Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I Wanna Eat Your Brain: Zombie Zeitgeist

Zombies are everywhere in comics these days. 30 Days of Night, Dead @ 17, and so forth.

There’s no way for me to restrain my Inner Freud when noticing such a fad. Must...interpret! Must...find meaning...even in...face of pretention...aaagh...forgive me...

Like vampires in the eighties, zombies have struck a chord in the popular mind, or at least in the popular mind that reads comics and likes horror movies. Why? What is the central horror of the zombie tale? What resonates?

Vampires are about disease, sex, and death. Power lust, blood lust, even plain ol’ lust lust, feed into the vampire story. Easy to see the appeal.

Zombie tales, post-Romero, all are variations on one story: the protagonists are the last people alive, running in terror from the shambling undead hordes.

They’re about death, yeah, sure, but so are a lot of monsters. What’s the particular horror of the zombie? Alienation.

Zombies play on our fears of being “alone in crowds,” of being the last real people in the world. The zombie story preys on our fears of becoming either torn apart by angry masses who resent individuality, and on our fear of being subsumed by that mass and becoming one of them. Zombie stories are about the loneliness we find when buried under a pile of humanity.

It’s not hard to see how this plays into the Age of Information. Folks are increasingly isolated from true interpersonal contact, especially those who inhabit the world-o-computers. The decrease in face-to-face contact makes other people just a wee smidge less real to us. A hint more alien.

Push that a bit farther, and ooh, we’ve got us a faceless horde of creatures that look like you, but aren’t. They are countless hordes, and they’re Not Like You. They aren’t quite as human as you...

Not a big leap forward to brain-eating and barricading one’s self in a shopping mall, no?

Yet another pet theory.

I pontificate an awful lot, I know, I know.


  • Mm.. that's not a bad theory, but the thing I find most eerie about zombie stories is the finality of them. It's not like other Tales of Alienation where there's at least the possibility that one day you'll fit in. With zombies, it's like, not only are you alienated, but civilisation is definitively dead, probably forever, and the proof is trying to eat your brains. It's the juxtaposition between the direct fear of not-quite-right humans and the more abstract dread of the ultimate disaster.

    By Blogger Matt, at 7:12 PM  

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