I’ve been singing Jonathan Coulton’s "Re: Your Brains" for the past few days as I wait for Zinnia Pascale [who shipped today!] and contemplate the intriguing question: Why are zombies so prevalent in pop culture right now?
Zombies are everywhere these days, especially as of the last decade and a half. The Resident Evil video game debuted in 1996, soon spawning a series of both games and films [2002, 2004, 2007] in which impossibly sexy people fight zombies. Combining both the contemporary vogue for cannibalistic undead and how-to manuals, Max Brook’s Zombie Survival Guide appeared in 2003. In 2004, there was a remake of the classic zombie flick Dawn of the Dead, as well as an homage ["hommidge"], Shaun of the Dead. In 2005, as this blog entry notes, flash mobs with people dressed up as zombies were all the rage, a statement supported by San Francisco Zombie Mob, a similar performance project that began in the same year. The aforementioned song by Jonathan Coulton linking brain-sucking cubicle hell and zombiehood, "Re: Your Brains," was composed in 2006 and quickly gained massive Internet popularity. In 2007, Sideshow Toy, a company that produces fantasy/sci-fi movie and TV collectibles, even started its own original line of 12" figures, The Dead [whence Zinnia Pascale]. The stereotypical zombie cry of "Braaaaaaaains!" has now so saturated the general consciousness that it’s even been parodied with this 2008 T-shirt design by Dennis Culver, in which a "vegan zombie" is saying, "Graaaaaains." I’m not going to even touch on the limitless Web presence of the brains-hungry undead in many Web comics, sites, YouTube videos, etc. They’re ubiquitous.
"Vegan Zombie" by Dennis Culver
…But why? There are many possible reasons:
1. With biological war on the minds of the U.S. citizenry ever since 2001 and the anthrax scare, zombies are an appropriate metaphor for this biologically based contagion. Like biological weapons, zombies deal death in a manner that could easily be attributed to other causes. ["Why did all the cows die?" / "Oh, maybe they’re just sick, or they drank from that nasty creek down the road."] Because the effects of zombies can be mistakenly assigned to other causes, zombies, like biological weapons, may easily catch targets by surprise, spreading their damage much further than the targets suspect.
EDIT: Section 2 is here.