Modern popular culture is full of mysteries. Observing the fascinations of people in social networks, on YouTube, or Flickr, one could possibly wonder about the reasons of popularity of certain media phenomena. People adore kittens, Japanese commercials, cat-beards, planking, and many other mass culture fads. But, in my opinion, none of them are as popular as zombie movies. Western culture is supersaturated with shambling undead creatures; not only horror movies, but also comedies (“Shawn of the Dead”) and even romantic stories (“Warm Bodies”) are being filmed about them. Considering we are talking about dead rotten cannibals, logically, a question may arise: what stands behind the western world’s obsession with the zombie theme?
Since we are living in a certain society, we adopt and observe particular rules that are taken for granted and not disputed by the majority. Members of each particular social group mostly share common values and morals, and thus act in a particularly predefined way. While most of the social rules and prescriptions are logical and beneficial for every member of a society, there also exist many additional rules and circumstances (for instance, corporate culture, political correctness, large amounts of work, overpopulation) that may cause stress and disappointment in life. In its turn, in zombie movies, we often witness an almost inevitable collapse of these social structures. In order to stay alive, people often need to set new rules of behavior that rather ignore anything non-contributing to survival. This chance to lead one’s own game, depending only on oneself, may be one of the factors favoring zombie movies. In other words, a mass subconscious desire to get rid of excessive stress by all means may be one of the reasons of the popularity of this cultural phenomenon.
Another possible reason for the popularity of zombie themes is that it may be a reflection of the condition of mass consciousness. What is a zombie in cinematography? It is an aimless, singularly-focused creature, which, in the majority of cases is a result of scientific experiments or technological catastrophes. Thus, zombies can symbolize a fear of technological progress, which brings humanity not only cellphones and tablets, but also nuclear weapons, artificial viruses, gene engineering, ecological disasters, and so on. And, at the same time, people in developed countries are extremely enthusiastic about everything related to progress, though it deprives us of our human abilities and qualities. Technology has become omnipresent; there are too many Facebook comments, and not enough handshakes. Albert Einstein was afraid that once technology would surpass human interaction and give the world a generation of idiots. And if you substitute “idiots” with “zombies,” you will understand the reasons standing behind the discussed cultural phenomenon (NoFilmSchool).
Professor Sarah Lauro from Clemson University also believes the popularity of zombies can be seen as an index of the population’s mental health. She believes an obsession with zombies, and specifically the phenomenon of “zombie walks” (when fans dress and make-up like the undead and walk city streets) illustrates citizens’ dissatisfaction with their governments and the authorities. She says when people (and, in general, a culture) start to feel disempowered due to certain circumstances—such as economic crises, wars, and so on—they start to feel an increased interest in zombies, “either playing dead themselves… or watching a show like “Walking Dead” (Business Insider).
Zombies are a phenomenon of modern mass culture that have deep social connotations. The fact of this subject being so popular can speak in favor of various trends in mass consciousness. Among them, one can highlight such factors as fatigue from excessive social demands and regulations, the fear of intense technological progress and dehumanization, and the feeling of being disempowered and tired of authorities and governments.
“Zombie Love: Why are We So Obsessed with Things that Want to Eat Our Brains?” NoFilmSchool. N.p., 22 June 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013. <http://nofilmschool.com/2013/06/zombie-love-obsessed-eat-brains/>
“Professor: Zombies are Popular Because People have Given Up Hope.” Business Insider. N.p., 14 May 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013. <http://www.businessinsider.com/zombies-are-popular-because-people-have-given-up-hope-2013-3>
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