July 23, 2010

What Does the Zombie Genre Say about the Modern West?

The article below presents a psychological and sociological analysis of what the prevalence of zombies in popular culture might mean for us in the late modern Western world. The reader may not agree with everything the author of this open salon piece puts forward, but it does make for interesting food for thought as our fascination with the zombie (as well as [post]apocalyptic) functions as a mirror for our psychological and social state of affairs.

The ever-changing currents of a nation's cultural fibre, social mindset and mass psychology can often be traced by engaging in an in-depth examination of the popular culture prevalent at any given point in time.

Oftentimes, fictional pieces, whether in magazine, novel/novela, musical/opera, movie or television show, when created during said period of time can often reveal more about mindset of contemporaries than most nonfictional accounts, even those written during the time period in question by so-called cultural observers and academics. A poor, 1880s-era, B-grade novel from Great Britain about some fictional character living in the ancient Roman Empire can sometimes and in some ways tell you more about Victorian Britain than it can about the realities of ancient Rome. Further, it can often tell you more about the lives and concerns of Victorians than a modern non-fictional account, or modern fictional account of this time period could. Not always, but often.

When we look at movies and cultural themes, I am struck by the prevalence of zombie movies and novels. They are exploding all over the place. I have read World War Z, the Zombie Survival Handbook, seen all the various Night of the Living Dead, Evil Dead, 28 Days Later, Omega Man, and various spinoff undead films, played video games like Left for Dead and Resident Evil. I notice that various survivalists and military-minded people interested in spacial and situational/circumstantial strategy are also falling in love with the genre, publishing a myriad of underground, "what-if" e-novels and short stories online. What will literary analysts think, 100 or 200 years from now when they analyze this current trend in American culture? What does it say about us?

Read the rest of the article here.