Six Perspectives on Why the Zombie Apocalypse Is So Popular

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Zombies are shambling around movie theatres and video game consoles and bookstores and the internet and TV sets and Halloween parties and on the streets (zombie walks!) like never before. Why? Here's what six people in the blogosphere think:


1. said:


-They're an enemy we can all safely hate.

-there's no argument about whether or not they're a real threat: they are.

-they're not citizens of another country. No need to waffle over whether we should butt in to another country's affairs or not, or try a peaceful approach or not. Shoot them! Bash in their skulls! Set them on fire! Bomb them! Now!!!!


(by the way, I make a similar argument in an essay on action movies, noting how in the 80s, heroes regularly decimated people - brown people, yellow people, Russians - with a hail of bullets, as the audience cheered. Not anymore. The nameless baddies are always non-human: aliens, robots, orcs… I left out zombies)


-They support our instinct to protect ourselves and those close to us from marauders.

-Steven Pinker asserts that the ancient world teemed with murder - the authors of Sex at Dawn say otherwise, but the last 10 000 years have certainly seen small-scale war, large-scale war, rape, slavery, genocide and all around mayhem (punctuated by brief oases of tranquility and prosperity for a tiny, zombies in a comicoblivious few). The instinct to prepare for and fend off brutal thugs has been an adaptive advantage.

-zombies, resulting from science gone wrong, are a more plausible threat to the part of our imagination where this instinct lives than aliens, vampires or werewolves.

-all of this justifies our fascination with guns.


2. said:


-They're reflective on increased incidences of cannibalism that have been reported in Russia, Baltimore, and that guy chewing the other guy's face off in Miami.

-"bath salts" may be the new uber-awful drug, a severe reaction to which can actually bring on a sense of curiosity and intrigue, leading to more consumption of it, plunging the user into deeper states of violent, cannibalistic psychosis.


3. Themediaexperiment.wordpress said:


-They provide an opportunity for unapologetic ass-kicking

-zombies are lifeless and violent and not really human

-there's no reason to have compassion for them

zombieland still - kicking ass with a banjo-killing them isn't just allowed, it's mandatory. In fact, the more brutally and creatively you do it, the better.


-Depictions of a zombie apocalypse in fiction allow you to experience such a thing comfortably

-no PTSD

-no dying from something stupid, like drinking contaminated water, freezing to death because there's no electricity and you don't know how to start a fire (or dare not light one for fear of attracting zombies), starving

-you don't even have to do without hot showers.

-dying by zombie attack in a video game comes with no consequences - you're alive again within seconds.


3. Dan Birlew at provided two explanations to which he does not subscribe:


A) We like being frightened

-what could be scarier than a zombie, whose only desire is to bite you and turn you into a zombie?

-zombies are impossible to beat - they're a shuffling, mindless, cannibalistic mass that'll just keep coming no matter how many you kill.


B) They reinforce paranoid beliefs

-zombie fiction is full of people the protagonists knew, or at least were nodding acquaintances with, before they got zombiefied. I knew you couldn't trust that guy! Now I get to/have to kill him!

-they symbolize conformity, the crushing press of the masses


His opinion:


-Given Sept 11th and the various economic crashes in the US, Americans are hemmed in, stressed and powerless like never before.

-Freedom has been curtailed in the name of preserving freedom.

-the free-market system so often trumpeted as the greatest thing the world has ever seen has resulted in still from 28 weeks latermass unemployment (and employment that could vanish at any time), distrust in the government, partisan bickering, evaporated life-savings and retirement packages, and houses more valuable as scrap.


-But in the zombie apocalypse fantasy, you're full of power and initiative

-no job, no boss, no taxes, even traffic laws don't apply

-you can bash in the head of anyone you didn't like - in fact, you need to, and the more violent and clever, the better.

-everything's free for the taking

-that hot guy/girl is now a possibility, if they're another survivor (there aren't that many people left, so you're automatically more attractive)(and you might rescue them, at that)


-it's the only end-of-the-world scenario where you have some involvement in your part of the outcome

-The movie 2012 predicted climate disasters

-the Bible predicts deities decide it all

-nuclear war means you either instantly fry or miserably freeze


running from zombies-Also, there's no easier Halloween costume

-old clothes have value again

-a zombie costume costs less than ten bucks


4. said:


-In a zombie apocalyptic world, you'd be on a constant adrenaline high, concerned only with survival, and actually being present for a change:


"In a world ruled by the dead… we are forced to start living."



5. Another source said:


-It's reflective of our relationship with technology.

-it's getting so ahead of us that there's an ever-present fear it could create a problem we couldn't solve - ie, a zombie virus.

-the world's changing faster than we can keep up with. At least in our fantasy lives, we wouldn't mind a do-over.

zombie horde

-Technology has led to overpopulation (which increases by the year)

-masses of people you don't know have that oppressive, inevitable, crushing feeling of a horde of zombies.


-It's also a symbol of mass consumerism, collapsing on itself. The rabid consumers eat each other.


6. Robert Brockway (author of a book on the cultural fascination with the apocalypse, zombie or otherwise), writing in said:


-It's "our sheer, unbridled, fuck-you arrogance"

-"we want to see our decaying remains and revel in the tragic glory that we couldn't appreciate until it was too late"

-"we want to read the headstones proclaiming the magnificence of our society to whoever comes along next."


-"Let's face it, when you talk about doomsday, you're really saying 'that time when everybody else died, but not me.' Those suckers became zombies; those suckers fell to the plague; can you believe those suckers weren't prepared for the robot invasion?'"


zombie apocalypse landscape-You get to picture yourself in whatever ruins remain, doing whatever you want, "and looking smugly back on all the works of man that you've outlasted."


-The apocalypse appeals to hipsters because of their self-importance. What's more inside than being the last person on the planet?


-It appeals to rednecks because it validates how they already live

-fixing trucks


-familiar with guns

-avoiding cities

Their lives wouldn't even change that much because they've had the right priorities from the start.


-It appeals to nerds because they never fit in anyway.

-they grew up seeing most people as subhuman, abusive monsters.

-all the assholes who tormented them are dead, or walking dead, so you can kill them - and you should.


-It appeals to everyone else because we imagine we'd keep our sanity, since we've been cynical and outsiderish our whole lives anyway.

-"That's our arrogance: We would gladly trade the continuation of the species and possibly the lives of our loved ones just to not have 'misdemeanours' be a thing anymore."


-"The apocalypse is just a big game of King of the Hill with no other players left alive to retake the mountain."



So what's your take? Here's mine.

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  • Comment Link michael milano Monday, 11 June 2012 19:58 posted by michael milano

    Zombie movies first came into fashion (in modern terms) in the 60’s during a time of great change in the United States. Civil rights. Assassinations of public figures. The war in Vietnam. So many Americans felt an onslaught of change. The world was uncertain. Scary. Felling helpless against the tide. One thing after another. Wave after wave.

    Nothing personified these feelings like zombies. Unstoppable. Relentless. Wave after wave.

    Here we are again. In a time of uncertainty. Fighting 2 wars. The economy tanking. Mortgage crisis. Unemployment. Foreclosures. One thing after another. Wave after wave. Felling helpless against the tide.

    So the movies and tv shows about zombies help us to process our fears about these uncertainties.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:48 posted by TJ Dawe

    Michael - a documentary I've been meaning to watch for quite a while is The American Nightmare:, which puts forward the same theory, that horror movies (generally) reflect the dominant fears of the culture.

    And you're right - wave after wave. Unstoppable problems, always advancing.

  • Comment Link Michael Milano Wednesday, 13 June 2012 17:22 posted by Michael Milano

    TJ, thanks for the heads up on the documentary. I'll have to watch it sometime soon.

  • Comment Link Beth Wednesday, 13 June 2012 18:51 posted by Beth

    This is awesome. I am def gonna share with my kiddos. You rock TJ.

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