Why Are Zombies Consuming Our Culture?

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This poster for sale HERE.

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

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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.



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.

New song?

Zombies and Pears

Me: Zombies and pears?

Spawn: Yep.

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

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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

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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 Shapeshifting

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.

Image courtesy of Texana

Image courtesy of Texan


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”?

Original "Red Dawn"

Original “Red Dawn”

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.

Beat the Russians Bugs

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

Image via Pink's Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Pink’s Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

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

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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.

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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!

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).


For those who need help building a platform (HINT: Start as EARY as possible) here’s my newest social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.


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  1. It’s an unconscious cultural anticipation of an extended period of social unrest following monetary and economic collapse. It will take about two weeks after the grocery stores empty for the last time.to manifest. That’s when we’ll all compete to see who gets voted off the planet.

  2. I adore zombies and the terror they instill. Maybe it’s because it’s scary because anyone can be infected and to lose yourself and start munching on your fellow man or a loved one is just creepy.

    And I agree about the phones *groan* As a college professor I see the rampant use of phones that borders on insanity. I wish we had devices that would render the damn things dead while students are in class. It’s getting to the point where professors are literally dropping repeat offenders from their rosters just to get rid of the distractions they cause.

    I truly believe that if we ever truly see zombies in our lifetimes it won’t be from a virus or other contagion. It will most likely be from some sort of virtual mind control sent to the masses through their phones…

  3. Wow so this baby sounds absolutely adorable and I love the zombiology idea, too cute! I really loved this post particularly the bit about cell phones. I hate making blanket statements but I do feel that as a society we are becoming far too overstimulated. I constantly watch netflix while doing other things and now when I am only doing that other activity, I feel like I need to watch netflix at the same time to do it. I do feel as if we have become zombies; feeding our appetite with technology and becoming so overstimulated that we no longer have our own mind; just a jumble of want this and want that. Great post. I wrote a humorous post about yoga recently that you might enjoy; so feel free to drop by. Looking forward to reading more!

  4. LIfe is hard, so we’re looking for an easy kill? (“Easy” being a relative modifier.)

  5. I don’t watch horror movies but I appreciate your ideas as to why Americans are obsessed with them. My grown daughter went through a phase where the whole zombie/viral infection stuff really scared her and we couldn’t joke about. My husband decided to keep his assault rifle partly to assure her we had a bit of protection. I don’t relate to US culture much. I never understood the infatuation with the Mafia either as in the popularity of “The Sopranos.” Right now I’m wrestling with the “Fifty Shades of Grey” phenomenon. When I want to freak my husband out I just look at him and say “puckered love cave.” I used to wonder if I could write well enough to be an author. Between E.L. James and Dan Brown, I’m beginning to wonder if I can write badly enough.

    1. LOL and EW!

    2. “When I want to freak my husband out I just look at him and say “puckered love cave.” ” ROFL!

      “Between E.L. James and Dan Brown, I’m beginning to wonder if I can write badly enough.” Oh, too true!

  6. I think it has to do with our will to survive. We need something to overcome–zombies are the ultimate. They help us forget about our jobs, the stress, and life.

  7. Reblogged this on Logan Keys Fiction and commented:
    Love this!

  8. Oh, the cell phone addiction. I was at pub trivia last night and one of the rules is no cell phones so you can’t look up answers. My friend instinctively kept reaching for her iphone every time there was a 10 second lull in answering questions. We had to slap her hand away! Even I was reached for my phone a couple times, and had to remind myself what I wanted to check could wait. I think smart phones are totally turning us ZOMB.

    Also, that’s funny about the spawn wandering the playground like a zomblie. I bet he’s a creative kid.

    • dkent on July 25, 2014 at 12:13 pm
    • Reply

    Monsters are a Rorschach inkblot test of current society. Vampires have changed meanings over the years according to what we are afraid of. Zombies are about the same.

    Zombies are often a PC stand-in for various ethnic groups society seems to be afraid of and secretly, or not so secretly, desires to blow into little bits. The current border crisis has a zombie invasion feel to it to some people.

    Zombies, like vampires, are also getting the cute and cuddly or sparkly makeover in various novels. As gross as it sounds, zombies have been heroes in mysteries, romances, and urban fantasy novels. I really don’t get that.

  9. Life is less visceral now. It’s like we live in the third person with our TV’s, video games, and even the voyeuristic quality of our social networking. We are watching life more then we are participating in it. We are disconnected. So, yeah, zombies…
    Zombies… They don’t hate you, They’re just hungry, like an animal. Different than malevolent witches, and evil stepparents, and mad scientists with back story. Easy to kill because they are soulless. No ethical quandaries.
    BTW, love your un-schoolling ideas for Spawn. We’ve found that the best “schooling” happens around things the kids are passionate about.

  10. I think the current fascination with zombies has to do with a number of things. The increase in media coverage about the risk of world wide epidemics such as H1N1, continued uncertainty about the strength of the economy, eroding infrastructure, a fear that the neighbor you wave, or even your own family to could suddenly turn into a monster, general end of times fears via natural disaster, a culture of apathy, an overabundance of film adaptations of the supernatural set. It also helps that there is fantastic writing on shows like The Walking Dead. High ratings and great story telling breed copy cats.

    When you compare that long list with fears tied to other creatures that go bump in the night, for instance vampires and sex, zombies by far more complex and meriting additional study.

    They are also not completely outside of the realm of fiction. There is a parasite that is known to zombify caterpillars. It doesn’t take much imagination that it could mutate to infect larger creatures the same way superbugs adapted to survive antibiotics.

  11. Wonderful post as usual, Kristen! Though after revision hell I’m less of a “walking dead” and more of a “slowly crawling towards bed and cackling madly” dead.

  12. I love your detour talking about the “war on (Insert thing here).” I think that in the Western world we’re so sheltered that we need to create boogeymen like that in order to engage that deeper, inner understanding that life is not sunshine and rainbows. We don’t experience enough true conflict, and our minds start creating it where there is none.

    It comes to a visceral point, too. I remember watching the movie The Chumscrubber a few years back and thinking that we really have taken our lives to the point that there isn’t a lot of critical thought, or excitement, or even much living at all. In effect, there’s a zombie in each of us.

    1. Beautifully stated.

  13. Zombies are mindless, all about themselves and their own needs. Like many in today’s “it’s all about me” society. And it is very scary.

  14. We need our cell phones just like zombies need BRAIIIINS!!!! Lol! They’re like the lifeblood of our society. The need to be connected is insatiable, though not for everyone. I think my parents are the two people on Earth who don’t buy in to the obsession. Good for them. Bad for me when I’m trying to locate them. 🙂

  15. Very insightful! I really loved this post.

    1. Yeah, I think about this stuff, LOL. Thanks.

      1. I do, too. Which is why I’m only *slightly* jealous I didn’t think of it first. 😉 My zombie novel will be out next year, LOL.

  16. Pleasant the way to exhort to meditation.

    • alent1234 on July 25, 2014 at 1:53 pm
    • Reply

    zombies were kind of big in the mid 80’s when people were watching the living dead movies
    something to do with demographics. the baby boomers and now the millennials are two very large generations compared to the previous generation and they are at about the same age now when zombie movies became popular the first time.

    probably something about people dreams of independence being shattered by having to follow societal rules

  17. Great post, anything that dealing with zombies is my cup of tea. I guess I’m just a zombie fanatic, lol. Loved the picture of the baby and the cat!

  18. I think there is a part of human nature that wants to be free of restraint – destroying the culture that makes us into zombies is the first step. I see a lot of people who are ‘walking dead’ some with cell phones, and some just not there.

    Also, with this economy, young people understand that they will never have what their parents have. It’s going to be a struggle against ‘them’ to survive. But there isn’t really a ‘them’ it’s us and current policies that make this the land of the 99% vs the 1%.

  19. First, I laughed so hard over your wished-for comment to the saggy pants guy at the store. So rude in too many ways to count. Interestingly enough, I said similar words (couched in proper tone and body language of course) to a few of my 7th and 8th grade students before. It floors them that we expect them to follow societal norms.
    I’m not a fan of zombies, but after reading how you’ve related them to so many real-world ideas, I am willing to open my mind and give them another try.
    I think a mindless enemy is easier to deal with than people who would plot for years to blow up an office building and kill thousands. To defeat the zombies, just run fast and have a gun that will blow their heads off. These plotters who blend into the crowd? Not so easy to conquer.
    Thanks for offering up another dose of both laughter and deep-thinking.

  20. Kristen, ever since you blogged about Spawn being fired from nursery school because of zombies, I have been hoping you would tell us how he reached that point. Thank you for his baby backstory. All parents can relate to it, even though most of us have not had to watch a toddler endure such a horrible accident. Things like zombie fascination just happen as parents try to help and heal their child in their own way, and kids do pick up on things seen or heard at home. I was alarmed last Easter when zombies cropped up in my 1st grade Sunday School class. I never thought I’d be faced with the idea of Jesus as a zombie while talking about His Resurrection! We had a calm but quick discussion of truth vs. fiction, but, even with only 2 imaginative boys in the class, the mood had been set. When we went to decorating crosses, the girls had lovely flowers and the boys had blood running and dripping everywhere. It made me face a physical truth I had never seen so out in the open before–the Crucifixion of Jesus must have been a very bloody event. So we talked about that a little and then ended with the beauty of His rising and overcoming all that. It’s a sad fact that our world is violent and scary, and I think the best thing we can do every day is help our kids get their fear out from inside so they can learn to manage it, whether it be through zombies, war play, or superheroes. I’m sorry Spawn’s teachers didn’t address zombies in a good way with him, but he seems in a better place now–and this phase will pass, too, when mastered, like all others as he grows. You’re a great mom, Kristen!

  21. The appeal of zombies is easy to understand.
    You have “guts and brains” for the visceral types, and insightful commentary on societal mores for the cerebral types. “BRAINS!!”, either way!

  22. There’s just so many things to love about this post, I’d list them, but I don’t want to write a novel. LOL. You should have said what you put here to the guy in the store. He needed to hear it. 😛 Also, Can’t wait to see what Spawn falls in love with next. You know, AFTER the zombie phase. It will end, you know. *Pats head.* It will end.

  23. A few years ago I wrote a post on The Walking Dead, as I was obsessed with it, and basically decided that it boils down to our consumerist culture and spiritual emptiness:

    “The creators of The Walking Dead have yanked these group of survivors out of the everyday everyone-for-themselves-let’s-consume-and-destroy-until-we-die kind of lifestyle. The survivors are forced to be in opposition to the walking dead—that part of humanity that is soulless and bent on destroying one another….We…despise zombies because they represent the lowest of our own potential. A life without soul.”

    But still. Go zombies!

  24. Interesting post…though I prefer vampires anyway! Hope you can take a look at my blog some day, about modern literary characters in the modern world. Cheers, Annabelle

  25. Reblogged this on Kentucky Mountain Girl News and commented:
    KMGN: I have also asked this same question. Several times in fact. What do you think?

  26. Thank you for writing this. I have often asked this same question. I enjoy how you wrote about it and am reblogging. Keep up the good work!

  27. I giggled, snorted and chortled.Thanks Kristen for your chef knife dish/sushi on today’s obsession with running away from real news, while hiding in a movie theater (zombie filled or not).

    I’m buying your book! I hope that inside your chapters you don’t suggest I put “Zombie Dog Mysteries” into my book title.

    Am I the only one “sick” of the thick stream of war words and images popping up everywhere, like the dancers from “Thriller”? You’d think the Lord’s Prayer ends “War without end.” I’d much rather eat a zombie, take a zombie to lunch or find a cure.

  28. What IS it with the pants around their knees?!

  29. Some really interesting ideas. I always thought zombies became popular because they were the last real ‘monster’ left in pop culture. Vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein, and even Godzilla have ben humanized, given motives and feelings and in many cases become “misunderstood creatures suffering under an affliction” and not MONSTERS.

    Of course, once zombies became popular, people began humanizing them, and giving them motives, and feelings, and…

    • Louise on July 25, 2014 at 9:48 pm
    • Reply

    I think the fascination with zombies, particularly end-of-the-world scenarios like The Walking Dead, is more to do with the survivors and less to do with the zombies. Any threat will do, and zombies are the current fad. (I believe the “Walking Dead” refers to the survivors.)
    Surviving in a world where society has collapsed feeds into Prepper/Survivalist fantasies. Some of us just like to imagine living in this other world where the rules are different. Then there are people who stash guns and supplies and wear camo daily because they’re excited this will actually happen, leading to the ultimate “us and them” scenario where it’s finally okay to shoot “them”, the (stereotyped) invaders who want your stuff: today it’s the Black gangsta who steals your TV, the Mexican who steals your job, the government that steals your taxes. In a Prepper’s wet dream the invader will be, paradoxically, the US Army, necessitating the accumulation of an arsenal for “personal defense”.

    1. Personally, I am capping that person who stole my parking space. Just GIVE ME A REASON O_0

  30. I think we’ve lost the ability to disconnect from everything, and that’s turning all of us into zombies. It was really cool to have smartphones and the Internet until people realized that they could now get hold of you 24/7/365, even when you were on vacation, at home, sick, trying to sleep, or sitting on the toilet. Because we have 5000 channels on TV, we feel like we have to watch all of them, and we end up seeing and hearing all this awful news that we shouldn’t be watching but can’t take our eyes off of. All of the technology has taken over our lives: we’ve gone from a 40-hour work week to a 168-hour one, we’re afraid to turn off the TV and the phone and the computer because we don’t know what to do with ourselves without them. We’re at each others’ throats because we’re teetering on the brink of exhaustion. Too much smartphone, too much computer, too much TV, and not enough sleep, not enough time spent face-to-face with other human beings.

    I’m looking forward to reading “The End of Absence” by Michael Harris, which comes out the middle of next month. I understand he deals with a lot of this.

    1. A-MEN!

  31. One of my assignments at university was to write a 3000 word essay on changing depictions of some sort of un/sub/super-natural being. I went with Frankenstein’s monster, and it really was interesting to see how depictions (I looked at movies) have reflected the anxieties and preoccupations of their times.
    I was going to go for the golem, but there was only about one movie I could find. Maybe that’ll be next after zombies? Plenty of potential there…
    Btw, I think you mean “viciously attacked” – unless you were actually viscously attacked in which case all I can say is EW! (Like those red-faced people who shower you with spittle when they shout… One of the benefits of arguing online instead of in person, eh?)

  32. I think that we’re obsessed with Zombies because like you mentioned. We have a lot of bugs out there that can cause a pandemic….plus everyone’s so balls deep in their electronics they pretty much walk around LIKE Zombies. Pop culture then dictates what we read, watch, & listen to. We’re all afraid that some pandemic proportion disease is going to come in, tear us up one side & down the other, and then leave us genetically altered that it’s permeated everything in our entertainment lives.

    By the way….I think that your Spawn has taken after his very creative mommy & your homeschooling him is going to be just what he needs to nurture this. You might raise a future writer or director. 😀 Good job!

  33. When my daughters were growing up in a rural valley in western Washington state in the 1980s, a major event was the weekly visit of the county library bookmobile.The girls became happily obsessed with Elfquest comics and we all looked forward to the arrival of anther Adventures of Tintin. The bookmobile also brought us records and cassette tapes. And there were woodlots and fields to play Elfquest in. Unsupervised. And we didn’t have a television.
    At the time it didn’t seem like an idyllic world (it wasn’t). But now? It seems like people are just deliberately marching further into stupidity–zombie-like.
    Unplug, hide or throw out the gadgets if they’re enslaving you. You have a choice!

  34. Really interesting post. I didn’t get the zombie thing until I read World War Z last year. It was actually amazing! You’re right about Zombie’s being used as metaphors for other things. In World War Z (the book) it was about lack of human cooperation and massive governmental failures, which allowed the infection (shall we say) to spread. By the end of the book you even became completely desensitised to the fact they were monsters, they were just ‘the enemy’. If you haven’t read it I highly recommend it!

  35. I think a large part of it is that it’s so easy to project issues and ideas onto monsters that both are and aren’t us -zombies are a handy stand in for everything from consumerism to Korea.

    On the subject of zombies and learning, there’s a geography teacher who’s built a whole curriculum around a zombie theme – check out http://www.zombiebased.com

  36. Reblogged this on North Country Writers' Night Out.

  37. It used to be that movies could demonize some other country or culture as the universal bad guys (the Russians, the Chinese, etc.), but the movie business these days is so global that all of those groups are a potential audience, so other bad guys had to become the focus. I remember in the last Captain America movie when (mild spoilers) the bad guys turned out to be Nazis I thought that when a movie set in the present day resorts to Nazis as villains, it’s because they don’t want to run any risk of actually offending anybody anywhere.

    There is a pull and a push involved here. The pull is that we’re drawn to stories which relate in a metaphorical way to our current anxieties. You gave some good examples, and here’s another one. How many episodes of Star Trek involved Kirk having to triumph, on behalf of humanity, over some sort of very powerful computer? There were quite a few.

    The push is that sometimes very popular story forms become untenable over time, and then writers have to try to find replacements. For example, stories about lost civilizations were very popular from the last 19th century to the middle of the 20th. Now, we can go to Google Maps and quickly figure out that there isn’t an isolated plateau in South America where there are still dinosaurs and so on. The same for stories about humanoid life on the planets of the solar system. We know what’s on Mars, and it isn’t Dejah Thoris. Another example would be the “gentleman adventurer” heroes of the early and middle of the 20th century. Philo Vance, the Shadow, the Spider, and even Batman are different variations on this idea. I think we have a pretty clear sense nowadays that rich men aren’t going to take to the streets to save us from crime or whatever.

    So, when these older forms pass away, there’s a need to figure out what will replace them. There are perennials (Sherlock Holmes, vampires), but otherwise they come and go because of how they connect with what’s going on now.

  38. You were spot-on, but don’t forget the brain-eating, flesh-eating critters attacking folks in rivers and ponds these days. Bacteria is what terrorized my lungs. When I returned to working I was surrounded by people who couldn’t afford to take time off (and feared reprisal if they did). I relapsed and learned to stay away from the workplace. Microscopic terrorists, death in a vial, drug mania, and burn-out are dominating this decade. In a word: zombies.

  39. Love your post and the zombie song! I don’t get the zombie fascination either. I think I’ll stick with more traditional stories for the time being.

  40. I was going to mention Stephen King’s ideas in Danse Macabre about how specific types of monsters are used in popular culture according to global crises happening at the time, as well as whoever happens to be in government office at the time, but your friend Kevin had already written about it! Maybe a zombie apocalypse is so morbidly enticing because it would break down all the barriers (social, financial, legal etc) standing in the way of you becoming the badass zombie killer/community organiser you *know* you could be if it wasn’t for all this pesky civilisation! I guess we’ll never find out…
    Or will we? Om nom nom…

    1. I have mixed feelings about that. A lot of ungrateful @$$hats who could use a good Z-Day to teach them to value what they have (and complain about).

  41. I think our love of zombies goes back to our love of playing hide and seek in the dark as children. Except in this game the zombies become that person in the office we can’t stand, the relative who gets on our last nerve, or the neighbor who constantly blocks our drive. They become the soulless monsters. We become the person of action who gets to put the lumbering, brain-eating thing, because remember it’s no longer human, out of its misery and ours.

  42. Reblogged this on ccmanny and commented:
    Zombies!!!… had to stop and read. I enjoyed reading your blog. I felt like I was there listening to him singing and saying “zombie”… thanks..

  43. Reblogged this on Untarnished Truth and commented:
    Such a great article. Feed the brain, not just your gut!

  44. Kristen you made some great points. Especially when it comes to medication, health and technology. People are getting overloaded with technology that no one really needs. Kids are getting lazy with their brains and rather spend 3 hours playing angry birds than pick up book or go outside.

    Older people give in to the general and ever so popular state of fear and the power of negative thinking. If everybody would put down their gadgets, took a break from all the social media and stop listening all the “good” advice from people that have absolutely zero percent of good intentions for us and hundred percent for them, it would make a positive impact on our lives.

    Human nature is not programmed that way and so we will keep on making mistakes and keep on loving all the zombies that we can identify with and feel for.

    BtW my favorite zombie trilogy is one by the super brilliant Seanan McGuire , penned under her alias Mira Grant – The Newsflesh trilogy. who doesn’t love books about bloggers, zombies and major political conspiracies, where the CDC is the source of all evils – the withholder of truth?

  45. Adding the Kardashians and Honey Boo-Boo to SARS, Mad Cow Disease, and Flesh-Eating viruses? Brilliant!

  46. Oh my goodness. One of my soapboxes. I am a nurse, and I just want to smack my coworkers in the head when they come in sick, especially when they say, “I don’t want the unit to be short-staffed.” People! If one person infects five of their coworkers, doesn’t that just make staffing worse in a week or two? And you know, the people that you’re taking care of, who might just already be immunocompromised and/or fighting other infections? I’m thinking they might be disinclined to add another bug to their list.

    And yet, you still get the side-eye when you do call in. Sigh.

    As for zombies, yeah, it’s an opportunity to face the unreasonable, the unstoppable and the unrelenting. And maybe, just maybe, find that narrow path to success. If we can imagine it in literature/media/entertainment, then maybe we can believe we have a chance for victory within our current reality.

    1. Well said, Jennifer! Praying for your good health amongst all the teeny creepy crawlies chirping around your hospital.

  47. Reblogged this on The Night Owl's Guide to Reading and commented:
    Reblogging this article by Kristen Lamb, because it is awesome. Read it. Insightful and funny!

  48. Historically, people have had a primal fear of what they can’t see, especially regarding diseases. The Black Death had a profound effect on Medieval Europe that can be seen on cathedral sculptures. Today’s Zombie Apocalypse fiction often opens with an outbreak of some sort of “zombie virus.” This serves as an allegory for a major pandemic, which you touched on, that many of us worry about. The last time we had such a world-wide catastrophe was 1918, with the outbreak of the “Spanish Flu.”
    As to why we like Zombie Apocalypse fiction, I can only answer for myself. Normally, I’m not a horror fan. However, as a former military member, the idea of a Zombie Apocalypse has a certain “appeal,” for us live-by-the-sword types: It’s an unambiguous war of survival. There are no moral dilemmas when it comes to fighting zombies. It’s either you are them.
    Better dead than zed! 🙂
    The dilemmas arise when dealing with your fellow survivors, as others have already mentioned–that’s were the true drama lies.

    • lonesome lee west on July 27, 2014 at 6:09 pm
    • Reply

    some interesting ink in your article, Kristen. thanks for spilling. i’ll just add my two cents’ worth: the tainted DNA in GMO actually bonds to human DNA, creating some sort of never-before-seen hybrid. the long-term study? baby, we ARE the long-term-study… trans fats create faulty brain cells that won’t fire neurotransmitters. without a speeding neurotransmitter, there is no thought. again, we ARE the long-term study… high fructose corn syrup will catapult the human system into diabetes… cell phones, via independent research, have been proven to operate at a frequency that directly interferes with human brain activity… Alzheimer’s (brain shrinkage) is deadly, and the nano aluminum in the aerosol clouds only exacerbates the condition… i could go on for hours with this stuff, but i guess i’ve made my point. and i don’t know about the rest of the world, but the US is zombie central. instead of critical thinking, we’re glued to our TV sets. and the electronic gadgets? only a few days ago, someone in my close circle was almost killed in a car crash because they were texting. we’re supposed to worship God, people, not toxic food, the mass media, or any kind of out-of-control technology. we’re not supposed to worship war, either. when was the last time you saw a show on TV that highlighted world peace? world peace? what a fucking joke. it’s not considered. not in the least. and that alone, in my eyes, puts the US at the epicenter of the zombie quake… can we survive without sanity? Unless we’re kidding ourselves, the answer is no.

    • adamrowe on July 27, 2014 at 9:16 pm
    • Reply

    To explain the cultural obsession with Zs: Gen X grew up on a diet of unique heros mowing down hordes of the nameless (see also Shredder’s Foot Soldiers, Cobra Command, the bad guys in Indiana Jones movies, Star Wars). However, the idea of zombies themselves isn’t as pervasive as the hope of being there to rebuild a future disaster.

  49. 1: “The popularity of zombies:” Mostly, I think, it’s that that some very worthwhile films were made in the days when zombiedom was just a tasty infant: George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, especially, and then 28 Days Later, then 28 Weeks Later, and then the TV series. I don’t think that vampires and cannibals (two related themes) have had nearly so many good writers and directors. Remember the first zombie movie (Val Lewton’s I Walked With Zombies)? No? Nobody else does, either. It took someone like Romero to set the bar high enough to interest people who’ve advanced beyond the slackjaw stage of film-making – and Romero’s major films have sharp satire and humor, too, not just thrills and chills.
    (Lecture II will be entitled “Slow? or Fast?: Why is Fast winning the big viewer shares?” and the third, “Why necks? An Appeal for Noses.” – http://www.terencekuch.net.

  50. Great post Kristen!

    The zombie phenomenon is quite interesting. Personally I love post-apocalyptic stuff, including The Walking Dead. As an emergency management and disaster preparedness professional, the sociological aspects of it all are absolutely fascinating. While the likelihood of a zombie apocalypse isn’t that high, it makes a great metaphor for the ‘every disaster’. The CDC has used zombies in their preparedness campaigns which have received a great deal of attention over the last few years. I’ve posted several times in my own blog about the zombie phenomenon and other related post-apocalyptic scenarios and their use in disaster preparedness activities – including the DoD having a zombie response protocol (while fictional, it was used as an ‘every disaster’ scenario for those attending a planning course).

    BTW – you can direct some of those wild boar up to the north-east. We have only a couple pockets of them around here (thankfully – I do understand they are an invasive species), but if they do show up on my 150 acres… well, bacon is bacon.


  51. Fascinating post! I’ve never really ‘gotten’ the fascination with zombies, even though I have friends who are obsessed with them. The analysis of the obsession with various monsters over the years is interesting – NOW I’m curious what you think the obsession with sympathetic vampires is all about!

    I think part of the love for vampires/zombies/whatever is the FAD aspect- the community feeling you gain when you jump on a fad-bandwagon. And in most of the US, we have such a lack of community, that people cling to find community wherever they can.

  52. I work with a five year old who just looooves zombies. To be fair, he loves monsters of all sorts, to be honest. I myself have long had an affinity for villains, from Batman’s Joker to Bram Stoker’s Dracula to the little menacing ghosts in Super Mario Bros.

    I will say the zombie apocalypse is a really great apocalypse. There’s the double threat of a mysterious humanity-sucking virus and then the threat of the insatiable infected themselves. The insidious nature of the crisis always includes the infection of loved ones, still animated and pulling on your heartstrings. Sure, it’s Us vs. Them, but at the same time it severely complicates Us vs. Them, because they are (were?) one of us…and it really wouldn’t take much to make us into one of them.

    To survive a zombie apocalypse, you’re facing some serious rebuilding. You may have had to escape, maybe even kill, your own family, so now you’re rebuilding alliances. Society has crumbled, so now it too has to be rebuilt. Zombies give us a way to imagine a new earth — after the purging and the threat is over. Zombies call us to survive, but to also consider what the hell we do afterward!

  53. The original zombies were a product of the trade in African slaves. As monsters, they symbolized the horror of human beings stripped of their name, family, society, and social roles. The zombies themselves were said to be slaves of the necromancer who had raised them.

    In the early 21st century zombies symbolize our distrust and misanthropy for one another in a troubled culture based on pure self-interest.

    With the traditional family fading away and regional and tribal associations all but erased by the monolithic nationalism of the 19th and 20th centuries, people feel they have no home group they trust.
    Zombie films satisfy this unfilled craving as an initially disparate group is forced to work together by the zombie apocalypse.
    Forming tribes to face the world, us vs. them, is a deep human impulse and one that’s been denied in our civic, litigiously obsessed society.
    If we would know what most people lack and crave for most in real life, we need only look at the most successful fiction.

    Some commenters were astute to notice that zombies have replaced “national” bad guys in our international world where nation loyalties have far less meaning and emotional pull than just a few decades.
    The age of nation states is fading. The new bad guys are other hungry people competing for dwindling resources in our new gilded age.

  54. Thoughtful post. It is ridiculous a child would be fired from preschool, and I admire you for opting to not subject him to that nonsense and homeschooling him. I’m laughing at the “Fifty Shades of Grey” and Dan Brown thing by Trishia Jacobs, but for some reason I couldn’t post a reply. I tried a sample of “Fifty Shades of Grey and opted not to read it. I’ve tried samples of Dan Brown’s books and they looked like they had potential, but I’m opting for checking them out of the library if I do decide to read them. In fairness, these folks must have done something right for their books to sell so well and be made into movies. I think the “best sellers” for the most part are overrated, but that’s a whole other topic. 🙂

  1. […] Why Are Zombies Consuming Our Culture? by Kristen Lamb […]

  2. […] Why Are Zombies Consuming Our Culture?. […]

  3. […] Why are Zombies consuming our culture? […]

  4. […] our culture.” Lamb writes ‘horror’ often reflects what we’re facing as a society.” http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2014/07/25/why-are-zombies-consuming-our-culture/. […]

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