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“I’ll report back to my colleagues who are chewing on the door”: why zombies are so awesome part II

“I’ll report back to my colleagues who are chewing on the door”: why zombies are so awesome part II published on No Comments on “I’ll report back to my colleagues who are chewing on the door”: why zombies are so awesome part II

I’m exploring the current trendiness of zombies. In a previous section of this essay, I proposed one reason for their current prevalence: They are great metaphors for biological warfare, about which the American populace has been pretty freaked ever since 2001. There are more interesting thematic currents in the zombie bloodstream, though…

Related to my first reason, zombies may also be so popular because people perceive them as an accurate metaphor for the general mental state of the populace: one of loose-brained anxiety. In its "war on terror," the Bush adminstration has taken controversial measures including prescriptions to stock up on duct tape, state-sanctioned torture, suspension of habeas corpus, warrantless wiretapping, etc., etc. In response, many people feel as if they are assailed by an unknown, omnipresent threat that keeps them constantly on edge. Alex Ross’ T-shirt design of George W. Bush vampirizing the Statue of Liberty connects the ever-present panic fomented by the Bush administration to the loss of mental, physical and civil liberty of the average citizen. While highlighting the bloodthirsty ways of GWB, the design also implicitly portrays Liberty as a catatonic entity losing her mind under GWB’s power: a zombie. Thus are Americans’ brains are worn down, or eaten away, with anxiety in the same way that their brains might be chewed on by zombies in a fictional setting. 

"Sucking Democracy Dry" by Alex Ross

For liberals or anti-war protesters, zombies also offer a sharp commentary on the current hawkish political situation. Zombies, as shambling, thoughtless hordes of death-dealers, provide a convenient encapsulation, political-cartoon-like, of all that anti-war liberals despise about the Bush administration’s push for war in Iraq. Zombies are especially useful because they can represent different aspects of Gulf War II and its discontents. One can highlight zombies’ murderous natures and stupidity by comparing them to the members of the Bush administration. With its commentary about the draining, demoralizing effects that the Bush League’s aggressiveness in Iraq had on civilians and soldiers, Max Brooks’ World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, uses the government-as-zombies trope. One can highlight zombies’ unquestioning conformity by comparing them to civilian supporters of the war who follow jingoistic appeals without logic. One can play on the pathetic, decrepit appearance of zombies by comparing them to the exhausted, traumatized soldiers in Iraq or to the heavily victimized citizenry of Iraq itself. As malleable signifiers, zombies can symbolize both the horror and the pity of war, creating an emotionally powerful anti-war image.

More later…

EDIT: Section 3 is here.

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