Zombies: More Than A Scary Face
Society’s obsession with the zombie craze
Published: Monday, September 23, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013 13:09
Everywhere you turn your head today, there’s a common denominator in all forms of entertainment. Zombies. Yup. You heard me. Zombies, you know the living dead corpses that walk around mindlessly wanting “braaaaaaains.”
Whether you’re playing a first person shooter game where the only objective is to kill the undead, watching AMC’s biggest hit “The Walking Dead” or you’re viewing one of the numerous Hollywood representations of these walking corpses, they are seemingly everywhere.
There are even “Zombie 5Ks,” where people run their race while being chased by people who are pretending to be these zombies.
Over the past decade, between a third and a half of all zombie movies ever made have already released. Why is our society so consumed with the idea of zombies that everything from academics to entertainment to the federal government has been so willing to jump into this bandwagon?
There are many theories as to why people are obsessed with zombies. Some would argue that it’s a metaphor for communism, socialism or even consumerism. Some theories even propose that they represent the sexuality of teenage boys. Don’t ask me how it can, because I didn’t bother to read that last theory, but it seems that if given the chance, one could connect zombies to just about anything.
One could say it’s because zombies are able to be applied everywhere and used under many different platforms. George A. Romero films such as “Dawn of the Dead” and “Night of the Living Dead” showed zombies as a something to laugh at and showed them in a satirical light. Twenty-eight days later and 28 weeks later gave a much more frightening approach to what we know as zombies, a connection of sorts with terrorism and disease. The newest zombie movie “World War Z” brings the undead into our current reality as an environmental catastrophe.
Another could say society is so consumed with the idea of the living dead is because of how terrifying they are to us in general. Another commonality of zombies is the universal knowledge of once you’ve been bit, you’ll inevitably turn into a zombie. Even the most virulent pathogens, such as AIDS, encountered in the real world have infection rates below 50 percent.
Zombies thrive in popular culture during times of recession, epidemic and general unhappiness. Concerns of terrorism have been with us since 9/11, drug-resistant pandemics seem to always be popping upon to cause hysteria, like the H1N1 virus and the constant talk of the dangers of climate change. Zombies seem to be a perfect metaphor for all of these concerns.
The start of all this fascination with the apocalyptic end of the world can be traced to the potential for nuclear warfare during World War II. Our collective views of the future changed dramatically after the events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mass destruction became a reality and the violence of people became all too real. There is no longer the positive outlook on life like the centuries past, such as the Enlightenment or the Industrial Revolution.
People use fictional narratives not only to emotionally cope with the possibility of impending doom, but also even more importantly perhaps to work through the ethical and philosophical frameworks.
There is also that internal drive for survival within every human, inherently endowed in us since the moment we were born. With that being said, many of us never tap into our “inner survivor” because of our current lives of certainty and comfort. The tale of zombies and wondering what steps would be taken to survive the “zombie apocalypse” reinforces that internal drive to survive with the comfort of not actually having to try to do it.
Zombies also pose unsettling questions about consciousness. Zombies straddle with what we use to define ourselves as human with the idea of being alive and dead, driven both by will and automatism. They both remember by returning to familiar space and forget by biting those they love. What’s more terrifying than the thought of somebody that you place so much trust in can turn into a malicious killing machine and you cannot do a single thing about it?
In this respect, zombies have stayed in our culture for as long as our anxieties about our self have. We see in them what is already undead in us. They confront us with our own ways of being, and knowing that a little part of us is dead freaks us out. If we can confront it without having to directly do it, it makes society as a whole feel better.
I guess to sum it up, we fear zombies because they are reflections of ourselves and our friends, neighbors and relatives. They are not a foreign threat. They are people we know and trust turning into hostile creatures. Nightmare imagery of abandoned streets, cannibal hoards and barricaded homes are what fill our heads.
They are popular because we sense we are threatened with extinction and we all secretly know an alien invasion or artificial intelligence won’t be the case, but destruction caused to ourselves.
Zombies stand, as a metaphor for our social perceptions by bringing to life the saying, “the only thing we have to fear is ourselves.” We suppress our fears of poverty and a downward spiral of society by indulging in the science-fiction genre that is the walking dead.
These slow-moving, but deadly creatures personify our anxieties. They let people talk about our present-day problems in the world without addressing them head on.
If someone were to ask people why they like zombies, they may not be entirely sure themselves. Yet, it’s so obvious at the same time. We feel like, in one way or another, we’re all a little dead.
Cassandra is a junior majoring in journalism.