We are all zombies!
They’re out there. There are countless hordes of them. And we’re surrounded.
From “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland” to“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies,” the undead are everywhere. Zombies are even sexy, as in the recent romantic thriller “Warm Bodies.” If you do a search on Google for the phrase “best zombie movies” you find Rolling Stone’s 10 Best Zombie Movies, Boston.com’s Top 25 Zombie Movies of All Time, and IMDB’s 50 Best Zombie Movies. We have Zombie Week, Zombie Awareness Month, even Zombie Preparedness Month. Many communities including my own have annual Zombie Walks in which people put on gray makeup and ragged clothes, muss up their hair, smear fake blood on themselves, and shuffle down the street with outstretched arms, moaning.
This ongoing fascination with zombies has slowly gained strength since “Night of the Living Dead” arrived in theaters back in 1968. In fact, “Shaun of the Dead” was ranked by England’s Channel 4 as the third greatest comedy film of all time. It also scored an impressive 91% on RottenTomatoes.com. But why is our culture so gripped by the love of all things zombie?
I think the answer is quite simple. We all identify personally with zombies. We live in an increasingly violent and gruesome world. We feel powerless and dehumanized as we shuffle off to our unfulfilling jobs, filled with gnawing hunger for horrible foods that make us feel and look even more monstrous each day. We realize that during much of our waking lives we are operating on autopilot rather than making conscious decisions. We are the undead, stumbling grotesquely through lives without purpose. We laugh at Shaun in the movie as he rides the bus to work, so lost in a daydream that he doesn’t even realize he’s surrounded by gap-jawed drooling zombies, because we’ve all seen individuals like these in real life on the bus or lurching down the streets.
Probably the reason that we no longer fear zombies today, as compared with 45 years ago when “Night of the Living Dead” appeared, is that we have realized that we identify strongly with the un-dead. How can you fear an enemy who’s so similar to yourself? And when it comes to fighting off hordes of zombies, instead of blasting their brains out, like in the movies and games, perhaps the proper zombie-fighting response would be to fight the zombie within, minimizing as much as possible the various zombiesque aspects of our daily lives, refusing to stumble through the day while running on autopilot. Thus we would reduce the zombie that lurks within each of us.
A search on “we are all zombies” produced some excellent essays, including a witty one by James Parker in The Atlantic, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/04/ our-zombies-ourselves/308401/ in which he pointed out that the zombie currently enjoys “a cultural profile unmatched even by his fancy-pants cousin, the vampire.”
A more academic angle is found at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/10/28/we like_zombies_because_we_are_ zombies/
An excellent essay from the New York Times addresses not just the allegorical appeal of zombies, but how very easy it is to kill them, and to keep on killing them, and the appeal of mindless killing. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/ arts/television/05zombies.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
The BBC finally deigned to notice zombie-walks, and observed the fact that 500 zombie movies have been made so far, http: //www.bbc. co.uk/news/ uk-scotland -20310825
Washington State University’s resident academic expert discusses the appeal of zombies, http://news. wsu.edu/pages /publications .asp?Action= Detail & Publication ID=33648
“Shaun of the Dead” intro on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZmjsWAfn14
“Warm Bodies” trailer at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQ3ZwtyKs_o
The trailer for the original “Night of the Living Dead” is surprisingly lame, relying largely on still photos with a repeating soundtrack loop, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gUKvmOEGCU. And yet this is the movie that spawned 500 unquiet offspring.