NOC Recaps iZombie: What About the Zombies of Color?

Alternatively titled: If you’re a zombie, how come you’re not white?

You: Gosh, Connie, you can’t just ask why people aren’t white1!

In this week’s iZombie, “Flight of the Living Dead,” Liv eats the brains of a former sorority sister, Major continues to look for Jerome and Eddie, Ravi is still my favorite character, and a new zombie love interest enters Liv’s life with the hottest hot sauce around. Then we’ll get into the question of the week: Why don’t Zombies of Color have obvious zombie markers like the Caucasian characters do?

Trait of the Week: A sense of adventure, wildness, freedom. Willingness to try new things.

I found myself less than interested in the case of the week (which is helpful when trying to make these reviews shorter than my gargantuan Arrow ones), but I still wish I cared more. Maybe it’s just how I am to most procedural stories — I am always more interested in the main characters (which is probably why I was never into the Law & Orders or CSIs). Also, either they wasted an opportunity or they’re saving a major brain main course that Liv knows even more personally for later. She was too distanced from Holly’s current life for the BIG DEAL that is eating the brains of someone she knows to really make a dent. The only thing interesting about CotW itself was seeing Dick Casablancas (of Veronica Mars fame, another show run by iZombie executive producer Rob Thomas).

Focusing rather on the character dynamics, Ravi didn’t get too much screen time this episode, but when he did, he was amazing. I loved seeing him get to be outside of the lab (in the daylight!) and he and Liv going back and forth in the beginning of the episode on food served on sticks. I really want to learn more about him. Who are his family members? Where do they live now? What drew him to the medical field and why did he turn to ME work when he was sacked by the CDC? I have so many questions and he has revealed so little of himself. Thankfully, his actor, Rahul Kohli, live-tweeted the episode as well yesterday, answering very important questions. (I wish the new quoted tweets thing showed up in embeds…)

Anyway, now that I’ve established that both Ravi and Rahul are among the NoCiest…

Over at the precinct, Clive is bombarded with personal requests. Before Liv comes in with her request for him to look into her friend Holly’s death, Major arrives hoping he will look into the disappearances of Eddie and Jerome. Clive is reluctant to help either of them, since the cases aren’t homicides. But his heart of gold (hidden under all the snark) compels him to look into both cases. But his supervisor doesn’t like it. He only wants him working on homicides approved on the red board. Luckily, Liv arrives with information that Holly was drugged just as his commander was really reaming into him about taking on other kinds of cases.

When Clive investigates the missing teens, he finds out that a bunch of teens are missing, more than has been reported even within the transient community they’re all apart of. We know it’s Blaine (conspicuously absent in this episode) turning all these kids into either zombies or lunch meat, but Clive approaches his supervisor with the information and is immediately shut down. Then the lieutenant — played by Hiro Kanagawa (Caprica, Smallville briefly) — reaches into his desk and pulls out a bottle of hotter than hot hot sauce. There are zombies EVERYWHERE!

One of the suspects in Holly’s death is Lowell (Prince Arthur from Merlin), who seems to be immediately drawn to Liv, to her immense confusion. When they meet up at Holly’s wake, he takes her to a quiet room where he schmoozes her and makes her a drink. At first I thought he was the drugging murderer, but then he pops two hot chilli peppers in the blood red drinks and Liv realizes that he’s a zombie. He’s dyed his hair as to not be noticed (like Blaine and his community do…). He later seductively distracts Liv from her job when he spouts poetic about not being able to connect with humans, but maybe they can do some zombie speed dating to see if they like each other. Liv is drawn in by the prospect and swoons for the rest of the episode.

Meanwhile, Major (whose last name, I just learned, is Lilywhite. Really?) doesn’t know how to listen and gets himself beat up at the skate park looking for answers.

One thing I want to know about the show and might have to consider discussing further is the colorization of Zombies of Color on the show. There is an established pattern of Caucasian zombies being very pale with white hair and (so far) light eyes. However, we’ve now met two zombies of diverse backgrounds who have no distinct features that identify them as zombies. With Blaine and his Sugar Mama, when they aren’t making it explicitly clear that they get spray tans, they are extraordinarily pale, but neither the Black nor Asian zombies we’ve met so far have given any indication that they didn’t wake up just as they normally are.

I know iZombie is based on a comic book: can anyone tell me if there are zombies of color presented or is the TV series attempting for some real world diversity (which is appreciated)? It all reeks of oversight — which is problematic because when will writers stop overlooking considerations when it comes to a non-white character? That’s like writing that everyone’s hair turns curly when they come zombies and not considering that blacks people (for the most part) already have naturally curly/kinky hair. What makes a Caucasian character change but a person of color remain the same? Obviously there’s the consideration that you can’t have brown characters turn pale white because of how problematic that is, but then there needs to be an equal alternative.

Last week’s zombie henchmen

This also leads into some slightly dangerous territory. If we can always tell when a Caucasian character is a zombie (and yes, I realize that this will not always be the case since they are making ways to blend in with living society), but zombies of color don’t have to do any work to “pass” as human, it could lead to audience members always suspecting people of color on the show of being zombies. As I mentioned earlier, at least with Blaine and Lowell, even with their false coloring, there is something off about their skin — a waxiness that is present in Liv as well. With the characters of color, there is less of an obvious marker.

Guess which one is the zombie.

I really hope there is some sort of explanation as to why the white characters turn paler but ethnically diverse characters remain the same upon waking up, because it’s just not sitting right with me. Of course they could retcon an explanation in later, but it makes me nervous that it’s been established that Black, Hispanic, Asian, Indian characters don’t change when turning into a deadly zombie while white characters are easier to spot in a line up.

What are your thoughts on this unexplained distinction? Do you think it will be addressed later or or ignored?

  1. Please understand this awkward attempt at a Mean Girls reference. 

15 thoughts on “NOC Recaps iZombie: What About the Zombies of Color?

  1. I’ve read the comics but I don’t own them, so I can’t check them immediately, but from what I remember, there aren’t many/any zombies around beside Liv. The setup is very different; Liv and her friends are gravediggers, not medical personnel, and though there is a zombie threat at one point, it’s sort of overshadowed by other cosmic issues. The series is only four volumes long, so I imagine they’ve had to make up a lot of stuff already.

    1. Oh okay, cool. Thanks for the insight! Well then, they aren’t just relying on the comic origins to inform their zombies of color… Hmm.

  2. YES. This question bothers me every episode (which is why I Googled “black zombies iZombie” and found your article.) I would be angry to find out the writers just had not thought of the need for Zombie markers for other races, both for the oversight of important racial issues and the failure of writing consistency. If you find an answer, please post!

    1. Hi Emily! Thanks for commenting! I’m glad I’m not the only one wondering about this issue. Hopefully they address it soon. Hopefully on the show, but even Powers That Be acknowledgment of it being a problem, an oversight, or a soon to be answered question would be appreciated. If I find an answer I will definitely write about it! Thanks again for commenting! =D

  3. I noticed, but maybe their skin just gets paler? As in you’d only notice if you knew them for a while, but we haven’t seen the POC zombies before they became zombies. It does seem like their hair is white- the lieutenant’s hair is mostly gray, but who knows what’s going on with his dye jobs.

  4. I don’t remember seeing a black zombie yet only zombie of color I remember was the captain. And he is a fair skin Asian, so they could easily give him the same markers. I would think you’d need darker skin to be like ok now I see a trend of no markers. Who was the darker skinned zombie they revealed? Again Suzuki doesn’t count he could easily get a tan and dye his hair bc he is fair skin. Minority yes dark skin no…

  5. This is driving me nuts, too. Found your article when I googled. It doesn’t seem like all Caucasians are pale white, though. Only those of obvious Northern European decent. Still on season 1 in Netflix so I hope they explain it soon. Oh, Raji is my favorite character, too.

  6. I think I have and answer! In the 3 episode we see Liv’s resident friend who invited her to the Party, Marcy. She was a POC (I don’t want to assume what however from here mom’s last name of Khan we can guess.) and She was paler and had blond hair. She wasn’t as pale as Liv but still much paler than when she was alive. She was a zombie that was trapped in the hole and they gave her pearls to here mom.

    1. This makes sense. That it only *reduces* pigmentation explains things pretty well. The thing is, they should really have made it so that the pallor was caused by a lack of blood. But that would have eliminated the iconic white hair, so they had to get rid of pigmentation (even somehow pigmentation in the hair, which is already dead material, but whatever).

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