Why do we love zombies?

“Zombie craze continues to infect popular culture.”

This weekend an estimated 3,000 people dressed as zombies took to the streets of Brighton. It’s the latest proof, if any was needed, that the undead are really on the march – culturally at least.

If the zombie craze has passed you by then you probably haven’t been hanging out with any children lately.

My first thought was: Man, I missed the zombie march on Brighton? Damn. I would love to dress up as a zombie fashion model. Or a zombie reality show contestant.

My second was: Maybe I should watch Shaun of the Dead again. It’s one of our family’s favorite holiday movies.

My third was: I can’t bear to watch The Walking Dead, though it’s extremely well produced, well written, suspenseful, and gripping. Because, well, zombies. Meanwhile, my son can happily eat a huge breakfast while watching a scene where the rotting army of the undead attacks the show’s heroes.

So: mixed feelings. Why are zombies popular? What is it about them that so terrifies us? I think it’s more than their grossness. I think their appeal (and their repulsiveness) lies in the deep fear they evoke: the idea that zombiesm is a form of slavery. It steals not only your life but your free will. It not only turns its victims into semi-mindless drones, but makes them hunger to continue in their state. They lose not only the ability but the desire to be released from their imprisonment.

What do you think?

And while I’m thinking about the cultural import of the zombie craze, maybe I’ll dress my friend Edgar Allan Poe as a zombie for Halloween.

7 responses to “Why do we love zombies?

  1. I also have some mixed feelings. While “Shaun of the Dead” was a really good movie, but I found the comedy aspect more entertaining.

    Wes Craven’s, “The Serpent and the Rainbow” was well done, too. The movie was based on Wade Davis’ book of the same name. That book and his follow-up, “Passage of Darkness” explored the origins of the Haitian Zombie and I found them to be fascinating.

    While I find the ‘strange but true’ things about zombies to be intriguing, I’m not really into Hollywood’s version.

    And this is just too weird for me. Zombie Wedding Photography:

    http://joonbug.com/national/cool-shit/Zombie-Wedding-Photography/ylGllt4sGQ1

  2. Zombies (at least popularly) always mean apocalypse. Most other monsters appear because a part of the world has gone wrong; zombies appear because the *entire* world has gone wrong. You say zombieism “steals . . . your free will.” I think a lot of people feel like they’re not in charge of their own lives, that they no longer have agency. Zombies are the visual stand-ins for the agency we already feel we’ve lost. But the apocalyptic scenario offers both a means of recognizing the horror of that condition and of resisting it – even if the outcome is generally expected to be bleak, at least you go out shooting. I think most apocalyptic fantasies are ultimately about the recovery of agency (think The Stand) or the horror of losing it. So in their own way they address the same problem Evan and Jo do: What does it take to do the right thing and not settle for being a drone? The answer: In this world, a hell of a lot.

    As for Zombie wedding photography? I’ll leave that to more gifted pop culture critics. . .

  3. Whenever I hear the term “zombie” I automatically get a flash of either a government office or a cube farm. In both, the mantra is always “this is the way we have always done it.”
    I’ve heard some things about Shaun Of The Dead and will have to rent it one day.

  4. Thank you guys. I have the most insightful commenters.

  5. One of them is Prime Minister at the moment of course.

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