Welcome to October, which I’m declaring ‘zombie month.’
I’ve been promising for a long time to tell you guys about my theory on why zombies are so popular right now.
Well, the truth is that every time period seems to have a monster that sums up the zeitgeist, the psychology, the collective subconscious fears created by events we all experience together.
In Regency/Napoleonic England, it was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that fired up people’s imaginations. This might have been because, standing on the end of the cusp of the industrial revolution and experiencing the social dissonance created by the mechanism of manufacturing, society was trying to work out the place that science and man’s creations will have in this new world.
The Victorians gave us Dracula, an incarnation of the vampires that had haunted Europe for so long. Vampires represented the Victorians getting a bit nervous because, in the face of Darwin and evolution, they got this sudden sneaking suspicion that they might not be the top of the food chain after all.
When zombies first became known to white western society, they weren’t the brain-munching undead plague we associate with the word now. They were the classic voodoo victims, mindless, and mostly harmless servants to voodoo bocors (practitioners).
Then we sort of leaned toward fearing aliens, and it’s not too hard to connect that with us questioning if we’d really done the right thing creating weapons powerful enough to kill ourselves if we decided to actually use them. You know, things dropped down from above?
But the zombies we fear today are basically George Romero’s version, of soulless, dead shells of bodies that hunger for the flesh of the living. They travel in packs, stupidly hunting down the living more by mindless tenacity than anything else.
And that’s what we fear. Not really having our brains eaten–though I’m not going to sluff that one off, personally. I’m kind of fond of my brain. It’s the idea of losing our humanity and becoming a part of the slavering horde.
There has been a fundamental shift in Western society since the 1960s. Before that, it was important to fit in. But now, we also desire to stick out, to express ourselves and our individuality. The internet has made this even harder. Everyone can talk about themselves now, be famous to a small extent. But if everyone is a little famous, does anyone stick out?
So, there it is, folks. For me, the fear of zombies is really the fear of the ultimate loss of individuality.
What do you think?
Coming up on October is Zombie month!
- The best zombie dance of all time
- The archeology of the undead
- Amanda Ashby, author of “The Zombie Queen of Newbury High”