The Zombie Rights Campaign Blog

An Open Letter to Stephen Notley

Mr. Notley,

As a long-time reader of Bob the Angry Flower I can recall your announcement some time ago that you had obtained employment at PopCap Games, well known for their puzzle adventures involving jewels and what not. Perhaps the delightful insanity from your signature comic strip could even be captured in an interactive form someday; the sky seemed to be the limit.

Little did I know, however, that you would turn your considerable authorial talents against one of the most underserved and poorly understood minority populations by writing Plants vs. Zombies. Why, Mr. Notley? What made you turn on the Zombie community?

Maybe it wasn’t so much a turn as a long-simmering hatred. Searching the BtAF archives, it appears in 1998 you created a comic, ‘Brainstorming at Zombie City Hall’, in which Bob tries to get the elected representatives of a city, apparently a city of Zombies, to focus on something other than eating brains when determining civic policy. Simultaneously this comic perpetuates the stale ‘brain-eating’ stereotype about Zombies and expresses frustration with the whole Zombie community for acting according to the asserted stereotype. However, much like Plants vs. Zombies, it also assumes that Zombies possess the (comically under-utilized) ability to reason, making them less threats and more the butt of a joke.

Well, it assumes those things, and that Zombies reflexively want to raise your taxes, I guess. The comic poses a quandry for the Zombie Rights lobby: Is it better to be cast as hopeless automatons, or as stupid creatures just barely smart enough to have the potential for agency, but too dumb to use it to rise above their base instincts?

Where does this bitterness and prejudice toward the Undead come from, Mr. Notley? Did the proverbial Zombie run over your childhood pet? Perhaps a Zombie public figure let you down at some point? Was a Zombie relative less than loving and supportive in your formative years? I wonder.

I can only regret that this information crossed our desks here at the ZRC so recently, when we purchased the XBLA version of Plants vs. Zombies to review. Perhaps if we had been made aware of your fears and apprehension concerning the Differently Animated sooner, we could have helped, before you attempted to exorcise your personal demons in this harmful and counterproductive manner. Instead we have yet another media product defaming the Zombie community, reinforcing the harmful stereotypes held by the living about their Undead brethren, sowing discord and distrust that we must work to counteract.

Especially amongst the young, for Plants vs. Zombies, despite its disturbing and graphic violence against Zombies, somehow manages to receive an ESRB rating of E, stating that the game is ‘For Everyone’.

Everyone with a pulse and an axe to grind, maybe.

How many busy parents will purchase this tower defense travesty for their errant children, whose minds will harden against their Zombie schoolmates as they mow down the virtual Undead at home with peas, and potato mines, and cherry bombs? What will the next generation take away from your work, Mr. Notley? How will they treat the next generation of the Undead, having been weaned on this violence at home?

Won’t somebody please think of the Zombie children?


John J Sears
President of The Zombie Rights Campaign

About The Author

The role of 'Administrator' will be played tonight by John Sears, currently serving as President of The Zombie Rights Campaign.


2 Responses to “An Open Letter to Stephen Notley”

  1. You make sensible points, John. I hold no special animosity towards the zombie community, though I accept I have participated in promulgating stereotypes about same. Were I to meet a single zombie who treated me with courtesy and respect rather than with a groping claw-toothed scramble for my skull, I must confess I would be better disposed towards the, as you call them, “Differently Animated.” As it is now, I am likely to seek the sturdiest shovel I may find to plant in my attacker’s melon.

    I lay my prejudice bare. I see zombies as a curse and a class of monstrosity, pitiful beings with no desire other than for brains and, perhaps in their best moments, for utter destruction. If these unliving creatures have other purposes, I await evidence of such with great interest.


    Stephen Notley

  2. John Sears says:

    I am sorry to hear that you have had unfortunate encounters with Zombies after your apparently delicious grey matter in the past, though I have to ask, precisely how often have you been so accosted? Can you, in fact, be certain that the individuals after your brain were Zombies? I speak now as a resident of the great state of Wisconsin, home to Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein, where we understand all too well that frenzied cannibal does not automatically equate to Zombie.

    (Slight spoilers for Plants vs. Zombies follow, fair warning to any third parties)

    Quite frankly from your own work I had assumed that you had a somewhat more enlightened view of Zombies than most; few people would ascribe to Zombies even in fiction the ability to form a representative government, and it must be said that the Zombies in Plants vs. Zombies are eventually persuaded to lay down their arms, so to speak, by the use of overwhelming violence, which puts them on at least the level of, say, the German people, right?

    (A slight jest; I apologize to any of our German or German-American readers)

    Here at the ZRC we try to promote the positive and uplifting side of the Zombie community that you’re seeking, but we admit it can be hard to find Zombies willing to be publicly outed, even in such a positive fashion, in our Living-Supremacist society, and that it can be hard to discern the Differently Animated from their costumed Living sympathizers at many Zombie walks and public gatherings. Still, it always brings us a deep satisfaction to be approached at one of our public events by a Zombie passing as Living and told that they appreciate the work being done for The Cause. Believe me, Mr. Notley, these people are out there, and their hearts ache even if they do not beat.

    The ZRC believes in them, and we’ll continue to represent them. In the meantime, we also do good works on their behalf, such as our ongoing Lurch for the Cure fundraiser, or our anti-Twilight activism, which needless to say benefits society as a whole. Perhaps in some small way we can help to change the pitiful image you describe, and make it safer for Zombies to come out into the daylight on their own two feet.

    Your Zombie Rights Campaigner,

    John J Sears

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