In the world we live in, most people channel their emotions, phobias, and anxiety by returning to a state of pacification, and the only way to escape this feeling is by reproducing whatever it is you are afraid of. Zombies become malleable so it can take on different things. These once- human monsters seem to be popping up everywhere, not only limited to the jurisdiction of movies, it has transferred to a host of other popular culture forms including video games (Resident Evil, House of the Dead, Dead Rising, and Plants vs.
Zombies), comic books (The Walking Dead and Marvel Zombies), novels (The Zombie Survival Guide (Brooks 2003)), World War Z (Brooks 2006), and even a successful television series (The Walking Dead) to name a few. Why is our generation so fascinated with the relentless, flesh-eating, undead? By focusing on the cultural history and clawing into the social existence of zombies, I will walk you through my investigation of why this phenomenon has taken over our country in the 21st century.
First, I explain the significance of zombies, exploring their contribution to the economy and discussing their “original” definition compared to the “Hollywood” zombie. I then include an interesting idea referring to the sociological study of zombie popular culture. A production-based study where I had a group of eight individuals. I had a brief conversation with each of them, asking about their past life and their relationship with zombies to this day. As I presumed, I found an interesting connection between these two factors.
As I transition, I link the idea I have come up with to the sociological study of zombie culture in the United States. Unfortunately, sociology has only recently been applied to the examination of zombie culture. Therefore, I conclude by introducing a sociological analysis into zombie culture, focusing on two main questions. What can sociology learn from exploring deeper into zombie culture? What can sociology add to current debates in zombie studies? Of course I have to start my essay proving that zombies are even popular enough to call a social phenomenon. So my question is, why do zombies even matter?
Without proper knowledge of the increasing popular zombies, you would never realize how much they actually contribute to our economy. Halloween spending was expected to reach $6. 9 billion in 2013 (Crompton 2013), much of that spending being zombie related. However, zombie culture now contributes an estimated $5 billion to the world economy as of 2011 (Zombies 2011), and will continue to grow. The hit TV series, “The Walking Dead” had an estimated 16. 1 million viewers throughout the third season, which is more than any scripted or reality TV show ever (Crompton 2013).
In addition to movies, comics, books, and video games, individuals dress up in homemade zombie costumes to march in zombie walks and engage in role-playing games like Humans vs. Zombies. Massive amounts of people dressing up and walking around as the undead publicizes a true cultural phenomenon. Also, we cannot forget to mention zombie-related merchandise like t-shirts, toys, and bumper stickers, which also bring in revenue. By exploring the origins of this creature I have come to find out that zombies began as an obscure Haitian folk myth. From my exploration on the topic, the history of zombies is hardly discussed and often ignored.
African scholars say the word comes from the Kongo word for “soul”, nzambi. The time that the voodoo religion was becoming popular was also around the same time slaves became widespread, also the same time the idea of the ‘zonbi’ was created. It is estimated that 80-90 percent of Haitians serve the spirits or practice voodoo. In voodoo, a natural death sends your spirits to the gods, and an un-natural death causes your soul to linger at your grave. At this time souls are vulnerable, it is believed that a powerful sorcerer Boko locks your soul in a bottle and controls your un-dead body (Zombies 2014).
One of the definitions of ‘zombie’, is “A voodoo spell that raises the dead. ” Although, this might seem absurd, some forms of voodoo are still being practiced in today’s Haitian society (Grace 2013). Since zombies stepped onto the big Hollywood screen, their greatest enemy has been critics. Scholars and scientists argue that movies depict the living dead in a fantastic, unrealistic fashion (Comentale 2014). Further criticism indicates that this “style over substance” approach to zombie cinema teaches human viewers lessons that may get them killed in a real encounter (Brooks 2003).
Although that may be true, according to (Stanley 2013), a zombie epidemic is theoretically possible and nurses have been trained and will be accountable to be prepared as possible to support and care for victims if this ever happened. I have also had plenty personal experience with zombies. I grew up with a house of five kids, where we were all loved to watch scary movies all the time. Our fascination with zombies began when me and my closest brother were about nine and ten years old. We had a world of VHS movies to choose from, and we always chose to watch the new Scooby Doo movie with the zombies in it.
Since then, me and my brother have been amazed by zombie films and still are to this day. In addition to my studies, I believe I have found a conclusion to why individuals easily become so fascinated with zombies. I believe that the difference in people who like and dislike zombies is the amount of fear that the person is accustomed to. The example I am referring to would be in the case of me and my family. When we were all younger, and my mom was still seeing my sister’s father, he was physically and verbally abusive towards us. My mother was not aware of this abusive behavior at the time but when she did find out, she left him immediately.
There was no doubt that he left fear us as children. I can remember on two separate occasions where I urinated on myself because I was afraid to go to the bathroom because I knew I would have to pass his room on the way. I remember I would sit at the top of the stairs wanting to open the door so bad because I had to use the bathroom. But I was so scared of what he would do to me so I would never actually open the door. Although it is not obvious, the fear that was instilled in me as a child still follows me around to this day. The fear that is instilled in me is what makes me attracted to scary movies, in this case, zombies.
Out of the eight people I have talked to for this project, the two of them that said they cannot remember a tragic, fearful, or catastrophic personal experience, are the only ones who said they weren’t interested in scary movies, or zombies. One of them actually happened to be Henry Meers who does not like scary movies or zombies. He claims that that he fails to recall any tragic events in his lifetime that have negatively had an impact on his life, besides his girlfriend breaking up with him, which I didn’t count because it did not affect him heavily.
This sociological study of zombie culture reveals that this phenomenon is being driven by the fears pre-instilled by tragic occurrences. My mother was also one of the eight people I talked to for my project. I already knew she was fascinated by zombies, but the reason I chose her, was to ask her about her past. She has never discussed her past life with me so figured this could be great chance to learn more about her and also come up with an idea that has yet to be introduced.
Since I knew she already liked zombies, I skipped right into information about her past life, asking if there was any specific event or occurrence in her life that made her depressed, or caused her to build some sort of phobia. After hearing her answer I wish I would have phrased the question differently or asked a more specific question. My mother gave me the longest lifetime story I have ever heard, with plenty of reason to have previously built up anger, anxiety, and emotion. She included that her father and grandmother physically abusing her when she was a child.
Not to mention being physically abused by her first husband at 16 years old, she was also kicked out of her mother’s house at the age of 14, forcing her to move over 1000 miles away from home with an abusive grandmother. The conclusion of my idea states that your reaction to zombies reflect on the amount of fear, anxiety, or terror that you have had to overcome in your lifetime. All eight people I spoke with about their past and its connection to the zombie phenomenon were interestingly accurate regarding the concluding idea I have come up with.