If you’ve seen the season finale for iZombie season three, you’ll know that there are big changes on the horizon.
Without getting too far into spoiler territory (just skip this article entirely if you’re worried about that), let’s just say that there are now a lot more zombies, and the wider public are aware of them.
In other words, iZombie just turned into a massive race allegory.
These themes have always been there, bubbling under the surface. After all, Liv is constantly concerned about being accepted by society, her skin color is unusual, and her blood is considered inferior. It’s hard to get away from the obvious metaphor that exists under the surface of the show, even if for the most part, writers have avoided drawing too many direct parallels.
The thing is, though, with a widespread zombie outbreak at the heart of season four, it’s going to impossible to avoid delving into the murky territory of race allegory.
For his part, iZombie executive producer Rob Thomas is still playing this down, but based on a recent interview with TVLine, it’s pretty clear that these themes are unavoidable:
“It’s going to be a radical change. Zombie-ism is out in the open, so it’s going to be the top news story in the world. Seattle just became, effectively, a nuclear power. In fact, each of the 10,000 zombies now living in Seattle is its own sort of nuclear threat, if he or she wanders out of the city and scratches someone. I’m really interested in playing the dynamic of humans and zombies trying to live side-by-side. It’s going to create all sorts of issues this coming season.”
This is great, to a certain extent. But it’s also going to be incredibly awkward.
Zombies are the perfect literary tool to explore the concept of the Other – people who, for whatever reason, are separate and feared by society. There’s no ethical quandry about killing undead monsters, which is why they’re so popular in video games and trashy action movies.
These creatures are often used as allegories for societal issues. Dawn of the Dead, for example, with its shopping mall setting, is meant to be a commentary on consumerism and how easy it is to lose your humanity in a crowd.
The message is always the same, though: zombies are gross, and bad.
iZombie subverts this typical theme by making the undead relatable. We’re meant to identify with Liv, and feel for her in circumstances where her zombie nature makes her feel inferior or unaccepted.
As such, opening this up by introducing a larger zombie population is a natural evolution of the show’s themes, and provides a way for the show to discuss treatment of minorities in society in a safe space that’s mostly free from politics.
That said, there are a few issues with this.
First off, zombies are actually dangerous – they have to eat people in order to survive. This isn’t a perfect analogy to race relations, simply because in the real world, cannibalism isn’t an issue that’s caught up in the mix.
The bigger problem, though, is that the show isn’t exactly a fair commentary. Liv is very, very white – that’s kind of the point – as are the majority of the showrunners working on this film. iZombie isn’t exactly Get Out; it’s not a story that’s being told by racial minorities to explain their own genuine fears about modern life and the way their neighbors treat them.
This isn’t to say that white people can’t provide commentary on race relations – it’s just that, coming from this particular show, that message can easily lose power or come across as awkward and problematic if not handled with the utmost care.
There’s reason to be excited about iZombie delving further into its themes of acceptance, especially now that Liv is about to face an increased risk of being outed as an Other.
Just, be prepared to cringe at moments in the fourth season. It’ll be hard to avoid a few moments of awkward humor.