flesh should be required viewing. If you like British drama, queue this up. Heck, if you just like a good show with lots of humor that will also break your heart into a million little pieces, check this out.

Featured Image Source: Mirror Online

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Categories: Lists and Editorials

Author:Rito

Professional grump. Writes media criticism at WURRWALF.net. Whines on Twitter a lot. Likes rice.

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