This Week’s Material
A 2 minute clip of Steven Scholzman discussing zombie culture
CBC interview called “Zombie Culture”
History Channel Documentary – The Truth About Zombies
Michael Jackson’s Thriller
Zombies in Society
The zombie means a lot to our society and our culture. In this final post, I hope to figure out just what it means. Unfortunately, this may all seem very obvious, since a lot of these things were already touched upon, and as this course comes to a close it seems as if everything has been leading to this very moment. It is time for the final definition of zombies in society. Here we go!
The zombie is one of those creatures that manifest itself as two-pronged. One side of the zombie shows a reflection of society. On the other hand, society is influenced by the zombie. The zombie has tested and pushed our culture in some organic ways. We see our society mirrored back to us in the films and media. We are part of a spreading culture created by the cult-following of zombies. as an example of society reflecting the zombie. We can see the total permeation of the zombie becoming a novelty of our culture. Finally, we are witnessing the zombies demise from our culture because there is simply too much. It is these above points that can help us describe the zombie culture, zombies and society, and what it really means to us.
The zombie has always spoken about our culture, playing its malleability on our fears. It can so easily mean so many things, because it is impersonal and trait-less. You can stick any fear on it, and it will not be hokey or campy. The zombie is perfect for reaching in to what we truly find is scary (undead corpses eating our flesh) to what we think is scary at the time. We have seen this throughout the films and media of this course.
The undead has classically been used to reflect the fears of its society.
In White Zombie, we saw a time period reflected that feared miscegenation, the increasingly naïve and sexually liberated breed of young people and the dangers they faced. A little further down the line, Romero displayed our fear of nuclear war and invasion, as well as problems with our society like consumerism (using the consuming zombie in a mall as a direct metaphor). His films used concepts such as abuse of power, consciousness, self, identity, wealth, and what a society could potentially be like in this type of disaster. The zombie, again, spoke to a social context – these are things that average westerners wished for and worried over.
Next came 28 days later, which revamped the script into a fast-moving disease and zombie that reflected our fears of biological warfare and epidemic. World War Z, the book, deals with the fear that globalization will be our demise. Shaun of the Dead laughed at zombie films, but also reflected strength in family and fear of death, both socially (becoming a dead beat) and literally.
If we look deeper, we can see other ways the zombie reflects our sexuality. I have seen the initial outbreak as a metaphor for the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a revolution of the other rising up, a display of the oppressiveness of society. These reflect more underlying fears – fear of change, fear of disease, fear of oppression and becoming un-human in someone’s eyes.
Through these medias, we see that the zombie does imitate society in the most extreme ways. The zombie is consistently put up against our most primal fears. It shows us our most extreme emotion, extreme situations, and an extreme society. It keeps us watching in a way we can oddly relate to. This is why the zombie culture is so popular – with the use of our fears, and our society, it keeps us holding on. Not only because the story is so interesting, but also because we want to know what happens to ourselves. What happens to this society? Will this happen to us? If these are our fears, if this story is really ours, than what will happen to us? As society held on, the grip and growth of the zombie culture became something that may be scarier than the zombie.
The Cult of The Undead, and Everyone Else
As zombies grew in popularity the fan system spawned and grew into a horde. To put this in perspective; when the zombie walk in Toronto began, there were six zombies. Six years later, there was more than a thousand in attendance. Shocking. The horde grew. These are zombies in the literal sense, and this shows that our society influences the motives of the zombie, but the zombie has influenced our culture.
Let’s look at culture in general. Culture is a horde. If you belong to a certain culture, you belong to the group. You are included. You are part of the horde connected by a common interest, like flesh and blood for a zombie. If you don’t like the Walking Dead, let’s say, maybe you started watching it because you felt left out of the conversation and wanted to be involved. In the beginning of the zombie craze, people who didn’t necessarily belong to any group, ‘outsiders’, latched on to the zombie mania like they latch on to things like twilight and hunger games.
The zombie culture then spread, and it fluctuates with the time. As it grew more popular, it began to spread into different avenues and hit the mainstream. For example, look at Michael Jackson’s Thriller. He jumped on to the zombie bandwagon and perhaps made it even more into popular culture. His video was an international hit. There was, and still is a sense of community with the zombie that seems to have an interesting effect. It is like you are in on a global inside joke. It created both a place for people who maybe did not belong as well as those who did. Today, the zombie culture has progressed in such a way that everyone knows the joke, but isn’t tired of it.
What is this type of joke and hold on the zombie? Obsession, if that is the proper word. It boils down to a group mentality and a strive to fit in and belong. Perhaps it was first a connection between the common fears the zombie represented, and into the fact that a lot of people thought they were cool. With time, a culture that feared a horde became one. No person or thing is excluded; Academics, movies, tv, online forums, porn, store products, jello molds, etc. There are zombie squads across the country, zombie survival kits sold all over the world. Even my stepbrother has a zombie survival plan. The ideas are endless, the products are endless, and the fact that there is even a market for zombie items and zombie groups give an incredible testament to how important the zombie is to our culture. However, when will it be too much? Will the zombie fad/e away like bell bottom jeans or pogs, or does it mean something more to our culture. Will we hold on to it like we do The Beatles or Michael Jackson’s Thriller by means of long-lasting effect? The zombie is becoming so ingrained in our culture, that is it becoming desensitized to the point of novelty, and slowly becoming too much.
Look! Zombie Cupcake!
It’s hard to feel the fear of the zombie nowadays. It’s hard to be scared when a new zombie movie comes out. It is debatable whether or not this is because the story likes to remain the same – the group of survivors fighting against the classic flesh-eating beast. But it isn’t that. We routinely break the script to keep it interesting. The problem lies within the novelty of the zombie. It is going into so many different avenues, that we cannot feel scared of the zombie when they are made out of cupcakes or attacking a cartoon house guarded by plants. We can’t feel scared of them when they are on a pedometer, and we laugh at the ideas they are associated with. Zombie blood drive? That’s hilarious. Zombie marathon? That’s hilarious! Rick from the Walking Dead taking selfies with zombies? That’s so funny.
What happened to the zombie we once knew? What happened to the one we are afraid of? They seem to be disappearing as less serious zombie films are made and more people and groups jump on the bandwagon of zombie fans. It seems our horde-like culture is going to far and overpowering the undead. More people keep their products fresh with zombies so more people who think they are funny or belong to the culture will buy them in order to fit in more. It’s a vicious circle that leaves the zombie in a disadvantage. It becomes a fight of who will win? The zombies or the new culture, who insists on sticking the representation of their fears onto their iPhone and brief cases.
Next steps for the zombie
The zombie’s next steps are questionable. It is quickly becoming a novelty because its funny to put it in everything. As its roots spread, it finds its way into video games and comic books and pornographies. It finds itself in unorthodox places, as cartoons and video games. Its gone through so many avenues of society that I find it troubling. I don’t even know where else to push with this blog, so many roots have been spread.
What I do know, however, is that we need something like the zombie. It can teach us so much about ourselves, our fears, what our society thinks we fear. Perhaps one day, when we really need it, it can snap us out of a world dictated by Twitter and Facebook and constant distraction. However, it is destined to fade out, like all fads do. We can trust that the zombie will come back when we need it. Not like bell-bottom pants came back – we didn’t really need those. The zombie will come back and morph into our new fears and what our future generations fear. It will morph alongside our society, which will inevitably change. There is no other monster mailable enough. No vampire, no werewolf, no merman. The zombie is the lone monster that can show us ourselves, whether it be our physical selves, internal reflections, or our culture. Only the fictional mindless monsters can teach the real ones.
Maybe the zombie will come back as politically charged. Maybe they will come back as sexy. Maybe they will come back as a real representation of a repressive patriarchy. I have no doubt that the zombie will come back with a fury. It will be our fears again, representation of ourselves again, but this time perhaps we will be the scientist. Perhaps we will push the boundaries into fully understanding what the zombie can mean to us. All we can tell right now is zombie culture is so important to us and our cultural hold is so strong it is bound to disappear from our hands. We did this to the zombie, and again I ask who is creating an apocalypse for who.
That brings us to the end. It has been an amazing couple of months, and I’ll miss the undead. They really mean a lot to me now.
Hope you enjoyed learning about them, and remember to keep pushing the boundaries of society, keep thinking critically, and GARGLSJSLHDHSLALAAALA
(That’s zombie for ‘The End’)