We have to go into the subjunctive world of monsters, demons, and clowns, of cruelty and poetry, in order to make sense of our daily lives, earning our daily bread. And when we enter whatever theatre our lives allows us, we have already learned how strange and many-layered everyday life is, how extraordinary the ordinary. (Turner 122)
The characters depicted in the 2011 Toronto Zombie Walk are a product of popular culture and Hollywood depiction. While arguably inseparable from connections with Caribbean traditions (Moreman and Rushton 1-11), the costumed characters depict “viral zombies” as opposed to Caribbean “voodoo zombies” (Brooks 17). Much of the imagery and definitions of these fictional ghouls is drawn from George Romero’s film Night of the Living Dead (1968). The characters are pop-culture zombies, separated from religious, supernatural or magical intervention. In literature and film, the generally agreed upon defining characteristics of these viral zombies are that zombies desire and feed on human flesh; that zombies’ bodily fluids carry a virus which is highly communicable and fatal so that any human infected through fluidic contact will inevitably become a zombie; and that zombies cannot be killed unless their brain is destroyed (Brooks 1-19, Drezner 22). Zombie uprisings in literature and film are depicted as a great and almost unstoppable threat to humanity.
October 22nd, 2011 marked the 9th annual Toronto Zombie Walk. An estimated 7,000 costumed people gathered at Trinity-Belwoods Park to participate in the event. Pre-walk activities began at noon, including a celebration of “unholy matrimony” between walk organizers Adam Invader and Thea Munster. At 3 p.m., participants began a 5 “kill-ometer” route; east on Queen Street, north on Spadina Avenue, west on Dundas Street and returning to the park (torontoist.com). The promotional website for the event includes a Frequently Asked Questions section wherein “Why are you dressing like Zombies?” is answered with “What other monsters have such unity as a mass in death?! Plus it’s just fun” (torontozombiewalk.ca, FAQS!).
The Toronto Zombie Walk participants serve as iconic representations of the viral zombie. One of a growing number of contemporary urban zombie-themed performances, the Walk transforms the streets of Toronto into performance space where the characters interact with each other, the audience, and the environs of the walk. The processional nature of this performance accurately reflects one of the general characteristics of zombies, in that they are mobile creatures, with no sense of home (Brooks 17). In contrast to zombie norms in film and literature, participants are encouraged to be respectful of people and property (torontozombiewalk.ca, FAQS!). The organizers suggest that participants and on-lookers interpret this performance simply as people dressed up like zombies with the intention of having fun. While it is widely recognized that the beings participating in these walks are costumed humans, as an urban performance the Toronto Zombie Walk serves as a strong commentary on identity, interactions, life and art in the city and the definition and use of public and private spaces. It is in the spirit of fun or what Lefebvre describes as a “renewed fête” (Writings171) that the Walk encourages citizens to participate in a playful examination of self and the city, recognizing the urban space as a cultural product of ‘moments,’ performances, and interactions.