On zombies and vampires and French philosophy and burger commercials

In honor of Halloween and the zombies and vampires dotting our pop-culture landscape nowadays, I’m kicking off an occasional Quote-o-Matic series.

Simone Weil; Frolicking zombies from Quirk Book's 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies'

Simone Weil seems pensive, while zombies frolic on the pages of Quirk Book's 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.'

I love a rollicking vampire soap opera as much as the next person, not to mention an enthralling, brain-eating rendition of Pride and Prejudice … but I also like to remember what Simone Weil wrote in Gravity and Grace:

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied; real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, boring. Imaginary good is boring; real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.”

So true, yes? Simone Weil, the famous French philosopher, writer and social activist, struggled to find the kind of faith that would sustain her considerable, complex intellectual life. Robert Coles admired her as “a thoroughly distinctive person, one to some extent scientifically sophisticated, and yet one with a decidedly mystical and reverently spiritual side.”

It’s probably a similar yearning for supernatural mystery that draws so many of us to zombie and vampire lore. But instead of presenting an insightful analysis of this phenomenon, I’m busy thinking about a vintage hamburger commercial.

Remember that old McDLT commercial from the ’80s with Jason Alexander? “Keep the hot, hot – keep the cool, cool!” sang the eager carnivores as they danced down the street. Right, so let’s “Keep the evil, imaginary – keep the good, real!” You may need watch the commercial again and then sing it aloud with the new words to feel where I’m going here. Imagine if I had staged a musical number with subtle allusions to “Thriller” and the McDLT and French philosophy as a commentary about the illusory, tempting nature of fictional evil. Noone would have seen that coming. Not even the most charming of savvy, Louisiana-based vampires.

Illustration from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Quirk Books

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