Why Are Zombies Consuming Our Culture?
Eh, it’s Friday, so we’re going to have a little fun debate. ZOMBIES. I never actively intended the undead to be part of my author brand, but strangely? It fits. Just take one glance at an author trying to make deadline (hmmm, word choice?) or someone who’s been through Revision Hell? The term “Walking Dead” fits. These poor souls shamble around moaning. They wear stained clothes, coffee mug in hand and have that creepy thousand-yard stare.
Don’t shoot! Well, unless it’s a tranquilizer gun because that is the only way many writers in these stages are going to get any sleep.
Jokes aside, why have zombies invaded pop culture?
The Spawn and Zombies
It started out kinda cute. It was Halloween and Spawn was three. But first, a tad of backstory so y’all have context.
When Spawn was slightly less than two, he began to speak…beautifully. His third word was “dinosaur” and it was as clear as if an adult said it. I was so excited. He was talking! And just like every child I’d cared for in the past, he was speaking early, intelligibly and articulately. Then he was in a terrible accident and knocked his four front teeth into the maxilla. $20,000 of emergency maxo-facial surgery later? I had a baby bat who rarely spoke and hid his face.
Back to Halloween, 2013.
So Hubby and I were thrilled when all of the sudden, from the back seat, we hear this tiny voice say, “ZOMBIE.” That is SO OUR BOY!
Everything became about zombies and we’re still not exactly sure how since it wasn’t like we’d done anything to actively introduce him to the topic. I was addicted to documentaries about physics at the time.
Anyway, Spawn began making up zombie songs.
My husband loves heavy metal. All the sudden, I hear a growly toddler voice “singing”:
Zombies and BABIES
Zombies and BABIES
Meet you in the dark. Eat you in the park.
ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! ZOMBIEEEEEEE!
I confess, I laughed. I encouraged it because at least he was talking and singing. Then one day I hear him singing the Zombies and Babies tune, but the lyrics changed.
Zombies and Pears
Me: Zombies and pears?
Me: What kind of zombie eats pears?
Spawn: *matter-of-factly* Vegan Zombies.
And HOW do you argue with THAT?
And the ZOMBIE SAGA Continues…and CONTINUES
At first it was cute, then adorable. But after almost a year of nothing but zombies? I’m a bit weary. But, the only time I can even understand half of what he is saying is when he talks about zombies. He tells stories, makes up songs, asks lots of zombie-related questions, makes zombie rhymes.
And for those who have followed this blog, my four-year-old son was fired from preschool for his love of zombies. No, he didn’t bite or attack anyone, he just liked to wander around the playground with a blank stare and moan. Clearly the school didn’t see he was BORN to run for government office.
So now Mommy is homeschooling (unschooling actually). What I’ve decided is if he wants zombies, that’s what he’ll get. Think of all the topics! ZomBIOLOGY 101.
Prevention, pathology, epidemiology, history, plagues, prions, viruses, the CDC, ethics, and on and on. Either I will burn him out and he’ll find something new, or at least I can have fun, too.
But it does beg the question…
Why Are Zombies SO Popular?
My friend Kevin Lucia is a horror author who’s taught for WANA International and guest-posted here about this often misunderstood genre. One particular Lucia post was fascinating because he spoke about how “horror” often reflects much of what we’re facing as a society. For instance, after the invention of the A-Bomb, radioactivity was all the rage. Movie theaters and comics offered up all kinds of radioactive spiders, lizards, superheroes, super villains etc.
Texas Chainsaw Massacre came on the heels of the Vietnam War, a war which decimated accepted rules of combat and exposed authorities as flawed, corrupt and untrustworthy.
Now we exist in a world where we are no longer fighting countries or governments, we’re fighting ideas/behaviors—The War on Drugs, The War on Obesity, The War on Terror.
War of Words
Most of these “wars” are rife with ambiguity. Which drugs are the enemy? We’re Janus-faced. Our government burns poppy fields while doctors hand out Oxycotin like candy. The DEA torches marijuana fields, but then we can order “special” brownies in Colorado. Meth is evil, but then elementary schools are swimming in amphetamines (ADD meds).
Talk about confusing.
Then there is The War on Obesity. Sigh. I’m close to 170 pounds, but I wear a size 8. I fired my last doctor because he kept sending me for tests to figure out why I was so “morbidly obese.” Despite the fact that all my tests came back the picture of optimal health and my diet is gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, soda-free, low in sugar and no processed carbs, organic, non-GMO and I work out constantly, I was “fat.”
Ironically, if I wasn’t a white female, I’d be “curvy.” The African American nurse was my strongest ally and thought the doctor had four holes in his head. She made it a point to tell me I was beautiful and to ignore him.
But this is a fair question. What IS fat? In a world where J.Crew is offering up the NEW Size 000? Who the hell knows anymore?
The terrifying part (for me) is that ideas are malleable and can be redefined. “Terrorist” is all about perspective and personal value systems. I’ve had people on Facebook call gun-owners domestic terrorists and viscously attack me for having guns. Of course, the interesting part is many of them live in major metropolitan areas. Politics aside, a large portion of these detractors don’t live in places where their definitive position at the top of the food chain not is static.
We’ve had nests like these (above) at our property, even beneath the HOUSE. I’ve nearly stepped on a rattlesnake countless times. Also at our ranch, we’ve been battling a MAJOR wild boar infestation. Wild boar can weigh hundreds of pounds. They’re viscous, invasive, aggressive, territorial and have long razor-sharp tusks that rival a French chef knife.
Cell phones rarely work out there, and even if they did, it would take at least 30 minutes for outside help to arrive.
New Kinds of War
Also, these days there is NO way to really know or see the enemy. The enemy (like Vietnam) can be anyone and everyone. It isn’t a soldier dressed in a blue or red or green uniform. Men, women, children, babies, elderly are all potential killers in many parts of the world.
Interesting how this parallels with the idea of zombies. However infected, the zombie is just as much a victim as its prey. A virus “recruits” universally and doesn’t discriminate.
A Universal and Politically Correct “Enemy”?
I was a child of the 70s and 80s. We were a seriously un-PC generation. We fought the Russians daily in our backyard and all watched the 1984 Olympics with more enthusiasm than any Olympics since. Our goal? BEAT THE RUSSIANS. Then the Iron Curtain parted, the Berlin Wall fell and a world with two major axes of power crumbled.
Also, with an increasingly globalized world most of us live in very heterogenous populations. I live in a relatively small satellite community in DFW. I see Vietnamese, Koreans, Indians, Muslims, Africans every time I go to a grocery store. This notion of we are ALL in this together? Clearer by the day.
Sure we witness human-against-human war all the time on the news, which is why I limit how much I watch. But my opinion? The biggest threats we will face in the future are not people, but biology.
In the 80s and 90s, doctors threw antibiotics at EVERYTHING. We’re seeing all kinds of superbugs emerging. I was an early adopter and contracted Swine Flu the year before it paralyzed the US. I’ve never been so sick in my LIFE. I had a boiling fever (104-108) for two weeks and it took THREE MONTHS to fully recover.
Add in SARS, Bird Flu, Mad Cow Disease, MRSA, Flesh-Eating viruses, Tuberculosis, The Kardashians and Honey Boo-Boo?
It makes sense that zombies would be part of the national consciousness when every time we get sick we need GODZILLACILLIN to tame a simple ear infection.
Zombies—A Social Observation? How We Feel About Others
Zombies. Mindless. Unaware of anything but their own hunger.
A couple posts ago, I mentioned going to yoga to decompress and have quiet time away from the noise of our fast-paced world. The woman next to me texted THE ENTIRE TIME. She couldn’t set down the cell phone for an HOUR.
Fifteen years ago, if a car was going 20 mph in a 50 mph zone and weaving through lanes? Probably a drunk. NOW? Likely texting or looking at a phone.
I was at a 7-11 trying to buy water to bring to the park. I happened to be behind this young 20-something with his pants nearly to his knees….on a PHONE. The poor clerk kept having to redo the transaction because this guy was chatting away and kept hitting the wrong buttons on the swipe pad.
It took everything for me not to rip the phone out of his hands and yell, “I’m happy you are wearing underwear, but don’t need proof. Please pull up your pants, hang up the phone and give this person working to HELP you the respect enough to be present. You are not the only one in this world and there is a line of people behind you who’d kinda like to buy stuff too and not stare at your @$$ any longer than necessary.”
How We Feel About Ourselves
I can’t speak for all the world, but I can speak for Western culture. Every time they give us a new “time-saving” tool, they just pile on more stuff to do on our heads. When I was in the corporate world, there were people who bragged that they hadn’t taken a vacation in a decade.
Please do, because you are a worn out jerk and everyone HATES YOU.
If you took a vacation, it was frowned upon and not-so-subtley punished. Even taking SICK DAYS was punished. When I worked in paper, I got pneumonia. They forced me to come to the office (loaded with paper fiber) and we were located next to a concrete plant so the air was full of concrete dust…but then had NO IDEA why I wasn’t getting better.
Many of us deal with workplaces that would rather us lumber in with 103 degree fever than take a day off.
Thanks for infecting the rest of us.
So why ARE we fascinated with zombies? Many of us spend a lot of time burned out and surrounded by stupidity. We’re medicated, caffeinated and indoctrinated. I don’t know about you, but I seriously miss my BRAAAAIIIIINS. I also miss when Spawn loved NASCAR. Sigh.
What are your thoughts? Why have zombies taken the place of Godzilla and Giant Spiders from Outer Space? Do you think the zombie craze is a reflection of our social angst? Or maybe we relate to the poor zombie more than we’d like to admit?
It’s Friday, let’s have some fun and be Armchair Anthropologists and Sideline Sociologists!
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