I’ve heard it said that society gravitates toward particular monsters based on current attitudes toward the economy and leaders. Recent pop culture has released a proliferation of zombies upon us. I was listening to NPR today and heard an interview with a student from U of M named Jordan Harris. She wore a zombie costume to a speech by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
“I’m here as a zombie to represent the lack of humanity I and my fellow zombies… see in corporate America,” she said.
Is it really the lack of humanity that has brought about this zombie apocalypse? There are new zombie based TV shows, video games, and movies. Is everyone just sick of vampires, or is there a reason for this shift? Let’s take a look at zombie characteristics and see how they could be applied to pop culture in this era of Occupy Wall Street.
Some characteristics of zombies are easy to fit into our current situation. Zombies are known for their insatiable hunger. It’s not difficult to see how this could be tied to the greed and profit chasing common in the economy leading up to the “great recession.” As we continue to see golden parachutes and record profits for banks and “too big to fail” corporations, it is understandable that our greatest fears may be tied to greed and cannibalistic hunger.
Another easy tie-in is the slow decay of zombies. When people are worried about losing their homes and jobs, then a corollary fear would be zombie leprosy. Nothing is scarier than knowing you are deteriorating in a slow and painful way for which there is no cure or help. The inability to heal this rotting mirrors what many see as an inability to successfully pull out of the economic depression and high unemployment rates found around the world.
Looking deeper, we find an ease of infection (one bite and you’re done for!) that could be likened to the domino spread of the economic crashes across the globe. In an ever more integrated global economy, even a small bite can have ripple effects. In the same vein, zombies are decidedly difficult to kill, which could be seen as an image of the insidious rise of corporate control in personal lives globally. It is nearly impossible to divorce oneself from the influence of private industry anymore. Of course, the zombie’s lack of speed is the chink in their armor, just as large companies are slower to adapt to new settings and circumstances. This allows consumers to get a jab or two at vulnerable areas while adjustments are still being made.
While we may choose our bad guys based on our current situation, there has also been a decided spin on the zombie craze. Zombie humor. Considering how scary zombies (and therefore our current situation) can be, what better way to deal with it than a good laugh. My Halloween recommended zombie infatuations this year include Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Ugly Americans, and for those of us that like to waste our time in pages rather than images, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If you can’t laugh at the situation you just might cry, so sit back and enjoy the entertainment side of the zombie invasion.