They shamble clumsily around, unthinking and uncaring, baleful and brain-dead, bumping into things, terrifying decent people, driven by evil and primitive urges and no, I’m not talking about Republican politicians. I mean Zombies (although I’ll grant you it’s not always easy to tell the difference). However it’s not my intention to mock the right-wing here, even if it’s hard to resist. I was just wondering why we seem to be so fascinated by Zombies.
We are, you know. I was flicking through Netflix and Amazon last night looking for something vaguely late-night watchable and you wouldn’t believe the number of Zombie movies and TV series. Or perhaps you would. I was surprised, though. ‘The Walking Dead’ was a monster hit on TV, as was ‘Z Nation’ and ‘iZombie’ while in the cinema things like ‘Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies’, ‘Big Tits Zombie’, ‘The Evil Dead’, and ‘Rockabilly Zombie Weekend’ have all provided flesh-creeping frissons on the big screen for Zombie lovers.
Personally I’ve never really got their appeal. Zombies don’t actually seem to do much except shamble around slowly and groan despairingly. I do that myself most mornings so I’m not impressed. They’re not what I’d call a deadly threat either because even committed couch-potatoes could easily outrun them. Do you remember the Daleks in Doctor Who ? They were hyped as the most terrifying killing machines in the universe but all I ever saw them do was trundle slowly around like clumsy mobile vacuum cleaners. They couldn’t even manage a couple of stairs without falling over. As scary threats go, for me, you really need a bit more than Zombies or Daleks can manage.
And since Zombies aren’t particularly scary, I struggle to see why else they might appeal. I can quite easily accept the perverse allure of Vampires, with all of that neck biting and getting to stay up really late and have torrid nights in ladies boudoirs and so on. And werewolves are pretty cool too, because which of us hasn’t fancied loping through summer fields at midnight with the long grass tickling our tummy while we howl at the moon ? Sign me up for that anytime. I can see why anyone might go for a bit of nocturnal neck-biting or lycanthropy but who would want to be a Zombie ? And why ?
Maybe it’s more to do with us than the creatures themselves. Vampires and werewolves tend to be individuals, each with their own personality and complicated life-story going on. They’re relatable. Zombies, on the other hand, aren’t. They’re objectified and usually appear anonymously in masses. Maybe this is what explains their appeal to movie-makers. Perhaps they’ve shrewdly worked out that there are millions brought up on endless war and ‘shoot-em-up’ computer games who find pleasure in mindless mass killing and maiming as long as the premise of the entertainment sets up some slight justification.
We know it’s okay to kill zombies or watch them being destroyed. Lots of them. Blow them apart with shotguns, chop off their heads, hack off their limbs, beat them, batter them, blow-up, annihilate, and destroy them. The more the better because they’re just zombies. They’re the bad guys, not even real people, and we need to do it to them before they do it to us. A bit like those ‘gooks’ the US killed so many of in Vietnam and those ‘towel-heads’ in the middle-east. They weren’t really people either. Not like us. Not really. More like zombies.
Of course I may be totally wrong. I often am. There may be complex cultural reasons for the huge current popularity of zombie movies. Or people may just like the Zombs for the way their body-parts fall off comically at unexpected moments. Or it may just be a passing entertainment fashion because Vamps have been rather done to death (no pun intended) in recent years. But if the appeal of the Zombie genre is, either entirely or in part, that we as a species just love the idea of splattering and smashing other creatures, if we revel in slaughter and destruction, then what does that say about us ? Who are the real monsters ?
Stephen King once wrote, in a book called ‘It’, “Eddie discovered one of childhood’s great truths. Grownups are the real monsters”. Maybe he was right.