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Redneck zombies, sans the whimsy.
July 6, 2012 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Further evidence that the cultural trend of zombie popularity has reached it's peak, or nadir, depending on your preferences. Portland area country singer/songwriter Amanda Richards in 2011 released a concept album whose storyline revolves around the zombie apocalypse, from the perspective of a feminist country singer.
posted by mediocre (52 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am perfectly guilty of the crimes I deride in the existence of this music, I cannot deny.
posted by mediocre at 1:31 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


O' RO-merrro.
posted by clavdivs at 1:32 PM on July 6, 2012


The fact that they're now doing zombie marathons might also be a clue.
posted by limeonaire at 1:36 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think that the popularity of zombies stems mostly from people's interest in justifiably killing other people. It is a fantasy (not an "I'd like to really do it" fantasy, more like a "wouldn't it be cool if I could" type fantasy) many people have. Movies have long featured an enormous amount of killing -- certainly much more killing than goes on in real life.

The problem is, when we watch someone kill someone, we have to think about the consequences. Killing people who deserve it can elicit great cheers and satisfaction from an audience. Filling a movie with people who deserve to be killed can be rather tricky. One way around that is the war movie. War movies generally contain justified killings in large numbers. Nazis are particularly useful as it is easy for people to think of nazis as evil. But at some point, the audience might start to think of the individual people who are the nazis, and they might not all necessarily deserve to die.

We are okay with horror movies because they don't involve putting ourselves in the shoes of the killer. We don't ever have to feel guilty about killing.

We are okay with war movies because they involve killing people who might deserve it. We don't ever have to feel guilty about killing.

We like to substitute robots and aliens for people because it is easier on our conscience to kill them.

What zombie movies do is make it always justifiable -- even laudable -- to kill people. We simply create something that happens to people to make it okay to kill them. Once people become zombies, it is perfectly fine to kill them. In fact, it is really the smartest thing to do to them.

I realize this site is full of zombie-lovers who are going to tell me that they are not interested in any sort of killing-people-fantasy. However, this has long been my belief. Zombies are popular in our culture because they provide us with a guilt-free way to put ourselves in the shoes of a character who gets to kill a lot of people.
posted by flarbuse at 1:45 PM on July 6, 2012 [8 favorites]


Wait, has someone yet written a novel about a group of zombies who must survive the human repocalypse?! Can I get in on the ground floor?
posted by tittergrrl at 1:47 PM on July 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


If World War Z ever makes it to the big screen, it will have already jumped the undead shark.

Speaking of zombie sharks, have any stories involving zombie animals ever been published. I suppose one of the campy, non-Romero zombie films (the one that gave us "braaaaaains" and "send more cops") had the reanimated half-dog, and Resident Evil had the zombie dogs as well.

But has anyone done a zombie treatment where the conceit included the implications of zombie insects, or mammals, or even primates (possible a primate virus that jumps species, combining "hot zone" story with zombies)?

World War Z made all animals targets of zombies, and had implications for species that evolved to escape zombies and take over our urban spaces after massive depopulation. But that is just part of the standard dystopian setting it is in.

Seems that this would be an interested vein to mine.
posted by clvrmnky at 1:53 PM on July 6, 2012


As far as I'm concerned it's just IMPOSSIBLE for zombies to ever be played out. I liked zombies before they were cool, I'm pleased as punch that they are cool right now, and I will still like zombies when they aren't cool anymore. To me there is no peak nor nadir, there is only zombies. I'm being absolutely 100% unironic as I type this: I. Fucking. LOVE. Zombies.

On preview: I generally disagree with you, flarbuse. Maybe some people indulge in the crowd-killing aspect, but not all. I'm not even sure how that premise works when zombies barely resemble humans. They're monsters, repeatedly identified as being Not Human. Some zombie material actually delves into this question and it gets pretty interesting. My personal interest in zombies stems from many things: it interests me as a subversion of the Christian resurrection, as a variation on the ever popular plague story, but most importantly I'm just plain fascinated with the idea of apocalypse, and the idea of an apocalypse so complete that it calls into question our own humanity.

You know I once wrote a zombie song too, and it was all about how we need to eat our vegetables so we have the strength to run away from the zombie horde. Never even once mentioned killing a zombie in that song. Running away makes more sense.

Also wilderness survival was my favorite merit badge so I like to think about how/if I could survive in such a landscape (and yes, I absolutely would avoid killing zombies as much as possible for both moral and practical reasons).
posted by Doleful Creature at 1:54 PM on July 6, 2012 [9 favorites]


I used to think zombies were fun until I saw a campus-wide, week-long Humans vs. Zombies devolve into something that began resembling the Stanford Prison Experiment. By the end of the week, students were sleeping in the academic buildings and going without food because the dining hall was surrounded by zombies. There was a point where one of the humans even elected to jump through a (closed) glass door rather than be "eaten" by the zombies.

I'm all for the fun of escaping into an alternate reality, but I'm really perplexed by how enthusiastic people were to live in a reality that made going between classes a matter of life-or-death, and I don't know why people in general have such a fondness for being a human in a world besieged by the shambling undead.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 1:55 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think that the popularity of zombies stems mostly from people's interest in justifiably killing other people

Uh, no.
posted by rr at 1:57 PM on July 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Zombies are popular in our culture because they provide us with a guilt-free way to put ourselves in the shoes of a character who gets to kill a lot of people.

See the survival part is what draws me to zombie narratives. Hell you don't even zombies, the question of "How do you live within the ruins of a highly advanced society" is sort of endlessly fascinating to me although quite a few people seem to revel in the HA HA EVERYONE IS DEAD/Last Man On Earth/All The Riches Are Mine ..thing.

Of course all this apocalyptic thought is a hang over form the Cold War and I thick represents a curious cultural callous we've developed - we know in our heart of hearts that we should punished for something, but we can't express that so we imagine something else punishing humanity for us to satisfy our urge to topple the whole disgusting system over.

Of course, capitalism thrives on End Times narratives, there's no point in building a sustainable future or worry about debt if we're all gonna be zombie food/singularitized/raptured ANY MINUTE NOW.
posted by The Whelk at 1:58 PM on July 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


And also, of course, the urge to have all your life's problems reduced to daily survival - life would be much simpler if you just had to worry about Not Being Eaten, instant ennui removal!

It wouldn't be like that, as evidence we have from people in End Of The World situations say that social ties and group dynamics suddenly become a lot more important and complex.
posted by The Whelk at 2:00 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


flarbuse: I think that the popularity of zombies stems mostly from people's interest in justifiably killing other people

rr: Uh, no.

Bart: Dad! You killed the zombie Flanders.

Homer: He was a zombie?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 2:00 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Run for your Lives was so much fun. And it was only a 5k, not a marathon. :) (god help us all if it had been) I think zombies will never be played out, and I will never get tired of people's enthusiasm for them.

I think that the popularity of zombies stems mostly from people's interest in justifiably killing other people.

WHAA. No way, I think a lot of people are attracted to the survival aspect, and the unique horror of facing loved ones turned into monsters, and I think zombieism is also a good metaphor for how the human race is constantly at war with itself.

There was a point where one of the humans even elected to jump through a (closed) glass door rather than be "eaten" by the zombies.

That's just students being idiots. They do that even when they're NOT in the middle of a live-action game. They do that for the hell of it.
posted by Sayuri. at 2:05 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, has someone yet written a novel about a group of zombies who must survive the human repocalypse?! Can I get in on the ground floor?

Sure, I Am Legend.
posted by inkyz at 2:05 PM on July 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was ready to really hate this, but I'm listening to the songs and they're good! And kinda a hoot...

This is pretty neat, I cannot deny, I think all country singers should do a zombie apocalypse concept album.

I wonder what the song Undead in my bed is about....
posted by Skygazer at 2:07 PM on July 6, 2012


Writing about zombies is just too goddamn easy:

who are the bad guys and where do they come from: people/all around you already
how did this happen: plague or meteor or something, if any reason is given
what are other people doing: they are zombies except for x% who are survivors
well what can the bad guys do: just like humans, but a little stronger
can they fly or teleport or do they have crazy weapons: no, sometimes they are fast but not always
do they have an interesting motivation: lol of course not; brains
are there any moral issues to killing the bad guys: no they are mindless killing machines/can't be turned back/no possibly of communication

It's just so logistically simple. I don't buy that there some great metaphor for the age, they are just a hell of a lot easier to work with than aliens or golems or grey goo or a robot uprising or even a shadow government of vampires.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:09 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm a big zombie fan and the zombie-killing isn't really the primary draw. What pulls me in is a combination of the allure of being free from responsibility ("Whee! No more student loans and I can just take stuff from the mall whenever I want!") and the appeal of the intellectual exercise involved in survival ("Given a structure A, how can I reinforce or modify it to make it a zombie-proof living area?").

Clearing zombies out would be a disgusting, smelly, noisy, disease-ridden distant third.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:12 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Further evidence that the cultural trend of zombie popularity has reached it's peak -- I turned the corner in a nearby Barnes & Nobel bookstore and saw two whole bookcases full of books labeled "Young Adult Occult Romance."
posted by crunchland at 2:13 PM on July 6, 2012


Zombies are also a convenient way of encapsulating the Other -- they LOOK like us but they are NOT us. They are a rapacious, mindless horde that threatens our existence and wants nothing more than to CONSUME us.

Of course, the great thing about zombies is that every viewer can project his or her own nightmare Other onto the zombies, so the othering is universally applicable. Where one might see a shambling army of brainwashed religious zealots, another can see an unending tide of undocumented immigrants. Whatever floats your own SS Personal Prejudices.

Also: headshots. Everyone loves headshots. *BOOM* *SPLAT*
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:14 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my opinion the best zombie related entertainment at the moment is watching playthroughs of DayZ
posted by the_artificer at 2:17 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


*BOOM* *SPLAT* -- But in a real zombie apocalypse, in order to achieve the true zombie horde menace, the vast majority of us would have to be the ones splattered, not the ones doing the splattering.
posted by crunchland at 2:19 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Further evidence that the cultural trend of zombie popularity has reached it's peak..."

Please let this be true.
posted by terrapin at 2:20 PM on July 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


the vast majority of us would have to be the ones splattered

WE ARE THE 99%
OCCUPY BRAINS
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:22 PM on July 6, 2012


I am mostly just tired of hearing the background music when my wife is playing Plants vs. Zombies... especially the dolphin zombie.
posted by terrapin at 2:23 PM on July 6, 2012


Origin of zombies: I was in a restaurant and saw three high-school senior aged girls sit down a nearby table and order soda. All three had smart phones and were each individually staring into their phones and thumbing away (but heads up, not buried into the phone, stealth). Not a word was spoken. 45 minutes later they all got up simultaneous and left without a word. There you go: modern zombies. I did manage to catch the eye of one girl but it was a deep penetrating seeing through you in another world stare that gave me the chills. So I wonder if the zombie meme may stick around like the pirate meme has, for obvious reasons.
posted by stbalbach at 2:38 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Speaking of zombie sharks, have any stories involving zombie animals ever been published.

Well, there's Steven King's Pet Sematary.

And there's an amazing Ray Bradbury short story (but knowing it's about a zombie animal gives away the ending, so I won't mention the title. If I recall correctly, it's in The October Country).
posted by treepour at 2:45 PM on July 6, 2012


Cracked.com has several articles about Zombies that explore what it is that the comedy writers there think motivate the current fascination with zombies.

Why the Left fears zombies, my own paraphrased title to this second page of an article about vampires and zombies.

And to play upon what others have said, this article explains the comedy writers view about why we love zombies. 5 Reasons You Secretly Want a Zombie Apocalypse.

The sad thing is, they really make a lot of good points. Comedy writers. Making sense.
posted by daq at 2:49 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


We simply create something that happens to people to make it okay to kill them


We're very good at that - almost as good as the actual killing, because both instincts go hand in hand.

I've said before that humans reserve their greatest instinctual fear for their most voracious predator - not tigers or bears or venomous pests, but Man himself. Assigning "enemy" status to "those other people" to build enthusiasm about wiping them out is how we've kept ourselves sharp as a species over the course of our evolution. It's why our civilizations will always self destruct when they reach a certain level of comfort and complacency. It's why worldwide peace is impossible to achieve.

This zombie craze and the growing political divide of the last decade are symptoms of the U.S.A. preparing itself for a pointless, miserable Civil War II, based on the same regenerative instinct that fueled the fall of Rome.
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:49 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


My wife got me into zombies, and I'm pretty happy she did. On the main topic of Amanda Richard's album, I just started into it, and I rather like it. Enjoyable music, well done and amusing lyrics.

On to the broader discussion in-thread:

clvrmnky: Speaking of zombie sharks, have any stories involving zombie animals ever been published

The zombie movie review blog Trioxin has a zombie animals tag that has been used twice, once for Zombeak, which sounds like it only has one "zombie" chicken that is more Satan reborn in a chicken body than actual zombie, and the actual zombie animal movie Black Sheep, which was actually a lot of fun and fairly well done, for a zombie horror/comedy.

In the real, non-fictional world, there are a number of "zombie" creatures, though they're usually parasites that take over living hosts, not reanimation of the dead.

I suppose one of the campy, non-Romero zombie films (the one that gave us "braaaaaains" and "send more cops") had the reanimated half-dog...

For the record, that was Return of the Living Dead, which featured trioxin as the source of zombies.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:52 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Comedy writers. Making sense.

The mark of good comedy I'd wager.

based on the same regenerative instinct that fueled the fall of Rome.

I was listening to a Hardcore History episode about events preceding the fall of Rome (the Thor's Angels one I think) and the whole thing just felt so eerily familiar it gave me chills. It was ever thus. Let's just hope you're wrong about Civil War II.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:57 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's all kinds of reasons why zombies are popular. As a horror fan there's one in particular that always draws me: zombies are the perfect monsters for our cultural context.

Creating a really good monster is a balance of getting the audience to empathize with it while at the same time making it unambiguously evil. It's the juxtaposition of the two that torture our minds. We care about Frankenstein's monster and the unfair way in which it was brought into this cruel world, and also see the need to have it destroyed.

For zombies, the empathy is easy: like all great monsters they remind us of ourselves. They look like us, dress like us, and sometimes mimic us (attempting clumsily to use things in a human-like way). They are our neighbors, friends, husbands, daughters. Often they are a character you've grown to care for (until they turn). We can empathize with the need to eat and the will to survive. We know what it's like to be sick. And in most zombie lore, any of us can find ourselves in their situation.

Portraying their essential evilness is about breaking taboos. In our culture, zombies break the biggest taboo: civilized society. We live an extremely regimented world, obeying laws and customs that make life easier and safer for everyone. Our real life monsters are psychopaths and mass murderers. Zombies, like them, act without restraint. They are savage and chaotic. They remind us of those animal instincts that we try so hard to distance ourselves from by inventing things like ATM machines and stoplights. They symbolize the ultimate breakdown of that ubiquitous gentleman's agreement that keeps society running smoothly. The act of cannibalism is the ultimate expression of this.

(There's a whole other element to the psychological horror and taboo-breaking - the loss of the Individual - but that would take a lot longer to go over.)

I wrote a paper on this once, though it was in the context of monsters in Old English literature. I think it's pretty accurate. I think the draw people have towards post-apocalyptic society is tied to the taboo of breaking from our restictive (Western) lives. When the taboos in our society change and evolve, our monsters will too. Go back to Beowulf and you can see how Grendel was a monster not because he looked like one (he was, in fact, described only as a bigger and stronger version of a man), but because he desecrated the safety of the hearth - the Thane's hall - and killed dishonorably - while the men slept - and without restraint. (Grendel's mother was a monster because she mourned her son's death and then subverted traditional gender roles and, like a man, took to fury and vengeance.)

But yeah, mostly it's just because people want an excuse to kill others and so many people are survival buffs these days. But for me it's something a bit more complicated.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 2:59 PM on July 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


But has anyone done a zombie treatment where the conceit included the implications of zombie insects, or mammals, or even primates (possible a primate virus that jumps species, combining "hot zone" story with zombies)?

Wasn't that what The Happening was about? Mark Wahlberg flees through the countryside trying to escape the clutches of a female zombie (Zooey Deschanel).
posted by anigbrowl at 3:17 PM on July 6, 2012


Each era gets the monster it fears most. In the 90's it was vampires. Now it's zombies. You connect the dots.

And Civil War II? Rome? Bah. Read a history of the Reign of Terror if you want real degeneration.
posted by tspae at 3:18 PM on July 6, 2012


Just a note because I know some MeFites may care such things. The spelling "zombie" is now only for the outsiders, the real fans are now spelling it "jx'oombey" to separate themselves from the mainstream appropriation of the subculture. Apparently this spelling also captures the original Kikongo pronunciation better.
posted by humanfont at 3:19 PM on July 6, 2012


Oh for sure tspae the Reign of Terror is totally aptly named, it's just that to me the Fall of Rome was in many ways so apocalyptic, so final. At least there are still French people in the world in spite of that dark period in their history.

But have you ever met a living breathing citizen of the Roman Empire?
posted by Doleful Creature at 3:25 PM on July 6, 2012


tspae: Each era gets the monster it fears most.

Except there have been numerous zombie movies released every decade since at least the 1960s, in large due to George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Fun fact: Romero thought he had created a new type of monster with the Living Dead, because in his mind, zombies were of the older Haitian idea of zombies, a hypnotized person bereft of consciousness and self-awareness. By his second movie, he considered his undead to be zombies.


2bucksplus: Writing about zombies is just too goddamn easy

If you boil down any type of story this far, it's too goddamn easy. The story isn't simply the structure of who, what, where, why, etc., it's what puts those pieces together. Zombie stories typically aren't about breaking new ground, but telling an interesting/ amusing/ frightening tale.

I don't buy that there some great metaphor for the age

Some stories really do have a larger message. Romero has commented on his own movies:
1968 - Night of the Living Dead: "It was 1968, man. Everybody had a 'message'. The anger and attitude and all that's there is just because it was the Sixties. We lived at the farmhouse, so we were always into raps about the implication and the meaning, so some of that crept in"

1978/9 - Dawn of the Dead: Does Romero see a message in "Dawn of the Dead?" "Well, yes, but it's not something I think should be talked about a lot. You can say the movie is an observation about materialism, and so forth, and what have you really said? The point is that people come out of the film having experienced some very extreme emotions, and it's up to them to interpret what happened."

1985 - Day of the Dead: I couldn't find any handy quote from Romero, but the movie sets scientists and a few civilians vs the military vs the living dead, and the scientists come out as the most supportable. It's pretty easy to see the film as commentary on the military(industrial) complex.

2005 - Land of the Dead: "I had written a script before 9/11 and it was much more about homeland problems – AIDS and homelessness and the vanishing middle class. And a lot of things were in there; we had this vehicle driving through a little village, mowing people down and wondering why they're pissed off. All of a sudden, after Iraq, that just acquired more resonance. And we did a few things: we made the Fiddlers Green building taller to make it represent the World Trade Centre; and I threw in lines like 'I don't negotiate with terrorists.' I had a little more fun with it."
posted by filthy light thief at 3:33 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am so sorry for my part in this.
posted by munchingzombie at 3:46 PM on July 6, 2012


It's easy to just make stuff up on the fly about such things, unfortunately. To say something sensible about the popularity of zombies, however, might take a fair bit of serious thought.

The popularity of zombie apocalypse stories probably doesn't indicate that we have some desire to kill other humans. If that were what were driving the craze, it probably wouldn't be about zombies at all, but about living people. Stories about killing hoards of somehow-turned-evil living folk would be much better evidence for such a hypothesis.

Apocalyptic fiction has long been popular, and there is certainly an appeal to that that's independent of zombies. The idea of walking through abandoned cities is alluring on its own, though, again, it'd be hard to say why. The idea of being one of the few survivors of an apocalypse is alluring, too, though, again, it might be hard to say exactly why that is. So zombies, I'd guess, piggyback on that stuff. And zombies are compelling on their own, as monsters, even in non-apocalypse scenarios. A few zombies are still scary and cool. I think it's in part because they are dangerous in groups, but not very powerful individually. Thus they represent a threat, but also make a certain amount of badassery plausible. And they're creepy, which is interesting.

All of that could be wrong...but probably not much wronger than any number of other shoot-from-the-hip suggestions. Sadly, literary and film criticism are in such a sorry state that one can say just about anything one wants and get away with it... But the vast majority of serious hypotheses about anything are wrong. With no serious effort to weed out the nonsense, one ends up with a proliferation of it.

Oh, hey, I saw this the other day--a zombie board game called *Last Night on Earth.* I Have only seen the box, but it looks cool:
http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/29368/last-night-on-earth-the-zombie-game
posted by Fists O'Fury at 3:54 PM on July 6, 2012


Last Night on Earth (FOF's link made clickable), but I have now mixed it up with Zombies!!!. One seemed overly random, and more prone to zombie victories because the f**kers respawned like crazy.

Thanks for linking to Last Night on Earth, because the gallery looks to be full of home-made custom cards. An example card:
Kool-Aid Man
OH YEAHHHH! - Can move through walls. If a Zombie is occupying the space on the other side of the wall that Kool-Aid has just entered, roll a D6. On a 4, 5, or 6 that Zombie takes a Wound.
GOOD ANYTIME - Ignore the effects of Lights Out, Locked Door, and Taken Over.
OH NOOOO! - If another Hero is occupying the same or adjacent space to where Kool-Aid has just gone through a wall, roll a D6. On a 4, 5, or 6, that Hero takes a Wound.
There's also a custom Solid Snake card, one for Tallahassee (from Zombieland), The Fonz, Chuck Norris, and a LOT more (1,497 images currently, and most look to be custom cards).
posted by filthy light thief at 4:12 PM on July 6, 2012


I, for one, welcome "Peak Zombie" and will joyfully celebrate the following years of decline.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:21 PM on July 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


Zombies are like vampires - they'll slightly wax and wane in popularity, but popularity will always be present and they'll fairly regularly become big. They're both just such perfect monsters, with a great balance of strengths and weaknesses, deeply culturally grounded, and which just invite storytelling and open up endlessly intriguing possibilities. Especially if you haven't been on this planet long enough to have already encountered those possibilities explored elsewhere several times already.

ghosts and werewolves are a tier further down that ladder, mummies further still.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:13 PM on July 6, 2012


we should bring back Frankenstines, they're cool
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 6:45 PM on July 6, 2012


Speaking as someone obsessed with the Newsflesh trilogy... I have always wondered how popular culture was functioning in the post-Rising world, since the books don't really go into television or movies (are those things even MADE any more?).

This album sounds freaking PERFECT for this universe. I love it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:02 PM on July 6, 2012


You mean the scientists named [Victor] Frankenstein who try to play god, or intelligent, reanimated corpses that are made from the parts of other corpses, whose grotesque appearance and the fact that they are an abomination unto god make them social outcasts?

At this point, I'll claim to be an " amateur zombie connoisseur." I'm not versed in ALL variations of zombies, but I understand most of the differences, and appreciate the work of skilled special effects people along with directors and whatnot. I can discuss zombie movies like some discuss wines, noting some of the subtle flavors and textures, the start versus the finish, and how they might pair well with other foods.

Because I'm bored, I'll beanplate 2bucksplus' comment, in which it was claimed that "Writing about zombies is just too goddamn easy." I'm doing this not to pick on 2bucksplus, but because it's a good starting point to illustrate the variances and nuances found in zombie movies.

1) who are the bad guys and where do they come from: people/all around you already
True, but this population changes, usually with more of the living becoming undead. Unlike a normal fight or battle, "your people" don't just die when successfully attacked by "them," the enemy, but they usually* become one of the enemy. *NOTE: some times people attacked by zombies just die, due to the format of the cause of the zombiism in the selected storyline, or due to shoddy writing/ directing/ editing.

2) how did this happen: plague or meteor or something, if any reason is given
When a "why" is given, it's usually part of the commentary in the movie. Meteors and new diseases could be acts of an angry god, punishing a world who had it coming. Toxic sources imply industry and/or science run amok, ditto unnatural pathogens. Unspoken sources leave it open for the viewer (or it's because the writer(s) couldn't find a good way to make it fit into the story). Writing the source of the zombie outbreak off is like saying the setting of the movie is unimportant, which is not always the case.

3) what are other people doing: they are zombies except for x% who are survivors
How are people surviving? How are they coping? Are they fighting each-other as fiercely as the zombies? Have they created a new feudal society, based upon a new king or ruler and his/her army or minions? Is this a chance to start over? Or is humanity doomed?

4) well what can the bad guys do: just like humans, but a little stronger
Stronger? They're often weaker, as they are re-animated corpses, some pretty badly decomposed. Sometimes they're only dangerous because they're so bitey, or because there are so many of them and they can tear you apart in a mob. But sometimes they are stronger, with a single zombie able to tear a person apart. This is typically a more modern zombie, form the last few decades (I want to say late 1980s and beyond, but I could be wrong).

5) can they fly or teleport or do they have crazy weapons: no, sometimes they are fast but not always
Again, the fast zombie is a new thing. Zombies used to be the relentless threat of death, the kind you can outrun but will continue to seek you, even when you have shot holes in it and it has lost limbs. It will crawl with its arms if it loses its lower half. But at some recent point, that psychological fear wasn't enough, so they started to move as fast as normal humans, and then a few sorts began to be runners (I'm looking at you, 28 Days Later, with your rage "zombies" who don't actually die before they turn).

6) do they have an interesting motivation: lol of course not; brains
Once again, brains are not always the thing that drive zombies. Sometimes brains can sooth their pain (at least, that's what some of the undead have said), and they can smell "your spicy brains." Others are endlessly hungry for flesh, brains or otherwise. Some don't differentiate between animal and man, just seek out living flesh.

7) are there any moral issues to killing the bad guys: no they are mindless killing machines/can't be turned back/no possibly of communication
But some were your family members, your mum, your best friend, your spouse of years, your new-found love. Sometimes there is a cure, and the plague can be turned back. Other times, you can "tame" zombies, and they are used for menial tasks. Some zombies are aimless and autonomous, and are drawn to noise or movement, and swarm on such attractions. Others move in herds, gathering together for no apparent reason. In some cases, the zombies actually act together, and can even speak, becoming a whole lot closer to living humans.

With that, I pose that they are not "just a hell of a lot easier to work with than aliens or golems or grey goo or a robot uprising or even a shadow government of vampires."

Interesting zombie movies:

The Boston Globe actually has a pretty good Top 25 Zombie Movies list, with decent blurbs on why the movies are good. I'll elaborate on a few of these, and add more. Not on the list: There are more good ones, but it's late and I'm drawing a blank.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:12 PM on July 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The representation of monsters in art and culture reflect a society's acknowledged and unconscious desires, parts of what many designate "ideology". Setting aside the dozens of Western archetypes (primarily Hollywood in the forms, for example, of giant insects, radioactive reptiles, werewolves, vampires, extraterrestrials, etc.), zombies are especially relevant now because they speak both to the ideological ruptures present in globalized culture, what Hardt and Negri call "Empire".

Flarbuse's assertion that zombies are popular because they enable the dramatization of justified killing is one (there are others) of the most important reasons zombie culture is so prevalent.

In the present time when verities have been shattered, when religion is considered to be socially fracturing, when politics are regarded as corrupted, when worker solidarity is in indefinite/infinite recession, etc. etc. . . . the emergence of zombies offer narrative agonists the clarity of "Us vs. Them". The emergence of zombies catalyze an amoral clarity that demands tactical and opportunistic provision of shelter, securing of provender, and the destruction of (humanoid) enemies.

Fantasies of a "zombie apocalypse" provide us and our contemporaries the narrative benefits of fight and flight, something not immediately available in the current geopolitical context of Empire.

Another way of looking at it is that we don't have World War II, or Vietnam, or the War on Drugs, or the War on Terrorism to guide our survivalist decision-making. We only have a broken cultural paradigm and that paradigm awaits its saving metaphor, the most prevalent of which seems for now to be zombies.

We live out our unacknowledged desires for the clarity of "Us vs. Them" through our zombie dreams, the moment when we have magical knowledge that we are "the last real humans" and all (and any) of our actions (looting, maiming, killing/destroying) are justified in the name of continued human existence.
posted by mistersquid at 7:27 AM on July 7, 2012


Ugh. The zombie fad reached its peak a while ago*. Now it's just shambling along.

* as proof I cite the fact that Will Smith was in a zombie movie in 2007.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:41 AM on July 7, 2012


Those are vampires, not zombies (intelligent, consume blood, burned by light? Vampires.)
posted by The Whelk at 9:42 AM on July 7, 2012


Those are vampires, not zombies (intelligent, consume blood, burned by light? Vampires.)

Eh, they're kind of a hybrid zombie-vampire. There's only one of them that seems to be intelligent, and the rest just stand around naked and mindless in the dark until they're disturbed, and don't exhibit any intelligence.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:42 AM on July 7, 2012


Until the end with the original ending (not the theatrical version, the stronger alternate ending) which shows they have a society and are trying to rescue one of their members. Plus, the source material has them as straight up vampires, stakes and all.

Their design in the movie is, however, very zombie.
posted by The Whelk at 10:45 AM on July 7, 2012


The Whelk, thanks for posting that clarification. I understand that the "worldwide epidemic" nature of I Am Legend went on to influence the seminal modern zombie movie, Night of the Living Dead, but they're still vampires in the original 1954 novel. But I fear that this distinction will be lost to many, like Frankenstein is generally shorthand for Frankenstein's monster, not the doctor who created the intelligent, though grotesque, creature.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:58 PM on July 7, 2012


Maaaaybe zombies are done in the US. They are still going strong in Korea, though.

(My favorite moment in that video is the shot from just behind the performers of the 100% zombiefied audience as it shambles toward them slackmouthed. If you've ever seen shots of a really into it audience from the perspective of the singers on stage, the resemblance is uncanny.)
posted by subdee at 3:50 PM on July 7, 2012


Oops, wrong T-ara video. This is the one I meant to link to.
posted by subdee at 3:52 PM on July 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


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