20 Ways 'Zombieland' Sums Up Life as a Parent

Martha Sorren | Oct 2, 2019 Movies
20 Ways 'Zombieland' Sums Up Life as a Parent

Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg
Columbia Pictures

In the 10 years since Zombieland came out in theaters on October 2, 2009, one thing remains true: Zombieland is filled with parenting advice. Sure, it's a movie about recently deceased people that eat other people, and the decline of America as we know it, but it also totally sums up what it's like to be a mother or a father.

For one, Jesse Eisenberg's character, Columbus, has a ton of rules about how to survive zombies that are also directly applicable to raising children. We're not saying that kids are the same as zombies, but they do both share a voracious appetite, a lack of listening skills, and amazing energy an inopportune times, so ...

(By the way, there are movie spoilers in the slideshow ahead, so proceed with caution.)

It helps that Woody Harrelson's character, Tallahassee, is a father, because he's got some wisdom of his own to impart on any parents watching the film. But mostly, the zombies make for great metaphors about our own children. Sorry not sorry, but kids can be just as loud and messy as actual zombies.

Fortunately, at the end of the day, they're much sweeter and nicer than flesh-eating demons. (Usually. The terrible twos are a thing, OK?)

Zombieland's cast recently reunited for an upcoming movie sequel called Zombieland: Double Tap that comes out on October 18, so it's highly probable that the parenting lessons and on-point zombie-child metaphors will continue in that film. Until then, though, please enjoy the 20 times the original Zombieland totally got us as parents through all of the hardest moments parenthood can (and does) throw our way.

  • One of the True Horrors in Life Is a Messy Eater


    Sure, our kids aren't gorging themselves on human flesh like the zombies in the movie, but when they eat spaghetti, they might as well be. That sauce gets everywhere, and it's almost impossible to clean up.

    Pro tip: Always do spaghetti night on bath night.

  • Bad Days Can Always Get Worse


    In the movie, Columbus remarks on the collapse of American society into zombie madness. He says, "It's amazing how things can go from bad to total carnage." Funny how he's also describe the average life of a parent. Think things can't get worse? Oh, yes they can. One kid with a cold can turn into two, a night of a baby not sleeping can turn into a day of constant screaming.

    ... see where we're going with this?

  • The Rules for Surviving Zombies Can Also Apply to Parenthood


    Columbus' first rule for surviving Zombieland is cardio, so he can outrun the monsters. Cardio also comes in handy when parents are chasing down a speedy toddler. How they get so fast on those little legs, we'll never know.

  • Before Cardio, Limber Up


    Limbering up is Columbus' 18th rule. However, we would caution that it should definitely come before the cardio. Our kids are still young and spry, and we need all the extra help we can get so we're not too sore to do this all again tomorrow.

  • Parenting Is Pretty Much Putting Out Fires 24/7


    The movie's characters never have just one zombie to contend with. There are always like three, four, five coming at them at once -- and they just have to figure out how to take care of them all in a matter of seconds. 

    That's parenting: One million things to do, no time to do them in, and somehow making it all happen anyway.

  • Double-Check Everything Before Leaving the House


    One of Columbus' rules is the "double tap" -- making sure a zombie is actually dead before turning one's back on it. The parenting equivalent of the double tap is to double check that we really do have everything we need before leaving home.

    No parent wants to be out and about and realize he left the extra diapers at home.

  • Going to the Bathroom Is Not Private With Kids Around


    Zombies often show up while people are vulnerable and in the bathroom. Parents can attest that having kids means never having a private moment again.

    Hungry zombies or hungry kids who need attention? Either way, no one is getting alone time on the toilet.

  • It's Always Nice to See Another Adult (Human) Face Around


    Now that everyone in Zombieland is, well, a zombie, the few remaining human characters miss seeing other people. Well, if that isn't every new parent who stayed home with a baby all day and just wanted to hear some adult conversation and see another face for once.

    It's hard out here for us parents.

  • It's OK to Take Some Time for Ourselves


    Rule No. 17 is "Don't be a hero," and that can apply to parenting as well. As parents, it's OK to need some time to ourselves so we don't completely lose our minds. We can get a baby sitter, have the grandparents watch the kids for a weekend, whatever we need to do to take care of ourselves is important, too.

    We can't give our kids our best if we're not at our best.

  • Seatbelts Are Essential for Zombie Fighting & Child Safety


    This is such a basic rule in both Zombieland and real life, but so important. We can set a good example for our kids by buckling both them and ourselves up. It saves lives while running from zombies ... and running errands.

  • Sleep Deprivation Is a Scourge In 'Zombieland' & at Home


    Sure, zombies are a huge threat, but not the only threat. At one point, Columbus says, "You know, I think sleep deprivation is like the No. 1 health problem in America." 

    Maybe not No. 1 in Zombieland, since there are monsters running around now, but definitely number one in homes with young babies who cry through the night.

  • Parents Always Need an Exit Strategy


    Rule No. 22 is "Know your way out," but that doesn't just apply to zombie-filled grocery stores. Parents who need an exit strategy (from a work event, a child's birthday party, whatever) have the best excuse. Maybe our child needs a nap or to be fed or has an activity to go to.

    It doesn't matter what the excuse is, no one is gonna argue with a parent who needs to leave a function to attend to a kiddo

  • No One Throws a Tantrum Like Kids Who Don't Get the Treats They Want


    Tallahassee may be a grown adult, but he has the same reaction to not getting a Twinkie that our children might have. A tantrum over a sweet treat is a tantrum, no matter how old a person is. (Unlike Tallahassee, at least most kids grow out of the throwing-a-fit stage.)

  • It's So Important to Check the Back Seat


    We're not checking the back seat for surprise zombies, but we should be checking for any number of things our kids can drop back there. That way, we can grab the crayons before they melt in the heat, food before it gets moldy, and a child's favorite toy before the kiddo notices it's missing.

    Better safe than sorry in both Zombieland and parenthood.

  • Car Rides Are Rarely Ever Smooth


    Columbus loses his patience with his travel partners when they keep picking fights. He asks, "We can't just freaking drive down the road playing I Spy or some game for two hours like four normal, sane Americans?" 

    Well, even in a non-zombiefied America, road trips can (and do) lead to back seat arguments between riders.

  • It Takes Seconds to Destroy a Whole Room


    To let off steam and de-stress a bit, Columbus and company destroy a souvenir shop. Within seconds, the room is in shambles, which is a scene parents know all too well. We can turn our backs for like one second, resulting in our kids making the world's biggest mess. It's a special talent that all children seem to have.

  • Theme Park Crowds Are a Nightmare


    All Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin's characters wanted to do was go to the Pacific Playland theme park and have some zombie-free fun. But, of course, the zombies showed up anyway. 

    A crowd is a crowd.

    Whether it's made up of zombies or regular tourists, having too many people around us makes theme parks marginally less fun.

  • The Love We Have for Our Kids Is on Another Level


    Tallahassee is a dad, and he talks about his kid as glowingly as any parent would:

    "I'm gonna tell you, I never thought I could love anything like Buck. He was just... The day he was born, I just lost my mind. We were two peas. He had my personality, my laugh, my appetite."

    He gets what it means to be a father and a parent, and that's unconditional love on a whole other level.

  • We'd Do Anything to Protect Our Family


    The four characters in the film find each other sort of by accident, but they end up becoming almost a family. At the movie's end, they come together to help each other escape the zombies, because they would do anything they could to protect one another. Same thing goes for parenting. In fact, we're pretty sure we could take on a real zombie if we had to for our kids.

  • We Know We Have to Enjoy the Little Things


    "Enjoy the little things" is rule No. 32 for surviving zombies -- mostly because the characters know they could be bitten at any moment. They know they need to take stock in what they do have and enjoy what they can in the apocalyptic America. 

    Parenting is similar, because kids grow up so fast we really just have to make memories while we can and savor every moment.

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