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Thinking About Others, Zombies, and Painful Truths
By Kate Hickey
In the media these days, bigger is generally better. We want explosions. We want big budgets. We want the CGI to look like real life. And sometimes, because of that, we let narrative quality slide in favor of those technological features. There’s nothing wrong with that from time to time—I love a good, loud, CGI explosion as much as the next girl—but I frequently find myself craving shows that are smaller scale, quieter, and choose the story over the graphics. One such television program has recently caught my attention, and it’s called In The Flesh. Created and written by Dominic Mitchell for England’s BBC3, In The Flesh has become pretty popular in recent months, but it still has a long way to go before anyone would consider it a big part of the mainstream media.
In The Flesh takes place in the fictional village of Roarton, a small, rural community in England, and the tensions in the town are running high as the show opens. This is because the rehabilitated, medicated, Partially Deceased Syndrome Sufferers are being reintroduced into society for the first time since the Rising ended. In a nutshell – zombies are back in town. Humanity faced the zombie apocalypse and it survived. In The Flesh begins post-post-apocalypse.
In The Flesh tackles some tough topics both beautifully and subtly. The people of this world have accepted the fantastic into their mundane lives, and what’s amazing is that the fantastic does not eliminate the ordinariness of these people, for better and for worse. The Partially-Deceased Syndrome serves as a metaphor for any kind of Other, anything that makes someone “weird” or “abnormal” or “wrong” according to what the society at large has deemed the standard. The PDS Sufferers in Roarton deal with slurs, segregation, and violence from the rest of the community. They wear make-up and contacts in order to hide their true faces, not only to keep themselves safe from attacks, but also because of the self-loathing that comes from being the Other in a community.
In The Flesh focuses on Kieren Walker, a PDS Sufferer who returns to Roarton once his medication starts to work. Kieren, played by Luke Newberry, is quiet and sweet, though in his first life he was much more of a rebel. His family welcomes him back, despite clear tensions about Kieren’s death and rising, and Kieren tries to assimilate back into society. Unfortunately, his wish becomes impossible due to the local anti-PDS military group called the Human Volunteer Force. The HVF fought the zombies during the Rising and they’re keen to make sure no zombies come back to Roarton, no matter what the government says. Kieren and others like him must keep a low profile in order to be safe.
One aspect of In The Flesh that I found refreshing and fascinating was the inclusion of religion. In this supernatural future world where zombies can be medicated, the treatment of religion in this show is highly realistic and, in my opinion, excellently critical of religion while not insulting religious people. It brings light to religious extremism and shows that kind of corruption for what it is. It even shows that the people who follow their church’s teachings blindly are just as awful as the corrupt leaders. It illustrates how religion can keep a community apart rather than promoting amity because of the determination that one side is more morally “right” than the other.
But this isn’t limited to the humans who hate the PDS Sufferers. Just as many of the good characters are religious as the bad ones. I wouldn’t say this show is about religious extremism, but rather that religious extremism is a key facet of the show’s makeup. Both the humans and the PDS use religion to their advantage, to justify their violent actions, rather than discussing issues or grievances. In The Flesh depicts the reality in how religion operates in a community - it's a spectrum of hate and love.
In The Flesh is primarily about people and what people do when they live in a small space together. It gives a huge berth of characters that, despite their zombie affliction, could be someone you meet at a party, or a rally, or at work. This show, despite its significant nonhuman element, is a love letter to the human condition. And it’s the kind of love letter that has taken off the rose-tinted glasses. Dominic Mitchell sees all kinds of potentially terrible things about humanity, sees how society can affect huge populations of people negatively, sees that life is messy and difficult and frequently unpleasant, and he says, “It’s a gift.”
And he’s truly given us a gift with In The Flesh. The inclusion of explicitly queer characters and the excellently well-rounded women characters make In The Flesh more true-to-reality than most supernaturally based shows. The writing is witty and sharp, occasionally silly, and emotionally evocative in its minimalism. I hope you will all give In The Flesh a watch, although do be warned—it’s a little graphic in places, due to zombie content, so discretion is advised. If you love this show as much as I do, please take a moment and go onto twitter and tweet #SaveInTheFlesh because even though this wonderful, exceptional, emotional show has won for Best Mini-Series and Best Writer at the British Academy of Film and Television Awards, there’s a chance that it will not be renewed for a third season! And trust me, once you see the end of season two, you will not be satisfied with such an ending.
#Real #TVShow #InTheFlesh #DominicMitchell #BBC3 #Zombies #ZombieApocalypse #Supernatural #Religion
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