Popular Culture: Zombies
Everywhere you turn these days on television we always see shows that have to do with zombies. It has become a big cultural hit that comes back year after year. What is it that fascinates everyone about zombies? Is it in their ability to move slowly yet dangerously go after human blood or is it because they are portrayed in a post apocalyptic way? The fear zombies create in a realistic way has brought many to question their purpose and the hidden messages within to context of zombies.
George Romero brought the concept of zombies in his film Night of the living dead (1968). The zombie apocalypse shows the undead roaming earth while the rest of the people react to and find ways in surviving. Not only that but it portrayed historical and cultural roots that were prevalent during that time period. It carries messages having to with identity and what it means to be a human being. Themes having to with race, gender, and violence also play a role in this film. Many people compared it with with the Vietnam War going on during that time period. Also the role that was carried by an African American playing the hero but then getting killed off at the end by a white person had a similar comparison to an actual event. The death of great leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., represents in the film death of great leaders to the death of ordinary people struggles in achieving a better world. This film demonstrates the many different interpretations that can be found while looking into what the purpose of the zombie is.
Here is a list of qualities that most zombies posses and to what extent they are capable of reacting to situations based on George Romero’s concept:
- Newly dead corpses are produced by radiations, chemicals, and viruses
- Mainly human yet in some cases they can include zombie animals
- Very strong, but not very fast
- Receptive to pain, they are able to function after sustaining extreme physical damage
- Invulnerable to injury, except for decapitation or destruction of the brain
- Driven to kill and eat
- And they are afraid of fire and bright lights
The Walking Dead, Resident Evil, True Blood, and Twilight are other examples to t.v series/films/video games that have become very popular in the United States. The great thing about the zombie genre is that it can reach to many people and at a wide range of an audience. Taking for example all the pre-teens and young adults who gathered around to see the movie Twilight. The author of the popular series approaches her character to be “about life, not death”, and “love, not lust”. Because of her choice in her audience many of the themes she chooses to address also deal with choice and free will. Although, the category of the twilight series is labeled under fantasy romance novels it does reach a level of romance that is appropriate to that age group. True Blood on the other hand, is directed towards an older audience. It’s themes focus is that of death and re-birth; the circle of life. The “sexual energy” was also an important step in showing the the viewers how it could corrupt humans and to what degree.
The Walking Dead touches on the post apocalyptic after the zombies have taken over. The series centers on a small group of survivors struggling to “make it” even though society has collapsed. The importance of this t.v series is to see how the human race survives and the desperation to survive pushes them to the limit. Resident Evil has also become very popular that it was even created into a movie series after the positive feedback on the video games. The zombie genre explores our fears and breaks down on society the wars, genocide, government collapsing, and starvation that could take place. The world would be chaotic and in ruins if all this were to happen. The outbreak would become a growing crisis. First of all, the virus would take over the military, law enforcement, therefore panicking everyone left in society. It gives the sense of despair yet hope in finding a “cure” for those who have turned to zombies.
The idea that zombies are not real and I know that it will never happen makes me feel reassured. I know that I can go to bed peacefully and when I wake up know there will be no zombies creeping around. For that reason, zombies has become a huge phenomenon because it never fails to put you on the edge of your seat. It leaves room for imagination, and the story line is endless. Although, zombies do not speak we still watch carefully every move that they make, to see who they will attack next and what will the people running away from them do. It also provides more narrative to the characters who are trying to find a safe place and to find a cure for the zombie epidemic.
There is no saying that pop culture is written all over the zombie genre. Films such as Shaun of the dead work even as a horror comedy, yet they still use the Romero concept in their storyline. Music legend Michael Jackson’s thriller video also had a profound effect on popular culture. His video proved to be a big moment in the music industry and was even named the “most successful music video”. Not to mention over 50 cities all over the world participate to celebrate zombie day, it has become a major attraction and open to all ages. People dress up and roam the streets of major cities communicating in zombie behavior. Most recently it has been used in political form, attention was brought to protesters who were walking as corporate zombies for occupy wall street! A phenomenon can be used to represent many things and can attract many people into a culture that we have been surrounded by. Therefore, when thinking about the term “zombie” people will always be able to think of something whether it is a film, novel, t.v show, or an artist. Zombies embody societies fears for the walking dead and will continue to do so for many more centuries to come.