While the undead genre as a whole has been a popular cult following for a long time now, in recent years there has been a surge of interest in the undead. Is this down to the public becoming more aware of the subject through films and books or is the subject striking home somewhere altogether deeper in the human psyche?
The popular culture of zombies has traditionally been followed by horror enthusiasts, those who enjoy the spectacle of the movies, the suspense of the slow shambling corpses that explode on a shower of flesh and gore as heavily armed people try to take them down. Zombies while being popular in this sense could easily be exchanged for vampires, lunatics or any other type of enemy, it was all about the spectacle and if you didn't enjoy the ultra gore or the violence then you stuck to your traditional action blockbuster.
Recently the trend has become just that, trendy. The internet is full of fan sites and projects that follow the genre and Hollywood have taken the idea of the undead and ran with it. No longer have the big directors turned their noses up at the undead and they are reaping the benefits. Does this mean that the general public are turning into followers of super violent films and gore filled movies? In a few cases I think so but to be honest I think the growth in popularity is somewhat darker. Romero's films have always been fantastic as they have been a social commentary, do the zombies represent consumerism, those with religion or just plain old walking dead people? The debate always has gone on and always will. But I don't think the recent popularity has anything to do with these philosophical questions. I think the cause of the popularity is modern life. How many times in the past decade have you been sat around with your friends and on a subject that angers them, has someone said they wish they could take a gun and deal with the problem? Maybe my friends are not quite all there (You know...upstairs!) but I hear it more and more, and from people I don't even know. It seems that in general, people are getting more and more angry, frustrated and helpless in dealing with modern life. Sure the old annoyances are still there, the taxes, waiting in line to buy things etc. but there also seems to be so many more problems that have recently come about that seem like they would be solved, or at the very least make you feel better by gunning down not just one, but many people. Then if the big problems can be solved in such a way, well why not the small ones?
Is this just a sign that the population is polarising? That instead of me against you, it is changing to us against them? Maybe, but it would be hard to explain away the fact that the zombie genre is becoming more and more popular in all countries, ones which have vastly different forms of governments, religions and cultures. Violence has always been in our lives and there have been times when people have thought that a mass event of violence could solve certain problems, but since when has it become popular for this to be a good and enjoyable means to an end? You can't tell me that millions of people have suddenly become wannabe mass murderers overnight, and society surely cannot have changed such a deal in such a short amount of time especially when nothing particularly bad has happened in that time frame.
Or maybe you actually can tell me that. Maybe we are starting to wake up and see that the old problems never go away, the last century showed us just how low humanity can sink to, events happened and overtook us which dwarfed past shameful times such as the Inquisition and the Crusades. Events were excused by our leaders because they were a means to an end, that life was going to get better and the old problems were now solved, the horrible price that had been paid will be worth it. Yet still the day to day problems are still here, maybe we are just sick and tired of it and the idea of killing people on a large scale to solve problems is starting to seem appealing, at least subconsciously. Maybe it explains that zombies, who are human but inhuman, dead but alive, who were traditionally slow but who are now fast and more human are a fantastically acceptable thing to destroy. The only reason for it being so acceptable that they are dehumanised because of their name. The modern zombie could be mistaken for a normal human being who is just angry. If history has shown us anything it is that before one group of people can destroy another group, they first have to be shown that the targets are not human. Hitler did it with the Jews and tyrants have done it before and since. The evolution of the zombie from a slow, shambling corpse to a fully functioning human who simply got up on the wrong side of the bed one morning has been a swift yet unrecognised change.
Are we being dehumanised to all other humans, not just a certain group, for a reason? When you find the idea of destroying a zombie not just acceptable but enjoyable, how big of a leap will it be from killing a human called 'zombie' to killing a human called 'neighbour' or 'stranger'?