I really wanted to post something about Zombies today. After all, it’s clear now I’m a tad obsessed. I’ve even got a bibliography going. I’ve been bit since 28 Days Later.
So in the course of my research, I found commentary that says Zombies represent the fear of apocalyptic destruction through disease, or perhaps hope that the common man can face any disaster with a gun or machete.
I’ve been thinking on it, and I have no qualms with what these folks say. I just think there’s a whole ‘nother side to this Zombie fascination for me, and for the rest of us who are so inclined as to pursue all things Zombie.
Freud would have called it catharsis, and I think the beauty of that catharsis is that we get a good old fashioned BOGO out of it.
On the one hand, we all love to be scared by monsters. Ever since Nosferatu in 1922, we’ve loved to be scared. That’s not news. And there are volumes on why we love to be scared, what we get out of being scared detailing, analyzing and expounding on the emotional payoff we get when we scream and jump five feet in the air in a darkened theater then laugh our heads off on the way out the door. (If I really wanted to bore you and impress myself, I’d go dig up some Freud and endnote my way to Nirvana.)
The only cents I’ll add to the discussion is this: during all times, but especially right now, we face our own form of zombies, people who benefit, or “feed” on others – take financial derivatives based on sub-prime mortgages and Goldman Sachs’s notorious hedging on the losses of their investors. In a sense, these people acting like zombies – turning on their own kind, and treating anyone they could like “food,” on unbridled instinct, without thought, empathy or compassion. And they brought a financial apocalypse down on our worldwide economic heads. When the heroes and heroines get to blow or smash the brains in or out of one of these zombies, I think deep in some part of us that’s beyond language, we get to secretly smash in our own social zombies as well.
But I think there’s another side, especially with Zombies. Quite frankly, I think we all want to be the monster for much the same reason. Let’s face it, living in society can sometimes be a drag. We have to play by rules, we live by highly structured norms, some of us more than others. And it’s not always fair and quite frankly, it’s not always healthy. Look at where a status-oriented, consumerist culture got us. Many were buying things we couldn’t afford, while the others were defrauding homeowners and mortage companies alike out of greed. When it crashed, it crashed and took everyone down: the innocent bystanders, the victims and the guilty. Zombies get to tear all of that apart. Zombies get to eat the alleged brains of the corporate @$$4013$ who got us into this (mine do anyway, on page 4).[§] Heck, Zombies get to eat your boss’s brains.
Then, as society breaks down, the rules economic and social status that tortured us one way or another become meaningless. The gun-toting redneck you derided yesterday is suddenly your life-saving shield today. The ulcer-ridden driven mid-level executive really doesn’t need to worry about the size of his house or status of his car. And somehow, that makes more sense – well, to me anyway. I think Zombies then get to carry out the destruction of some of the things our consciences know are evils in our culture, while making the way for a different way of life for survivors. And as they stumble and groan their way through this bloody and gory little task, we get to be them.
[§] Yes, I’m writing something with Zombies in it. Anyone interested?