Confession time: I am a zombie fanatic. I watch zombie films, I read zombie books, I keep up with The Walking Dead, and I sometimes play zombie games. Well, I play Plants Vs. Zombies anyway. I have a difficult time playing the more realistic, adult-oriented games because, as anyone who has ever tried to play a post-Super Nintendo game with me can tell you, I’m terrible at first person shooter games (I run into walls constantly and only do good things on accident.
Several years ago, I came across this article by Chuck Klosterman. In it, Klosterman explains that one of the reasons for the recent zombie craze is that killing zombies feels much like our modern way of life-endlessly deleting e-mails, texts, and shuffling through doing-what-has-to-be-done. But this article by Steven Schlozman takes a different approach, seeing zombies as a cautionary tale about striking the balance between individuality and being a pack animal. There are, of course, a host of other things that help to account for our fascination with zombies (some of which are discussed in the aforementioned articles): fear of disease, fear of death, etc.
In this post, I outlined the etymology of “monster” and discussed some of the more famous monster hoaxes. But zombies seem to be operating a different level than these hoaxes. We seem at once aware of the zombie as a fictional character and concerned about the plausibility of a zombie outbreak. And the result of our fascination is that zombies have become a multi-million dollar industry:
As for me, there are three simple but terribly true reasons that I find zombie stories compelling. The first is the world that gets created when everything fails-the government, and by extension education, social welfare, prison systems, road maintenance, etc.; and modern inventions, including electricity, the Internet, GPS, running water, and telecommunications. Watching others cope with such struggles reminds me of the privilege I have now and how different life could be, not just in the event of a zombie apocalypse, but in the face of being born elsewhere in the world.
The second is the failure of modern notions of childhood, morality, and socioeconomic status to hold up under the pressures of a post apocalyptic world. In Zombieland, one of most disturbing erosions of culture is the loss of names; in The Walking Dead, it’s the loss of childhood embodied by Carl, Judith, and Carol’s decision to teach the children about knife safety and zombie killing during story-time; in 28 Days Later, it’s ownership of the female body. The list goes on, but I won’t, except to say that, again, these conversations mirror conversations that we have daily, that we rehearse in our arguments about these concepts.
And the third thing is the complexities that arise when we see something human that isn’t human. Or that we don’t think is human. In Shaun of the Dead, the undead are able to be trained to perform simple tasks. In Warm Bodies, they retain something of their prior selves and can think and feel. (TV Tropes has a handy list of all sorts of zombie stuff. You’ll get stuck.) And there is a repeated scene in which someone must kill a loved-one-turned-zombie, one that turns up in virtually every piece of zombie fiction ever.
And so I’m a zombie girl because I love thinking about these things, and because I love to be scared.