Thinking about the Zombie Apocalypse

The tremendous growth in the imaginary zombie population amazes me. Maybe, like other bubbles, this one is about to burst. But in the meantime, literary, cinematic, Web, and re-enacted zombification seems to go in two directions.

1. Practice killing the zombies.

There were a lot more stages, and to be honest, I lost count of how many. One, though, required that you get in a boat and move to a zombie-infested island in a small lake. Using your shotgun, you cleaned out the zombies and rescued the poor woman who was filling a water jug. Sadly, the zombies had eaten her brain by the time I got there, but at least I recovered the water jug.

A Google search on the phrase “What caliber for zombies?”  produced more than 500 hits.

If you don’t have a group, you can tack up your own zombie targets at the shooting range. Or settle down with a good book. A reworked classic, even.

The first zombie movie was made in 1932, and there have been a lot more since then. Whether there is any connection or not, the number has jumped since Sept. 11, 2001.

During the Cold War, some culture-watchers saw zombies as our fellow citizens turned into brainwashed Communists. Thus they had to be killed before they spread the “infection.”

Communism is not seen as a threat now, but does the zombie remain a sort of “double” for another threat, and, therefore, it is necessary and good to kill them? They are handy stand-ins for emergency-response drills.

In an effort to engage its community in a hazardous materials emergency preparation exercise, the Office of Homeland Security has put out a petition for 250 volunteers to done their best zombie look this Halloween. The effort will test first responders in how they handle hazardous materials exercises and, in an attempt to maintain the realism of zombie culture, first responders who come in contact with a hazardous material will become zombies themselves.

Like the Center for Disease Control, which published a guide earlier this year to survive a zombie attack, and Tom Deaderick who created a map depicting the each state’s zombie survivability rate, these Delaware County groups are using the zombie craze gain interest and participation their community in a more serious emergency preparedness drill.

2. Be a zombie, at least temporarily.

You can do it Denver, Colorado, or Brighton, Sussex, or many other places.

Brian Strongreen, 29, a student at the University of Colorado at Denver, wore a costume that he called “zombie- Khadafy.” His attire bore a striking similarity to the deceased Libyan leader.

“I used to be in the military and I’m all for dead dictators,” he said. “I couldn’t find a Jheri curl wig.”

So it’s about making fun of enemies sometimes? Depersonalizing “the other” and all that?

Pondering What It All Means, a BBC reporter writes,

Dr Marcus Leaning, programme leader for media studies at the University of Winchester, believes the shambling mass of rotting flesh now colonising our cultural space is well worthy of academic attention.

“Zombies are incredibly popular, the growth is phenomenal – not only are they in films, TV shows and fan productions on YouTube, but there’s a vast growth in books, with zombie survival guides selling very, very well on Amazon,” he told me.

“You even see small garden ornaments dressed as zombies – zombie garden gnomes.”

In fact, Winchester is soon to become the first university in the UK to offer a study module devoted entirely to zombies.

“We’re living through the hardest economic times in most young people’s memories,” Dr Leaning said.

“Maybe zombies speak to austerity Britain in a way other monsters don’t.”

So it’s the zombie economy, just shuffling along? People dress as zombies to quell their own fears? Just don’t take out a student loan to major in Zombie Studies.

How much longer?

When there are children’s books about zombies and high school kids put Zombie Outbreak Response Team stickers on their cars, is it about over? Is  it all about a lack of brains? Pundits ponder that question.

Before zombies, goths were on the same continuum, I fancy, though they were sexier than zombies. I could see me waddling down the aisle with a goth, but not a zombie. I’m all for challenging society’s conventions but, generally speaking, you don’t want to be saying “I do” with your eyeball hanging out.

Uh, yes. Right.

Clearly, zombies are a multivalent metaphor. I am waiting to see which “reading,” if any, predominates.

2 thoughts on “Thinking about the Zombie Apocalypse

  1. Dear Mr Clifton,

    I am chaplain to and lecturer at Shoumen University in Bulgaria. I understand that you will publish a book titled A Pipe of Ointment via Equinox in 1913.

    I was overwhelmed because I am interested in a similar problem – flying through space when holding a vessel of often warm liquid. In the Bible, Daniel 14:33-39, it is a kind of brew or soup. In other instances the liquid is drunk as in Boccaccio’s Decameron – the ninth tale in the tenth day dealing with Messer Torello and Saladino.

    Have you published anything on this topic as articles or online in order top read it? Please let me know.

    With my best wishes,
    Yours truly,
    Fr Pavel

  2. Pitch313

    Well, it wouldn’t be the same zingy trend if we had to call them “zuvembies!” (tipping my beret to the old Comics Code)

    Besides, I couldn’t endure as a zombie. I loathe eating brains! And in junior high school I was unendingly and hurtfully mocked by all the popular kids because I couldn’t shamble to prolong my existence.

Comments are closed.