Why Zombie?

I was sitting down to catch up on a few episodes of The Walking Dead (I hardly ever get to watch anything the day it comes out. Ahh the life of a free-lance writer) when I started thinking about the whole phenomenon.

Why Zombies? Why the fascination? Even though it seems like people are starting to experience zombie-fatigue, they still have a huge sway on our entertainment.

I have had my fair share of the obsession. That’s me in the top image dressed up for an all zombie concert performed by Peaches & Crime a few years ago.


Also, many of my stress dreams involve running away from or building barricades against the hordes. I even have an exercize app that chases me with shambling groans as I run. So it is no surprise to me that we have shows such as The Walking Dead, I Zombie, Z nation, as well as movies, books, toys; you name it and there is probably an undead version of it.

Even the military has gotten involved with their CONPLAN 8888 which documents how the U.S. Government would deal with a zombie outbreak and the CDC has a Zombie Preparedness page.

Image from CDC Blog

There are many theories out there about this undead fascination, but most seem to revolve the general state of world and how Zombies feed into our fears.

“It can’t be a coincidence, then, that zombies are in vogue during a period when banks are failing, when climate change is playing havoc with weather patterns, and when both terrorist bombers and global corporations seem to be beyond the reach of any country’s jurisdiction. It can’t be a coincidence, either, that the fourth season of The Walking Dead got off to its hugely successful start just weeks after the United States federal government shut down.” – BBC’s “Why are zombies still so popular?”

“Zombies thrive in popular culture during times of recession, epidemic and general unhappiness. Traditional threats to U.S. security may have waned, but nontraditional threats assault us constantly. Concerns about terrorism have not abated since 9/11, and cyberattacks have now emerged as a new anxiety. Drug-resistant pandemics have been a staple of local news hysteria since the H1N1 virus swept the globe in 2009. Scientists continue to warn about the dangers that climate change poses to our planet. And if the financial crisis taught us anything, it is that contagion is endemic to the global market system.

Zombies are the perfect metaphor for these threats.” -Wall Street Journal’s The Lessons of Zombie-Mania

In my experience, when talking with friends about Flesh-eating ghouls from beyond the grave, many people use zombies as an excuse to live out fantasy’s of change. We experience trouble in our lives and theorize how everything could be different if we were in control; if there was no government to issue laws or if no one else was really around to tell you to mind your manners. Zombies in some form represent a new start and freedom. Mind you, most people who talk like this automatically assume they will survive the apocalypse. They have created elaborate plans on how they will escape, who and what they will bring with them, and where they will settle down to build their fortress. The undead outbreak serves as a twisted reset button on the universe and, in a world where so many are dissatisfied with current affairs, it can seem appealing if a bit morbid.

You can see evidence in this way of thinking from the millions of “How Likely are Your to Survive the Zombie Apocalypse” quizzes. How many of you proudly flaunted your 86% survivability rating while saying “The only reason I didn’t score a hundred is because I would go back for my cat”? There are of course other reasons why zombies captured out interest for so long, but it is also apparent that their appeal is beginning to decompose. If things haven’t changed real world wise then why is our need for zombies flagging? I suppose we have just been too inundated with them. The shock, horror, and fantasy of rotting corpses trying to eat your brains has just been worn out.

I wonder what new craze will we obsess over next. What do you think?


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