For the past couple years I’ve wondered why so many people I know are fascinated with zombies. At first I thought it was just the next “vampire thing”—you know, being morbidly intrigued by super-powered monsters—but that didn’t fly because zombies are just plain gross. Vampires may be deadly, but they’re always sexy, some are friendly, and they’re a minority. Then I thought the interest stemmed from the exhilarating horror of it, the car wreck you can’t look away from. I’ve definitely known people that just love to see disintegrating or rotting flesh, guts oozing out of open wounds, or gallons of blood squirting at the camera. But that attraction of gore couldn’t explain why almost everyone I know is into zombies in one way or another.
I think there are two other aspects that people love as well, which stem from survivalism. There’s a small group of people that have to learn to work together to overcome the mindless, flesh-eating hordes. You can root for the underdog and agonize who’s going to get it next. Or maybe there’s an asshole in the group that you’re hoping will get it next. And of course there’s always men and women so there can be a lovely little hetero romance to keep hope alive as they run from one place to another, always just outlasting the overwhelming odds.
The last reason I’ve thought of is that the zombie apocalypse is a metaphor for our society. The zombies are the mindless Americans that just go with the capitalistic flow and consume everything in their path. They work, they buy, they eat, they die, repeat. The zombies don’t seem to like the small rebel groups that are trying to be different, so they attempt to overrun them and viciously devour them or at least convert them to one of their own. I don’t know about you, but I like to pretend (or is it believe?) I’m one of the rebels, barely surviving but not giving in to the thoughtless evil that seems to have overtaken the world. I may not be a hero, but I’m a team player that looks for hope every chance I get to catch my breath, and I consistently put my own life at risk for the greater good, clinging to the hope that my efforts will save my fellow rebel and somehow humanity too.
So as you’re watching The Walking Dead tonight—as I know I will be—think about what you love so much about this zombie narrative and let me know, because this is fascinating stuff.