It’s a familiar story, we are all constantly aware of the pending Zombie Apocalypse. Countless films, TV programmes and series have covered the issue but never has a story centred around the un-dead been used to make so many different points.
BBC3’s ‘In the Flesh’ was about the lives of the Partially Undead Syndrome (PDS) sufferers – at least this was their politically correct name – to those in the village of Roarton it was about the lives of ‘Rotters’. We’re introduced to the lead character Ren, a youthful, blonde and fragile boy in a rehab centre. He, as with many PDS sufferers, is on the cusp of being re-integrated into society a year after ‘The Rising’ occurred; which saw people who had been freshly buried in the ground rise from the dead. With a daily dose of meds injected into the back of the neck, he is chemically balanced enough to go back into the ‘community’ (and not return to the uncontrollable state of eating the living again).
But home, is not a safe place to return too. Roarton, in the middle of nowhere, suffered heavily in ‘The Rising’, as the army tied up the cities, they weren’t able to get out to the rural village’s inhabitants. In the end they were defended by a group of villages who banded together as the Human Volunteer Force (HVF). Led in Roarton by the Vicar, the HVF, who are supposed to have disbanded at this point in the story at a nationwide level, are still in full force. They police the streets and watch the forests for any left over ‘Rotters’.
So far I’m sure you’re asking whats different? The story which is squeezed into 3 short hours covers many taboo topics in a way that accepts them as things that happen. Most shows would have picked one divisive issue to focus on, but this show tackles being gay in a prejudiced community, that hated you for your sexuality when you were alive, and hates you now, for waking from the dead.
It’s not an entirely original concept, using zombies to make comment on the ‘human experience’ and how we, in times of struggle turn to a certain group to blame all things evil on – i.e. ‘scapegoating’. It was once the communists that inspired moral panic, nowadays the ‘others’ are Immigrants, The Youth, Technology – They are our Zombies. ‘In the Flesh’ is by no means a happy watch, but it is a beautiful watch. We find out early on that Ren is ‘partially deceased’ because he committed suicide; his family feel blessed to have him back – but he is still unhappy. Over the three episodes we see him grapple with the facts that he doesn’t want to be living, but he carries on, for his family. On top of this we have to deal with a heart breaking romance storyline in Ren’s life too.
All to often we imagine mental health sufferers, as Ren is portrayed, ‘one of them crazy zombie looking people’. However what most don’t realise is that 1 in 4 people suffer with a mental health issues at some point in their life. Gay people in particular are more likely to suffer with 1 in 4 gay people having self harmed or attempted suicide at some point in their life. Men are also three times more likely to commit suicide than women, with suicide being a larger killer of young men than traffic accidents, assaults and HIV.
We talk about different cultures, we talk about different races, we talk about different sexualities, we talk about differences all the time. The overall message of ‘In the Flesh’ is that life is precious and we should all talk about that more. Its time to break the taboo, and TALK about Mental Health.
Campaign Against Living Miserably – (CALM) exists to prevent male suicide in the UK
Harmless – Harmless is a user led organisation that provides a range of services about self harm including support, information, training and consultancy to people who self harm, their friends and families and professionals.
Mind – Mental Health Charity