The zombie is one of the most horrific monsters presented in movies today. The zombie has always been feared, but that is due to how society has changed and how zombies have changed in relation to it. There are several important characteristics to examine when looking at the zombie such as its creation, how they attack, their strengths, and weakness. There are three types of zombies prominent in pop culture that will be viewed: the voodoo zombie, the Romero zombie, and the rage zombie. By using the attributes of the each of these types of the living dead as a metaphor, it becomes easy to see the fears of the culture.
The earliest zombies are of the Vodoun, which we will call the Voodoo zombie. The fact that these zombies became popular reflects several fears of pre-1960s culture. These monsters were often created by evil magic, which is the antithesis of Christianity and other larger organized religions. It was common for the members of these religions would have been scared of the foreign Voodoo practitioners from Africa or Haiti. This shows a general xeno-phobia was much more prevalent in the earlier cultures. As society started to shift from religion to science the voodoo zombie began to fade out and the Romero zombie slowly shuffled in.
In 1968 zombie culture was brought back from the afterlife in Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. No longer would evil spirits and voodoo priests continue to scare society. The new fear was a zombie apocalypse. Some sort of alien virus was the cause of the beginning of the end in Night of the Living Dead from outer space. As Romero’s series continues it becomes clear that this is the fear of this society. It is not a fear of some religious but of the new religion science. These zombies can now be seen under the microscope. This invasion of the undead reflects many of this cold war society’s fear. This is similar to the fear of communist invasion. Previous zombie concerns were in foreign lands, and never in large numbers. Now zombies were an army destroying everything before them. The most terrifying thing of these creatures was now we could easily become one, or our neighbors. Zombies could now be anyone and everywhere.
A new zombie was introduced only slightly more than 28 years later. This is the rage zombie from 28 Days Later. The new century needed a new zombie to represent new post-911 fears. This zombie is an infection based fear. In the film, the original source is a pharmaceutical research center. The fear is a combination of biological warfare and big corporations. This new source shows the transition of an invading army of “alien” attackers to the fear of the one percent. This has led to a highly scientific monster so far removed from the mysticism of the previous generations.
The rage zombie also is an example of one of the most refined fear of what lies inside of each of us. These creatures are no longer dead, but are letting loose the potential rage, which is contained within each of us. The Oprah fed mothers teaching their children that anyone could be a rage-infected individual out to get them has fueled this fear. Like these individuals, anyone could be zombified at any moment due to some miniscule reason. This latest zombie reincarnation has truly changed from the faith based fear of the voodoo zombie.
Fears are constantly changing just as zombies are constantly changing, leading these monsters to make a spot-on metaphor for culture’s fears. Each zombie brings with it a new list of phobias intending to strike fear into the viewer’s hearts. There is much that can be learned from our brain eating brethren. Just like our fears a lot can be learned just from where the zombie originates. These creatures, which can traditional only grunt or scream for brains, can tell a lot about who we are and what we dread.