The Designer’s Drugs: Cracked.com – You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News

Medium: Literature

Stimulus: Cracked.com – You Might Be a Zombie and Other Bad News

Anno: 2011

Go to Cracked.com, and you’ll find that the satirical website you were expecting also offers a surprising wealth of real-world information.  While the Cracked brand spent decades viewed as Mad Magazine’s little brother, the Cracked of today is a highly articulate forum discussing history, science, and pop culture.  Were it not for the wisecracks interspersed between each article’s heavy research, Cracked might be mistaken for an offbeat yet respectable tutor.

The most popular feature on the Cracked site is the list, a daily rundown of groups of related subjects which tend to read little more than “X [things] that [do something].” Sounds formulaic, but this simple template has grown to become crack for trivia junkies.

You Might Be a Zombie is an encapsulation of this style, drawing together lists old and new to reward old fans of Cracked and serve as an introduction to everyone else.  It’s really intended to be a taste, a lure to the website which produces the equivalent of this book’s content in about two months.  Yet it’s a great excerpt.  Within, readers will thrill to tales of terrifying animals, all forms of corruption, and the truth behind many of our public myths.  The book’s title describes the final list which explains the ways a zombie attack could actually happen (which is pretty funny, considering that Cracked has also published a list discussing how a zombie attack would utterly fail).

The book works rather well, beyond a few points.  The first is that the transition from website to book takes out the interactivity of reading a Cracked list.  On the website, these lists are heavy with links serving as instant footnotes that back up whatever point is being made.  The book has no footnotes of any kind, and without that array of instant evidence, its content feels much less authoritative.  Also, the web is a cornucopia of strange photographs, which – often accompanied by a snappy caption – are often used by the Cracked writers as punchlines to their points.  Undoubtedly due to the problems involved in acquiring printing rights to such photos, there are no pictures in the book mocking the cast of Jersey Shore; instead, there are sparse exhibits of very basic, captionless drawings which don’t have the same effect.

Yet while the website is superior, these points do little to dim the enjoyment of the book. You Might Be a Zombie is a faithful and fascinating adaptation that captures the Cracked style as well as possible.  Read this, then go to the website and get fully addicted.

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