Oh, there’s a reason why you like zombies. If you’re a reader of Joseph Campbell on down, you’ll know that it’s pretty well established that what we fear represents- well, what WE fear, like “We the People” we. Our personal fears reflect the fears of our entire societal collective unconsciousness.
Godzilla equals nuclear war. Werewolves equal our animal nature. Frankenstein’s monster equals science. Vampires equal sex (Wait, did you already know that one, or did I just traumatize you?). Zombies equal …
Let’s talk about that, shall we?
To figure out what zombies represent, you have to figure out what zombies ARE. Are they infected, or are they attacked? Are they dead, or are they undead? Can they reason, or is brains all that’s (literally and figuratively) in their heads? Mary Hendegren, in “The Biopower of Zombies,” argues that “[v]iral-spread, apocalypse-inducing, and collective maneuvering have become the criteria when going back and identifying these monsters as zombies[…]”. According to Hendegren, then, this means that the best zombies–and by that I mean our favorite zombies–can spread their zombie menace through either attack or infection, but spread it must. Whether they’re dead or undead, they can’t be an isolated incident, but must be a danger to all of society as we know it. Whether or not they can reason, they must be able to mob.
If that’s the case, why do we love them so dang much? What about a brain-eating, society-destroying, mob-ruling zombie horde could possible be appealing to We the People?
I think it’s because we like figuring out how we–and this time it’s we as individuals–would fare against post-Apocalyptic mob rule. It’s why we like Zombie Escape Plans (heck, even the Pentagon likes a good Zombie Escape Plan!). It’s why we like to shout at the TV about all the things that the survivors are doing incorrectly when we watch The Walking Dead–seriously, who is supervising Carl?!? And it’s why we have zombie exercise apps and run in Zombie 5Ks, so that we can actually, you know, be chased by zombies!!!
In this consumerist era when kids know as many commercial jingles as they do nursery rhymes, and we most often find ourselves walled in by a fortress of responsibilities every time we want to make a move for ourselves, and We the People often make decisions that we as individuals absolutely abhor, it’s fascinating to fantasize about a situation in which you’d be focused on survival instead of acquisition, with scavenging food taking precedence over shopping at the mall, and keeping your kids alive the focus of your attention, rather than having to worry about terrorist attacks and war on foreign soil and ebola plagues and all sorts of things that don’t have a lot to do with you, personally. When the worst has already happened to you, you can at least stop fearing all the other worst-case scenarios that society is throwing around.
The fact that I really do not have the upper arm strength to ward off a swarm of zombies doesn’t faze me; instead, my zombie escape plan is focused on the siege mentality; get the kids inside, board up the windows, maintain a zombie-free sanctuary. The outside with all its horrors would stay out, and the inside, with our family and our board games and our books, would stay safely and snugly in. I know we’d all be terrified for our lives and all, and we’d definitely run out of food before long and have to eat the cats, but in spite of that, doesn’t it sound- cozy?