In the last few years, we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in Zombies, and Zombie like creatures. So, in terms of popular media, from the movie World War Z, to Z Nation, to the huge hit, The Walking Dead , and its spin off, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD…we are seeing a fascination with the risen dead.
I think there are some superficial answers and some deeper answers. On the superficial level, people like to be scared…but in a safe way. In other words, being hunted by a sadistic killer would be terrifying in real life, but in a movie, you can get scared, but you don’t have to fight or flight…vicariously, you can feel your heart beat fast, feel the rush of adrenaline, but at the same time, know you do not face your immediate grisly death. The same thing that gets people to go onto extreme rides at amusement parks, is the same that makes zombie movies appealing.
But, there is, I assert, a deeper level to their appeal. I believe we have to occasionally reassure ourselves that life is not as bad as we often feel it is. Temporarily immersing yourself in a world in which bloodthirsty living dead are out to gnaw on your brain, can make you think that, yeah, that person nagging you about your late credit card payment, isn’t as bad as a zombie taking your guts
out the hard way.
But, there is an even deeper issue…and I believe is, worth considering. As we rush headlong into the future, there is a push for us to do more, work harder, work longer, and to do so without a lot of sleep. We are told to just accept what the government tells us to do, what the boss tells you to do, and to mindlessly sit in front of the television or your computer…and develop an electronic addiction where your computer and the internet, becomes friend, “Father Confessor”, mentor, the source of all knowledge, and its seductive glow of phosphorescent dots, lures you into an almost zombie state. If you’ve ever started getting by on not much sleep, you find that, for example, a trip to work, something you do day after day, becomes so robot like that you actually remember starting to work, and arriving, but can’t recall anything in between.
There is a certain “robot nature” of zombies. We are shown that they are driven by their prime directive, i.e. to grab normal people and consume their flesh. They are hard to kill, unless you are a great enough shot to get a brain shot off. In fact, zombies, at some level, are like the antithesis, the polar opposite of robots. It’s almost like zombies have an ANTI-ROBOT code. We know that Isaac Asimov created the Three Laws of Robots https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Laws_of_Robotics. If you examine what zombies do, its like they were programmed to have the OPPOSITE of the three laws as their goal.
So, we daily see that in some ways, Robots and Computers, via sophisticated hardware and software, are crowding humans out of jobs in various industries. One of the first arenas in which the robots won jobs, is in the automotive assembly and production lines. Although the initial input of cash to tool up for lines to be robot driven was large, auto industry people found that having ZERO sick days for robots, not having to provide insurance, pay workers comp claims, were significant benefits on the backend. Plus, robots can do the same thing over and over without varying. This gives the automaker some great advantages in things like quality control. A robotic pain sprayer can paint car after car and the paint application will be standard, even, and they don’t get tired, don’t have to have breaks, and don’t have to wear respirators.
So, it is not unthinkable that humans are now, actually becoming concerned that robots MAY take their job away. When you see a device as your competition to earn a living, it is not unusual to start to demonizing them. A relentless, simpleminded creature that is not “alive” in the normal sense, can be the kind of thing that can creep you out, can engender hatred or even rage. They may not have a lot of complex behaviors, but robots and zombies can be a “one trick pony” with a lack of having a wide range of skills, nevertheless, they are good at that one thing they do.
Another thing is that stress is having a terrible effect on our health, our psyche.
All this stress can start to grow into rage, and how better to vent this rage than being able to bring devastating violence on a “non-human”.
Vicariously, on the movie screen or in first person shooter games, we can become a faux sociopath, and kill creatures that from a distance, appear to be humans, but close up, you are thrust into a kill or be killed situation.
Thus, zombies can become “The Other”…the nameless faceless enemy that lurks to get us when we least expect it. A zombie can become a metaphor for your boss, the government, an asshole neighbor, or whomever your nemesis may be at the present.
They can become the scapegoat for all the “normal” people.
Zombies can also be a metaphor for paedophiles, rapists, brutal cops…they are the Walking Evil.
Friedrich Nietzsche said once “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
The zombie narrative seems almost custom made for this quote…because, if you place yourself in a situation where you might encounter several zombies…you could quite literally “become a monster”.
So…zombies are the ultimate villain in some respects. Like cancer, zombies can take not only your body, but also your brain/ mind.
There’s one more thing we have to look at. In some ways, zombies become the incarnation of Death itself. They have embraced death, were transformed by that experience, and are capable of taking your personality and throwing it away, making you one of a horde of creatures who, like you, don’t have lofty goals for the future, but are all about living in the moment…with the drive of hunger, pushing them forward to find more and more victims.
It is a feature of humans that we want to feel we are unique, special. But, at work, you may be pressured to dress a certain way, talk a certain way, and encouraged all too often, to leave your morals at the door, and if your boss says to lie to, to cheat customers, you either have to do it or quit. So, you may not be stumbling forward in jerky movements, seeking brains…but you may be stumbling along from day to day, mindlessly following orders, and losing your ability to do what your internal code of honor, your sense of fairness, tells you that you SHOULD do.
Zombies, thus, are the logical extension of what corporations do to you… you become, in many ways, zombified, even thou you have not been bitten.
We can feel like, in a world that forces you to conform, to match certain codes of appearance, that in a weird way…we have become the zombies (cue the Friedrich Nietzsche music).
And, let’s face it, there is a primal urge in many of us, to fight for our clan, our nation…but in the Zombie Apocalypse, national borders would mean nothing. This is shown very well in the World War Z movie. The zombie, as both a predator and prey, allows a scenario in which putting a bullet through the brain of a zombie, is not only legal, but expected…all the joy of fighting, but without the legal complications. It becomes a first person shooter game, but in real life.
Zombies force people to cooperate, and it would take such a threat to the human race, to get us to work together. So, there is also that aspect of a zombie movie, we see that countries and groups who normally would go to war, agree on a truce for the duration. I think some of us want to see more peace, more cooperation, and seeing people do that in zombie movies, make us realize that such cooperation CAN happen, given a serious enough threat to us all.
And, lest we not examine the zombie side, in a funny manner, with all our stresses, the zombie life might appear to have a certain charm. They don’t worry about electric bills, insurance, traffic jams, getting old, etc. They are opportunistic hunters and scavengers…eating machines with a roughly human form. That said, I’d rather stay human thank you 🙂
So, that’s my rambling.
Thanks for reading this.