I don’t get it. Why are we so obsessed with these inexorable, shuffling undead things? People are into a lot of different things—there are gamers, sports nuts, people who think politics actually matter—but everyone, it seems, is also into zombies.
Now that it’s Halloween, many of the people I connect with in the social media world have bastardized their once pleasant and smiling icons. Using Photoshop or some other device (I assume), they’ve put sores and blisters all over their faces, they’ve made their eyes look dead and lifeless.
“Happy Halloween!” they go in an accompanying post.
You can tell a lot about a culture by its monsters, I contend, and our monster is the zombie. Vampires have been gutted and turned into sparkly pretty boys. Demons and Satan are waning along with Christianity. Zombies are still scary, though, still terrible, and still have our full attention AS MONSTERS.
But it’s more than just an obsession with zombies. It’s actually an obsession with the apocalypse—the Zombie Apocalypse. Now, various religious groups have grooved on the end times and the apocalypse for centuries. They scare the crap out of people with doom and gloom and BANG! gain a whole slew of new followers. Historically, it’s been nothing more than a marketing ploy. The Zombie Apocalypse, however, is something different, entirely secular and modern. It has a will of its own, it seems, and is not created by someone with charisma misinterpreting a book very few people have read but still think is absolutely true.
We love the idea of apocalypse these days—or at least we’re fascinated by it. One of the universal themes in the Zombie Apocalypse Mythos is societal collapse. In every zombie story and movie, society collapses. Almost thankfully. Initially, this collapse is horrible, but the regular people, the non-zombie folks, vastly outnumbered and with all the odds against them, fight on. They even win some.
Clearly, there is something about this that we, the people, like. Perhaps we know, deep down inside, that to really achieve “a more perfect union”, absolute and utter disunion must be first achieved.
As contemporary Americans, we could be the zombies, the undead. Have you been to Wal-Mart lately? Our little lives unfold this way: birth, school, work, death—and we are not to question it, at least not fundamentally. Our only recompense is consumerism. We are born. We go to school to learn how to work (be a productive member of society! Yay!). We go to work and become a cog in the very machine that grinds us. We receive nickels and dimes to buy trinkets and distractions, and then we die. We can question elements of this system or aspects of it, but not the whole entire thing. Most of us can’t even conceive of something different. We simply want “better” schools or “better” jobs or “more” nickels and dimes for trinkets and distractions. When we go to the voting booth, we actually think we’re making a difference.
The Zombie Apocalypse represents real change and I think that’s why we, as a culture, are so engaged by it. It’s terrible and it’s dangerous, but at least it’s fucking REAL.
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