That’s right, zombies. I wanted to pose the question to you, dear reader, and to assist my speculation into why they have become such a huge meme throughout our culture of late. It appears the last few years have been rife with their appearance in everything from kids’ shows, blockbuster movies, video games, classic novels reimagined . . . the list goes on.
A little more than a decade ago, it was hard to find much at all about the mind munchers, yet, here we are neck-deep in all kinds. Slow, shambling stepped zombies; fast-moving Lance Armstrong doped-up super-enduro zombies, virus-fed zombies, classic undead/cursed, alien zombies, exaggerated real-life tales of Voodoo-induced zombies now turned into movies, Nazi experiment zombies, cybernetic zombies — on and on the pageant goes — with even more countless variants imagined. There are zombie fun runs, flash mobs and other events which sometimes coincide with Halloween.
Why this particular villain all of a sudden? They’ve been around forever, why did they just now become so popular? Let’s explore, shall we?
#1 Zombies are reflecting the mindless crush of conformity we see in society.
I can see this to some extent. The idea that we hate the very common nature of humanity to rush Lemming-like into the next Great Stupid Thing. Still, I doubt this because I see so much glorification of ending the zombies – we identify more with those stopping the horde than with those among them.
#2 George Romero was upset with how the 60’s went down so he brought back zombies and, well, that’s good enough for everyone else, I guess.
This is a great explanation of why his movie from the late 60’s developed a cult following but it doesn’t really fulfill the question of why now.
#3 Zombies are an opportunity for everyone to feel like a hero.
We see the Everyman show up in the movies to end the scourge, or at least make it out of town alive, and we find ourselves there, too. I can understand this, we all want to have an impact on our world, we see it going down in flames all around us and if such-and-such were to go down – get me my trusty flamethrower.
#4 Zombies are a way for people to fantasize mass murder without feeling guilty about it.
It’s hard to deny the popularity of the vast swath of shows, movies and books with vivid serial killer portrayals, mass-murder plots, gangster/organized crime wars or ritual massacres. However, these bring a feeling of vengeance or guilt depending upon which role you voyeur through. With zombies, everyone wins because the entire neighborhood, school, political structure has become infected/cursed/eaten-too-many-GMO-foods and now you HAVE to shoot the co-worker you can’t stand, the parking maid who gave you the ticket, the official you don’t like, the neighbor who runs their car late at night in the garage. It’s a subtle anesthetic while we consider the end of the world.
#5 The world is gonna end soon – might as well get your mental game ready.
The world may or may not come to an end soon but that doesn’t keep us from playfully getting ready. Like children playing war years before they enlist in the service to do it or play doctor ahead of their medical school admission, we plot and script the what ifs of horrible outcomes. Just in case. We buy handguns with colorful green ammo “Zombie-Stopper” or put stickers on the back of our H3 Hummers “Zombie Tactical Response Vehicle.”
I think we have enough evil in the world already that we don’t need to invent it. I eschew these fictions, by and large, knowing the next day at work might have enough to keep me awake at night with visions I can’t get past. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve seen some of the movies over the years. Zombieland was a personal favorite because of the black humor and skillful aplomb of the characters. However, the more I see everyone engrossed in these shows, the more I see ourselves, devouring and infecting each other with someone waiting, standing by, ready to blow the other’s head off. It’s happening in the ways we’re being poisoned and treated like cattle by corporations (paying them to do it!), the way governments tell you they’re looking out for everyone as they repeal freedoms and spy on their citizens, the selfish way we flip out when the very idea of all people having access to healthcare immediately threatens what level of care WE might get first before those dirty people who can’t afford it get any. Then there are the direct problems with gun violence and murder.
I’m not of any strong political bias, I hold beliefs that both liberal and conservatives abhor and cherish alike, but I do not tolerate humans pretending to be animals. I don’t really have a beef with you if you like zombie shows –really I don’t — but be careful that you’re not being carried away by the subtext of the media you consume. Ask yourself, why do you watch/read/game/listen to the things you do?