Zombie Stories Ruin Our Culture

zombie

I’m really sick of Zombies. Stories, movies and video games centered around Zombies. They are ruining our culture and making us stupid. I’ll explain.

Zombies: mindless, reanimated corpses with a hunger for human flesh and or brains. 

HISTORY

Some of the first mentions of Zombies appear in the Epic of Gilgamesh poems in the (depending on where you check) 7th, 10th, 13th or 18th century BC.

Mary Shelly gave us the undead Frankenstein in 1818.

H.G. Wells’ Things to Come (1931) gave us a zombie apocalypse of a plague infecting others.

And then there is George A. Romero who gave us 1968’s Night of the Living Dead.

These 4 (and a quiet a few others) have given us the most used formula for these stories. Elements nicely pointed out on Wikipedia.

There are several common themes that create a zombie apocalypse:

  1. Initial contacts with zombies are extremely traumatic, causing shock, panic, disbelief and possibly denial, hampering survivors’ ability to deal with hostile encounters.[44]

  2. The response of authorities to the threat is slower than its rate of growth, giving the zombie plague time to expand beyond containment. This results in the collapse of the given society. Zombies take full control while small groups of the living must fight for their survival.[44] 

  3. The stories usually follow a single group of survivors, caught up in the sudden rush of the crisis. The narrative generally progresses from the onset of the zombie plague, then initial attempts to seek the aid of authorities, the failure of those authorities, through to the sudden catastrophic collapse of all large-scale organization and the characters’ subsequent attempts to survive on their own. Such stories are often squarely focused on the way their characters react to such an extreme catastrophe, and how their personalities are changed by the stress, often acting on more primal motivations (fear, self-preservation) than they would display in normal life.[44][45]

What’s the Connection with Zombies? 

  • The desire to only want one thing? – braaaaaains
  • To unite us against one enemy?
  • The idea you can have a guilt free reason to kill humans?
  • Desire to be numb and taken over?
  • Fear of sickness/infection?
  • Manifestation that society is out to kill us?
  • Lack of authority to a point that a single group can take over?
  • Lack of a feeling to fight for survival?

Why Zombie Stories are Making Us Stupid

  1. We are already zombies. Instead of feeding on brains and human flesh we feed on information. The media and social networks are out main tit, if you will. We don’t make things anymore, we share information. Information that either frightens us to we have to share with others or a desire for attention so we put out information about ourselves. We are zombies glued to our TV’s and computers feasting on fear and attention so we can function in social groups.
  2. Entertainment is a form of escape, and I get that. Zombie stories allow us to escape into an environment where it’s okay to kill another human being without consequences. And this is okay? “They are just zombies”. I’ll say the thing you’re never supposed to say in an argument; bring up that the Nazi’s. They though it was okay to kill Jews, Gays and Gypsy’s. It’s just not okay to escape into a world where it’s okay to kill people because they are different, this is how we spread hatred.
  3. Zombie stories allow us to think that average citizen are more powerful and adept than our local authorities. You’re not Outlaw Josey Wales or Jessie James. We need police, National Guard, fire and medical. We need the strength of trained and experienced professionals. Where would be if not for the help of the Port Authority on 9/11 to work around the clock to rescue victims? Where would we be without the resources of the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and local law enforcement for Hurricane Sandy? Yes, everyday citizens help so much in times of trouble but we still need the strength in large numbers, training and resources to help large groups of people. Zombie stories of one group trying to be more powerful than local authority just makes me think of Waco, TX.
  4. Zombie stories continue the ideas that other people make us sick and we should seclude ourselves from society. Humans are social creatures. When we withdraw from society, we are actually worse off. Depression and terrible mental illness occurs. Insecurity and paranoia arise. The inability to read basic human iterations. How many of the mass-killing gunman do we see in the news had recently removed themselves from society and had these mental problems.
  5. Think about how another culture would look at us if this is what we left behind. I think it would show that we are a selfish group of people. We retell stories of a group of undead individuals (because we are scared of dying) who are after our bodies. Seriously? Are we that obsessed with #1 our bodies #2 that everyone is after us? The answer is yes, we are. A new culture wouldn’t have to only dig up our zombie stories to know this. Body issues are in every facet of our culture, media, sculpture, performance, art, etc.

Why Zombie Stories Won’t Go Away

  1. Humans are fearful of biological warfare much like the 1950’s were scared of atomic bombs. It’s an underlining fear and it’s being triggered in zombie stories where a virus is unleashed and now we have a pack of undead chasing people to eat flesh and brains. A good number of us have survived the Bird Flu, the Swine Flu, Mad Cow etc. I think we’ll be fine but then again Zombie stories feed on fear and humans have a lot of that when it comes to viruses.
  2. Another reason why zombie stories won’t go away is because it’s an allegory for unplugging from social norms. I’m sorry, but that’s a childish rebellion. The quicker we grow up and realize we are the change or we are the problem, things will get better. Unplugging from a problem doesn’t ever make it go away.  
  3. Human beings can’t accept death. I don’t know why. I just think it’s selfish to think that a human body is so important that it can’t die. It has to go to another place/space/time/energy. We have countless stories religious and otherwise of the Resurrection of a human body to escape death. Imagine, just for a second if we accepted that the meat sack that we live in will stop working and we will die and that will be it. We will be worm food and fertilizer for the earth. Instead of waiting for a resurrection of our bodies after death we allow a resurrection of our mind in the short time we are in our bodies. I always believed that this was the metaphor hidden in the resurrection of Jesus. That it was a less of a death of the body and resurrection of the body but more a metaphor of the resurrection of the mind, a new cause, a new purpose, a new destiny. We get lost in the details of the story and forget the message that we too can change our minds.
  4. Lastly why zombie stories won’t go away….they are one of the cheapest movies to make that has a commercial market. As long as there is cash to make, people will make zombie films.
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3 thoughts on “Zombie Stories Ruin Our Culture

  1. kylee wall says:

    I lurve a good debate, especially one that has me somewhat defending something I don’t really like. So ima jump in here. Hopefully you don’t mind someone typing 500 words back at you.

    I think zombies are boring and overdone and I don’t care for them. However, I don’t agree they’re ruining our culture anymore than any other storytelling thing.

    Most of the bullet points could be pulled from nearly any genre.

    Desire for one thing? Indiana Jones.
    Guilt free reasons to kill people? Any war movie ever, at least before 9/11.
    Society is out to get us? Phone Booth.
    United against an enemy? World War II films.

    So you can’t really blame those on zombie films. You could make a case for or against any film, really.

    The fact we ARE zombies, if you accept that argument, isn’t persisted by the storytelling device OF zombies. I don’t agree that nobody creates stuff…if that were true, there’d be nothing to share.

    I also don’t accept that zombies make it okay to kill another human being. The Walking Dead addresses the guilt of killing another human in its version of the zombie apocalypse. Many modern zombie stories (including video games) actually do consider this. I mean crap, the trailer for Dead Island II is ridiculously emotional. But whether your story takes place in a universe where people care about this or not, you still don’t really see zombies as humans anymore at a certain point. They lack everything you need to make a human other than the shell, and I don’t think anyone gets a sick fascination out of killing something that looks human just because it is a human body. Well, anyone normal..anyone that wouldn’t get that thrill anyway somewhere else.

    And you bring up Nazis thinking it’s okay to kill Jews as an example. What about films that glorify killing Nazis? Is a film like Inglourious Basterds not okay? You can liken Nazis to zombies in a few ways, I’m oversimplifying here: both groups are a mindless ACTIVE threat to your life. But Nazis are just different too. Is it not okay to kill them because they’re different?

    Obviously nobody wants to kill anybody, and it sucks. But it is also pretty interesting as a story to have a protagonist pursued by a villain.

    And I think that’s ultimately one of the major things that is just not at all interesting about zombies (to me). They have only one dimension, and therefore they’re simple monsters instead of villains. With Nazis, you have a lot of complication in play. Nazis have often been portrayed as monsters, but they are most interesting when they are villains — when they have more than one dimension to them. They aren’t mindless killing machines, but they have conflict or some spark of humanity. I mean, this isn’t always true. Sometimes seeing a theater full of them burn to the ground is oddly satisfying. But it is often true, I think. I think this is why a lot of the horror and/or monster movie genre tends to be a cult following. Of course, these are not new ideas I’m having here.

    Anyway, back to your points. A lot of stories glorify a single hero or group as stronger than the rest. That’s a perfectly valid storytelling device, the power of few over many, or the strength of someone’s will to survive. Obviously we NEED a governing force and trained professionals. But that’s not always an interesting story. Tales of survival are interesting and valid in all forms.

    And I don’t really think zombie stories work for people because they’re afraid of dying and being gone forever. I don’t think the desire to live forever manifests in creating zombies. What a way to live. Zombies work because of the horror: it’s a seemingly endless supply of monstrous creatures that really don’t care about anything but feeding. There is something very off-putting about a monster that comes in many forms and can scarcely be completely killed. It’s just another scary movie trope — that danger lurks around every corner.

    I don’t think zombies relate to body issues so much as they relate to survivalist and self-glorifying tales. People like to think they can survive society crumbling out from under them, that they are fiercely independent and clever enough to outsmart nature.

    Which is obviously and hilariously untrue. But like most stories, we like to put ourselves in the place of the protagonist for an hour or two, live their life, and move on. Doesn’t necessarily mean we want to murder people, that we’re scared of death or have body issues. We just want what anyone else wants from any movie. And sure, those things can alter our experience of the film, but the film doesn’t exist solely because of those things. These stories have existed since forever.

    But to turn the debate around now, I will agree with you 100% solidly on one major point. Zombies will never go away because it’s one of the cheapest forms of entertainment. Anyone with a handful of people and some horror makeup can make a zombie film. Light it right, add some music, and get the editing correct, and you have a reasonably captivating story, if for nothing else than wondering what’s next for the protagonist. If you can get any sort of unpredictable ending or action, you’re in the top ten percentile of zombie films. For the majority of the zombie genre, it’s just easy storytelling…it pretty much tells itself.

    And most of all, people will keep paying to watch them, persisting the art of shitty movies. And that’s another debate entirely. But finally my point is: I don’t think you can separate zombie stories from other stories without condemning movies in general.

    But that’s just like, my opinion man. 🙂

  2. Kate Chaplin says:

    You’re totally right, a case could be made for other film genres or even other particular films. I was inspired to write about Zombies because of a “documentary” I saw on Discovery Channel, but yes, I did realize that in writing it there were the same things I didn’t like in Zombie films that I don’t like in other genres as well.

    I have this curse and I call it “living behind the curtain.” Once I started making films, it ruined most movie watching for me. It was like seeing the little guy pulling the strings pretending to be the Great and Powerful Oz. So I see films WAY more critical than an average person and I know that. Writing about a whole genre was hard. I knew there were great Zombie films that are exceptions but I did take a general approach to make the article shorter.

    It wasn’t till my husband went to war that that I couldn’t stomach mindless killing in films, all genres, all walks of life. I don’t like hatred and killing in films. Didn’t like Inglorious Bastards, have a hard time with Saving Private Ryan. Hotel Rwanda gave me nightmares.

    As a writer it could be the one-dimension of zombies that turns me off. An enemy you can’t reason with only kill.

    But really good points and nice Lebowski reference 🙂

  3. Ben Dowell says:

    Good article, but I’ll post a small rebuttal anyways:
    Zombie media is a necessity:

    1) With the exception of Nazis, name one group of people you can shoot at that won’t be offended and sue the production company.

    2) A zombie pandemic may not be realistic, however there are many historical plagues. The Black Death, Typhoid Mary, even the swine flu of just a few years ago. People do spread diseases to each other. With emerging “super-bugs” that are resistant to treatments, knowing when to quarantine yourself could literally save your life.

    3) Zombie media promotes self reliance (sometimes.) It was just a few generations ago where families provided for themselves. Receiving a hand-out from anyone would have been shameful. With the recent hurricane in New Jersey, almost the entire state became paralyzed when government services, and gasoline became unavailable. All around the US we have potential, natural disasters that we should be prepared for and aren’t.

    4) The zombie apocalypse promotes community. When you have to survive with a handful of people, you have to learn how to get along with them. In our modern society, how well do you know your neighbors? You probably know someone 1000 miles away better then you know the guy that lives 30 feet from you. But, in an emergency, who’s more likely to be at your door?

    5) Running, running, running. How many people die in zombie movies because they just weren’t fit? In the real world, the majority of people are over weight, and under-fit. When there’s a zombie horde chasing you, you’ll get fit, or you’ll be lunch.

    These are just my thoughts and opinions of corse, but I don’t think that the self reliance, physical stamina, and intelligence needed to survive a zombie horde is a bad thing.

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