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Zombies As American Zeitgeist Proxies

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the look-what-plan-9-started dept.

Movies 263

blackbearnh writes "No doubt, there will be more than a few brain-munching glassy-eyed zombies showing up on the typical doorstep tonight, demanding brains, brains, brains, or at least some Milk Duds. But according to this essay over on Forbes.com, zombies are more than just the trendy monster on the block, they are to Americans what Godzilla is to Japanese: a personification of our fear of science and technology. 'It seems you can't throw a half-eaten cerebrum these days without hitting a posse of zombies brought to life by some kind of biological mishap (28 Days Later, Resident Evil, Planet Terror, Quarantine). Like Godzilla, zombies keep up with the times, always ready to mirror whatever aspect of science and technology people feel most uncertain about at the moment.'"

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263 comments

Way to over-analyze, Forbes (1, Insightful)

mewsenews (251487) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937411)

For your next trick, can I get an article about how movie vampires represent world-wide fear of religion?

Re:Way to over-analyze, Forbes (2, Informative)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937589)

> For your next trick, can I get an article about how movie vampires represent world-wide fear of religion?

How about a scary story about the American, Kennedy - it includes a body, the real "un-dead" and even... brains.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-m-gillon/a-new-wrinkle-in-the-jfk_b_339026.html [huffingtonpost.com]

According to the newly declassified transcript, Mrs. Kennedy was becoming desperate to leave. "Mrs. Kennedy was getting very warm, she had blood all over her hat, her coat...his brains were sticking on her hat. It was dreadful," McHugh said. She pleaded with him to get the plane off the ground. "Please, let's leave," she said. McHugh jumped up and used the phone near the rear compartment to call Captain James Swindal. "Let's leave," he said. Swindal responded: "I can't do it. I have orders to wait."

What's scary about that? (2, Insightful)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 4 years ago | (#29938057)

People. These are real people. After an assassination, things are gory, including blood and internal organs (brains in this case).

And the emotional state of people is not going to be all that much cleaner, either.

Presidents and vice presidents, and their family, are real people. When we expect them to be superhuman, we've already lost any war that's important, including metaphorical wars with the undead.

And if it's just the gore itself that's so scary, well, again, welcome to reality.

Re:Way to over-analyze, Forbes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937717)

I thought zombies represented Mac fanatics. The only thing missing in the movies is the white earbuds.

Re:Way to over-analyze, Forbes (1)

MicktheMech (697533) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937775)

I thought vampires were about homo-eroticism...

Re:Way to over-analyze, Forbes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937801)

Yes, as I learned on True Blood, God hates fangs.

Re:Way to over-analyze, Forbes (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937847)

Vampires represent peoples hangups about sexuality. You are mostly correct right now. The vampire currently represents a man who is everything a girl can want, but for some reason can't love her. This is essentially catering to the "fag-hag" demographic which is actually growing faster and faster as current media extols the virtues of "metrosexual" style. In the early 80s, vampires were generally depicted as doomed souls due to aids panic. In more Victorian times, vampires simply represented sex outside of wedlock. Normally I wouldn't make much of such symbolic interpretations, except for the fact that authors generally are deeply interested in symbolism and therefore a symbol of sexual deviance would be passed down as a way of exploring... sexual deviance.

Re:Way to over-analyze, Forbes (2, Informative)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937929)

Actually, vampires represent two things.

A few years ago I read an interesting book of bona fide vampire legends collected by a professional folklorist, and he makes a convincing argument that nearly all such real legends (as opposed to literary creations) are associated with events consistent with and strongly suggesting tuberculosis outbreaks. It fits: the increasing pallor and weakness, the slow decline of one, then another family member. In rural populations a single family member might bring the disease back, dooming the entire family, but their neighbors would be hardly exposed at all, giving an effect much like a curse on a single family.

So vampires represent infectious disease in the true folk imagination.

A long time ago I read an account by a psychologist who believed that people have a latent fear that the dead will return to life. He convinced a local funeral parlor owner to offer locks on caskets as an option and they sold extremely well.

So the second thing vampires represent might well be ... fear of vampires.

Re:Way to over-analyze, Forbes (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29938027)

It seems that Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer (I searched on 'awful vampire movie' and then 'vampire movie' to figure out who wrote Twilight...) disagree, and they seem to have good chunk of the popular imagination in the United States.

Incidentally. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937417)

This entry belongs in Idle, which incidentally is perused exclusively by zombies.

umm.... (5, Insightful)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937423)

I'm pretty sure that in Dawn of the Dead, Romero wasn't trying to convey a fear of new technology, but rather a disdain for commercialism.... the bulk of that movie took place in a shopping mall, fer cryin' out loud!

Re:umm.... (0)

John.P.Jones (601028) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937469)

You don't think that modern industrialized commercialism is that far removed from technology? I suggest taking a look into the industrial chemical process advances that have fueled agricultural and consumer goods excess.

Re:umm.... (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937529)

Not that, I just don't think that Romero was thinking beyond his commentary on commercialism. The film was pretty one-dimensional in that respect. The zombies are a pretty thinly veiled metaphor for consumers. While it's a poignant commentary, especially considering that much of the action took place in a shopping mall (and there were even shots of zombies shopping in the original), it's not exactly subtle or laced with multiple layers of meaning.

Sci Fi is often cautionary commentary about the dangers of advancing technology too quickly, but zombie movies are usually more of the "turn your brain off and enjoy the film" genre.

Re:umm.... (1)

PachmanP (881352) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937631)

but zombie movies are usually more of the "turn your brain off and enjoy the film" genre.

Have you ever seen a Godzilla movie?! They don't get much more "turn your brain off".

I haven't read the article (this is /.), but I think point holds even if Romero's focus is on commercialism. It's a monster-movie barometer of what we as a society fear.

Re:umm.... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937999)

So any film that shows people holed up in a business during a time of crisis is meant to convey a disdain for commercialism? Does that mean the film Twister is meant to convey a disdain for corn and farming? I think you're seeing what you want to see.

Not necessarily of US origin.. (5, Informative)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937433)

Both 28 Days Later and Resident Evil were made respectively by a UK director (in the UK), and by a UK company (FilmFour)....

Re:Not necessarily of US origin.. (4, Informative)

Colonel Sponsz (768423) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937517)

Both 28 Days Later and Resident Evil were made respectively by a UK director (in the UK), and by a UK company (FilmFour)....

And "Quarantine" is a remake of a Spanish movie, [Rec] [imdb.com].

Re:Not necessarily of US origin.. (2, Insightful)

Philip K Dickhead (906971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937537)

Zombies. Yawn.

Pirates. Yawn.

Ninjas. Yawn.

Strippers? O.K. Where's the Gin?

Re:Not necessarily of US origin.. (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937573)

Hmm, I correct myself ; FilmFour just picked up the distribution rights for the UK.

Re:Not necessarily of US origin.. (2, Informative)

spymagician (1303515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937687)

Both 28 Days Later and Resident Evil were made respectively by a UK director (in the UK), and by a UK company (FilmFour)....

Resident Evil (film) was based loosely on the Capcom (Japanese) videogame series Biohazard (Resident Evil in the US). The original games were intentional homages to classic zombie and "science-gone-awry" films and stories, although the latest installments have moved away from that somewhat.

Fear of Science and Technology? (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937443)

This seems a bit of a stretch, since Americans embrace Science and Technology readily.

Seems more likely a personification of fear of death.

However, I personally don't lend much credence to these mumbo-jumbo pseudo scientific explanations of things people do for the sheer fun of it. Some things don't have a deeper meaning.

Re:Fear of Science and Technology? (3, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937507)

Exactly. "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar", as a number of people, including Freud himself, are alleged to have said.

Re:Fear of Science and Technology? (1, Interesting)

hibiki_r (649814) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937515)

They do?

Are you from that legendary coastal America? Because around here, people don't know that the word theory has two different meanings, and distrust anything that wasn't invented when they were in their 20s. Just today I saw a woman, probably in her 60s, step back from a touch screen, claiming that she didn't trust the machine.

Re:Fear of Science and Technology? (2, Funny)

shog9 (154858) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937895)

Just today I saw a woman, probably in her 60s, step back from a touch screen, claiming that she didn't trust the machine.

Shucks... Still in my 20s, and I don't trust the machine. Sounds like a savvy old gal to me!

Re:Fear of Science... (5, Interesting)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937525)

This seems a bit of a stretch, since Americans embrace Science and Technology readily.

Almost all Americans are willing to embrace technology, but few really embrace science. In fact, a large number are overtly hostile to some branches of science (especially the biological sciences). The majority seems content to retain an ignorance of science in general, or perhaps fear that they are incapable of understanding it.

Re:Fear of Science... (0, Troll)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937559)

This seems a bit of a stretch, since Americans embrace Science and Technology readily.

Almost all Americans are willing to embrace technology, but few really embrace science. In fact, a large number are overtly hostile to some branches of science (especially the biological sciences). The majority seems content to retain an ignorance of science in general, or perhaps fear that they are incapable of understanding it.

Agreed. And Americans are mostly willing to embrace technology that's been well advertised as either cool or sexy. Even the very well educated non-scientists in America (read: humanities professors) are largely fearful of or hostile toward science. When I've been in France and Germany, that's not been the case. Also, regarding the GP's rejection of the zombies-represent-fear-of-science hypothesis, look back to early zombie movies. They tend to clearly state that the zombies arose because of some new phenomenon that was pulled (and distorted) from relatively avant garde science of the day. Just wait - we'll soon have zombies based on gamma ray bursts or the sequenced human genome.

Re:Fear of Science... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937667)

The zombie genre has its roots in the novel 'I am Legend'. In the book, the zombies have some sort of vampire virus that comes with the wind.

I haven't seen the Will Smith movie (nor the earlier adaptations), so I have no idea how it relates back to the book.

Re:Fear of Science and Technology? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937571)

This seems a bit of a stretch, since Americans embrace Science and Technology readily.

Well, that's sort of the point: people are ambivalent about it. Remember when cell phones were catching on, and so many people were like, "I'm never getting a cell phone!" "I saw a person in the grocery store today talking to their wife on a cell phone talking about what food to buy! What a waste." It's that way for all new technology. It's the whole fear of change thing.

Seems more likely a personification of fear of death.

However, I personally don't lend much credence to these mumbo-jumbo pseudo scientific explanations of things people do for the sheer fun of it. Some things don't have a deeper meaning.

I agree with you about the 'fear of death' interpretation. To me, it's always an interesting question, "why is *this* popular and not *that*?" If you can buy that Godzilla = Atomic bomb ( the fist Godzilla movie is basically Godzilla, wakened in the pacific by nuclear testing, smashes an entire city. It's building-stomping porn. Hiroshima, anyone? ), do you think there might be discernible reasons why zombies and vampires get so much popular attention over, say, werewolves? Not that there's a meaning, per se, but reasons?

Re:Fear of Science and Technology? (1)

arb phd slp (1144717) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937655)

do you think there might be discernible reasons why zombies and vampires get so much popular attention over, say, werewolves? Not that there's a meaning, per se, but reasons?

Werewolves represent wildness and nature. Most Americans aren't threatened by anything from nature other than the occasional deer striking a car. It doesn't play on any current, underlying fears.

Re:Fear of Science and Technology? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937637)

This seems a bit of a stretch, since Americans embrace Science and Technology readily.

So, suppose I were to genetically engineer some corn or build a small nuclear plant. You think the neighbors wouldn't mind? My bet is that I'd catch a bit of NIMBYism (Not In My BackYard!) from most places in the US. If I talk of launching rockets (I used to belong to a non profit group that did some of that), then people would routinely ask "But isn't that dangerous?" People are very sensitized to risks of technology that they don't understand and which hasn't been prettied up for them (like an iPod with its relatively intuitive controls).

Re:Fear of Science and Technology? (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937851)

The neighbours probably wouldn't know if you were growing a genetically modified crop, actually. Unless your genetic modifications led to 60' tall corn stalks which yield 8' long corn cobs or something... Most of the time, it's not possible to tell that a crop is genetically modified, as most of the modifications have more to do with disease resistance or growth rate. People, in general, don't care enough to notice that a soy crop is maturing in 3 weeks instead of the usual length of time. It doesn't glow in the dark, so they don't see it.

As for a nuke plant, I don't think it's fear, exactly. The safety record on nuclear power is pretty good... no major incidents in quite some time. I'm sure some people wouldn't want to live within 500mi of a nuclear plant because they're afraid of another 3 Mile Island or Chernobyl, but most people are quite happy to live near a nuclear power plant as long as they don't have to see it. That's more to do with aesthetics, and less to do with fear, I think... the same sort of reasoning that has people not wanting to live near airports.

Re:Fear of Science and Technology? (3, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937899)

People are very sensitized to risks of technology that they don't understand

Defined sensitized.

We jump in cars and elevators without a thought, we yak on cell phones and play on computers, we plug things into electrical outlets without a care, buy game consoles, and generally adopt new technology readily, be they gadgets, GPSs, phones, emission controls, electric vehicles or solar power.

Sensitization to risks, to the extent it exists, is not driven by Joe User, but rather by the fear mongering groups opposed to something and their press lapdogs.

30 years of Nuclear fears generated by hype from green movement groups is now seen by those same groups as having been a huge tactical mistake. But it will take 20 years to undo the fear, with the coal plants running full tilt in the meantime.

Americans have great faith in Science, largely justified.

But, beginning in the 60s this believe has been progressively poisoned by years of attempts to ban/reduce everything from peanuts to salt to coffee to aspirin to sugar, potatoes, wheat, and rock and roll. The stories of lake Eire being permanently a dead lake, of imminent death due to any number natural disasters largely foisted by pseudo-scientists with a political ax to grind has taken its toll. Always the FUD before the FACTS, the Fear before the Data, the Restrictions before the Research.

Re:Fear of Science and Technology? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937911)

"Seems more likely a personification of fear of death."

Or maybe they just needed something semi scary at the time, horror books and tales preceded movies by a longshot. I don't think they are the personification of anything other then being an animal that is ugly and that can kill you.

Re:Fear of Science and Technology? (5, Insightful)

Artifakt (700173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937975)

There have been some interesting major shifts in what gets made into horror movies, (and books, radio, or TV horror)

For one, for about 20 years just before the stage production of Dracula took off, Mummies were really big, with dozens of stories in horror magazines and such each year. Vampires were practically unknown. A lot of things Stoker originated just sort of collectively jumped into people's minds after that - Vampires took on distinctive fictional features such as not crossing running water, or turning into mists or bats, for the first time. Within a decade, just about anyone you polled had heard of them, and most thought that Stoker's additions to the legends were centuries old parts of the original legends instead.
      Zombies did something similar. There were a few films with voodoo style zombies, animated by a Hougan (usually called a witch doctor). There were lots of references to New orleans style Voodoo (Fewer to Haiti or African roots of vodou), and a whole lot of superficial references to Vodou beliefs and practices. If one of those zombies killed somebody, it probably slowly shambled over to the victim as a witch doctor directed it, and crushed or strangled the victim. Night of the Living Dead rebuilt the zombie, giving them an appetite, which soon became focused on brains. Now, I suspect if you surveyed a lot of people, most of them know of the Zombies - Brains connection, but most of those think it's something from original myths and legends, not George Romero.
      Alien Invaders and Atomic Mutants caught on in the 50's, but there was a more general common trend, to horror that didn't involve the supernatural. Hundreds of thousands of people who had never heard of or read H. P. Lovecraft seem to have found themselves agreeing with his arguments from 20 years before about horror without religious overtones.
      When people suddenly shift positions to a new focus, in vast numbers, and they don't know where the new idea comes from and instead talk as though the idea has always been around, that's why psychologists think there are deeper meanings. A huge shift in what is sometimes called the zeitgist happens, AND many people in the middle of the shift claim things haven't changed, attribute new ideas to fictitious or ancient sources, and often, deny vehemently that they themselves have changed their opinions in the slightest. A hundred million adult people read a series of books about a boy wizard written for young readers, when five years before they would have had no interest in such things and the idea of such a series making the author the richest author ever would have sounded totally absurd to them.
      If there's no deeper meaning behind such shifts, maybe there's also no 'deeper meaning' behind election landslides, stock market crashes, or political witch hunt movements either. Maybe such things just happen, with no underlying causes. That, if you really follow the train of thought to its logical end, is scarier than real zombies.
 

A real zombie plague is coming (1)

Flentil (765056) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937451)

Just like how people's love of Star Trek led geeky engineers to develop the real cell phones we have today, some researchers must be working on development of a real zombie virus to use as a military weapon. We've seen this theme in movies several times. If it's at all possible, it will happen sooner or later.

Nope (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937499)

Gay Bomb. [marksimpson.com] They say it's been discontinued, oh my yes. The world would never tolerate the use of such a weapon. They get all bent out of shape and use mean words like "Atrocities" and "War Crimes", so the project was... discontinued... So the next time two guys from Al Quida are sitting outside a cave in Pakistan and their... eyes meet... the urges that they feel are completely natural.

Hell with zombies. I know how to tell a scary story.

Re:A real zombie plague is coming (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937701)

That's a ridiculous over-analysis, cell phones are pretty much a natural combination of the telephone, radios and miniaturization.

Re:A real zombie plague is coming (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937879)

You might want to take a look at this documentary [imdb.com]. In it, they interview the person who invented the cellular phone. Yes, we see it, now, as a fairly obvious extension of the telephone and radio, but he was inspired by the communicators on Star Trek. There's actually a lot of things we take for granted these days which were inspired by sci fi.

Re:A real zombie plague is coming (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937917)

You miss my point. I am not asserting that the presence of communicators in Star Trek had nothing to do with the invention of the cell phone, I am asserting that cell phones are an eventuality, even if there was never a Star Trek, we would still be worrying about which mega-corporation used the best lube.

Re:A real zombie plague is coming (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29938043)

I am inclined to disagree... our culture has changed as a result of the existence of cell phones. It's easy to say, in hindsight, that they're a natural extension of existing technologies, but that's looking at things with a modern perspective.

In the interview in the documentary I linked, the inventor said that it hadn't ever ocurred to anybody to have that kind of communication available. It just wasn't in the cultural consciousness. That doesn't mean that we never would have changed into what we are now, just that you really can't sit back in 2009 and say "oh yeah, taking a wireless telephone/music player/internet browser/GPS navigator/portal games platform everywhere I go and being able to use it, even in my car, is obvious to people in 1960." They might have figured it out eventually, they might not have. Our culture could have taken a completely different direction to develop in, and something we'd consider a natural extension could have ended up being a concept that's completely alien to them.

To try to put this in perspective... the technology to make a cellular phone (not necessarily one as portable as what we have now, but, say, a backpack-mounted phone) has been around since the invention of the transistor. Integrated circuits made a big difference to portability, but we could, theoretically, have been able to build a cellular phone in 1925. If you're willing to go bigger, you could even make an analog system, and build a cellular-like phone system in 1903. The main reason we didn't isn't because the technology wasn't there, it's because the perceived need for such a device wasn't there. By 1925, not everybody even had a land line phone, let alone any kind of need to stay in instant contact when away from home. Had the cell phone/pager never been developped, who's to say that there ever would have been a need to stay in instant communication outside of the military, for which radio was working perfectly well?

Re:A real zombie plague is coming (1)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937891)

Just like how people's love of Star Trek led geeky engineers to develop the real cell phones we have today, some researchers must be working on development of a real zombie virus to use as a military weapon. We've seen this theme in movies several times. If it's at all possible, it will happen sooner or later.

Except that cellphones are useful and biological weapons are incredibly stupid. Unlike radioactive or chemical weapons, highly contagious biological weapons are the only ones that guarantee an enemy's ability to retaliate in kind and that guarantee that allies and neutral parties will be harmed. Creating a zombie plague would is the kind of thing that only a total misanthrope out to destroy civilization would try -- not a military organization or even a terrorist group.

Or maybe... (5, Insightful)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937459)

... you just needed a convenient enemy for an FPS? Something in the uncanny valley that is human-like but not quite human that the average person will feel compelled to blow away?

So now you've decided on zombies, you've got to figure out how they were created so the plot makes sense. Supernatural, or science. If science, pick from alien technology, radiation, biological means, or something a bit more wacky - other dimension, your large Hadron collider malfunctions, I don't know.

There are only so many explanations the public will buy to sate their desire to blow away not-quite-human things. You have to pick one.

Fear of Tech? (4, Insightful)

lyinhart (1352173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937475)

Of all the examples he could have chosen, he chose zombies? In most films, if there is an explanation for their existence of the zombies in the film, it's usual mystical or related to disease or something (as the writer cedes). But the writer had better examples he could have chosen. Like the "evil computer" - e.g. Hal 9000 from 2001, or Skynet from the Terminator films.

Re:Fear of Tech? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937505)

Even robots aren't quintessentially part of the american zeitgeist. I think our gig is probably space aliens. I'm not sure what they represent, though. Also, I feel a little dirty for using the words 'quintessentially' and 'zeitgeist', probably incorrectly, too.

Re:Fear of Tech? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29938019)

Space aliens represent Mexicans.

Re:Fear of Tech? (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937605)

I guess, but most people on Slashdot don't really care either way. We'd rather have a massive breakthrough than play it safe. I know I'm conflicted.

I know it's not the best coding practice, but I usually just set thisAlgorithmBecomingSkynetCost to Random(); because I don't really care.

Re:Fear of Tech? (5, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937971)

OK, I'm an engineer, but I've had the *rudiments* of a liberal education, and *I* can see that the idea that zombies represent fear of technology *per se* is weak.

No.

What zombies represent are fear of the economic and cultural changes which are facilitated by technology. Depersonalization. How far is it from a cubical drone to a zombie? Pretty much add the taste for human brain and you're there. Take something like a MacDonald's restaurant -- not to pick on them, but all franchises are the same. A franchise is a complicated economic relationship in which the individual store, although possibly independently owned, has everything defined by corporate HQ (in this case MacDonald's HQ). The franchisee has a detailed manual which specifies how to *everything*, how to respond to any kind of situation that might arise. In fact, it doesn't just *say* how. It *mandates*. It is a big collection of algorithms. And every one of those algorithms is executed by *people*, not based on their own judgment, but triggered by the conditions specified in the manual.

So what zombies represent is not a fear of technology, but a fear of *becoming* technology.

Actually it's the opposite fear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937495)

The original Romero zombies were flesh eaters that preyed on our fears of being eaten much like in pre-civilized times when it was a constant threat. They are closer to the fear of cannibals like Hannibal Lector than atomic bombs. Although some modern zombies aren't specifically trying to eat flesh they all bite and kill.

Oh, FFS (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937513)

Zombies are fun. They're fun for costumes, they're fun as horror movie bad guys, they're fun to blow away in video games.

Pirates and ninjas and vampires are fun, too, but they've been overexposed. Zombies are about to go the same way, I suspect, and they'll drop off the cultural radar screen for a while. Then they'll come back (they always come back ...) after people have gone through a few more cycles of archetype-of-the-week.

That's really all the explanation needed. Trying to read some deep cultural significance into what monsters are popular at the moment is almost always a fool's game. Even Godzilla very quickly outgrew its origins as a nuclear metaphor, and just became a fun monster.

Re:Oh, FFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937699)

Maybe they sometimes are just "fun", but I'm sure all kinds of things play more or less a part when it comes to different zombie manifestations.

Re:Oh, FFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937791)

Zombies are "perfect bad guys" (like Nazis). No remorse needed when swinging the cricket bat...

Re:Oh, FFS (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29938031)

Zombies are "perfect bad guys" (like Nazis)

      Yes because it's wonderful to blame someone that was drafted into an army (or you could be sent death camp as an alternative) as the root of all the evil in the world.

      There were a lot less crazy fanatic blind twisted and cruel National Socialists in WW2 Germany than the actual amount of dead Germans. Short of some SS units and most of the higher ups in government, Germans were pretty much like everyone else, and pretty much like they are today.

      I'm not trying to make an excuse for Nazism - although the desired end: order, peace, economic stability and growth were noble enough, the means employed: theft, murder, oppression, war, and slave labor were revolting and in no way justified. But not all Germans were Nazis. They were a minority. Remember that when you watch movies of German soldiers being killed.

Re:Oh, FFS (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937823)

... vampires are fun, too, but they've been overexposed.

Oh God, yes! Whenever there's an announcement of a vampire movie, I just cringe and think "Not another fucking Vampire movie." Of course, I don't see it but I think of all the film money going for that shit instead of some great sci-fi movie along the lines of Blade Runner or something based on a book by the masters of SciFi and just shake my head.

Sigh, that's where Hollywood thinks the money is.

Re:Oh, FFS (2, Informative)

ruiner13 (527499) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937871)

Then they'll come back (they always come back ...)

that's because you didn't shoot them in the head! Double-tap, man!

no, no. the real reason... (1)

pgilman (96092) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937521)

the real reason we have zombies everywhere is political correctness. it's a lot safer for game makers to use pretend antagonists than human beings. if a game has you shooting human beings, somebody's going to complain; monsters or robots are much less likely to offend the hyper-sensitive thought-police tipper gores of the world.

Re:no, no. the real reason... (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937595)

Which is almost odd because typically zombies ARE humans that had something done to them. Robots, aliens, or monsters that aren't human at some point would be easier to push past the radar (at least I would think so).

Re:no, no. the real reason... (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937757)

Why odd?

Zombies are moving corpses that aren't interested in anything besides your brains. You can't talk to them, convince of the errors of their ways, or let them be. You can't make them normal again. They're the perfect target to mindlessly slaughter with no regrets.

Robots, aliens and even monsters are very often humanized. They often have human level intelligence, and some sort of motivation. It takes a lot more effort to come up with a reason to kill something sentient. If you don't do it right people are going to root for the "wrong" side.

I thought it was pretty common knowledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937531)

The first zombie movies were a visual metaphor for blind consumerism.

The more you know.

-GMJ

zombie godzilla (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937665)

i for one welcome our zombie godzilla overlords

Dammit! (2, Funny)

LMacG (118321) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937671)

There were NO zombies in 28 Days Later.

  . . . pets peeve, tries to calm down, wonder why he brought his goat anyway . . .

Re:Dammit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937777)

Thank you for that. Doubt anyone knows why, probably only saw the previews.

28 Days Later is about being hell-bent infected with Rage. Yes, with a big R, but not the band. Rage made everyone in the movie hate everything and want to kill the living. Nothing to do with undead or zombies, as they were all still quite alive, just pissed to no end. Incredible movie, but I got the sense that the fear in the movie wasn't about being overrun by the infected but by being desolate. Fear of isolation and being the only one left kept me riveted.

Zombies just need to be shot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937685)

If anything, the proliferation of zombie movies is not the product of fear of technology, but the result of not having clearly defined enemies. Ask an American "who is your country's greatest enemy?" you will probably get the answer "radical Islamist terrorists." But where are they? And how can you be sure? When an American soldier pulls the trigger on an Iraqi, is he doing the right thing? And how do we live with ourselves if we kill innocents?

But zombies....zombies just need to be shot.

There is no question, "Is this a good or bad zombie?" or "Am I killing the right zombie?" That certainty is appealing because there is no doubt, no question.

Re:Zombies just need to be shot (2, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937981)

If anything, the proliferation of zombie movies is not the product of fear of technology, but the result of not having clearly defined enemies.

      Or how about "the proliferation of zombie movies is the result of lazy Hollywood companies that simply want to cash in on a fad, because frankly Hollywood ran out of ideas years ago"?

Re:Zombies just need to be shot (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29938055)

Who cares about ideas? For example, Shakespeare stole everything he wrote (he just packaged it, um, pretty well).

Tech Zombies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937711)

Maybe zombies will deploy some particle acelerator thingy to harvest more brains and end up recreating the begining of the universe killing us all?

I love zombies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937723)

They scare me.. More than vampires, demons, serial killers. Zombies represent the fear I have of losing my mind. They represent how I feel when I people passed out in front of a television or parroting some mindless religious or political drivel. The zombie state is how I feel when penned up in my cubicle. Zeitgeist for the times?? I dunno, but zombies scare me in a way that nothing else can.

My fear of losing my mind, and Microsoft. (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 4 years ago | (#29938007)

Yeah, zombies represent, to me, my fear of Microsoft software, and of losing my mind, which may be the same thing.

Not science and technology (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937799)

If anything, I think zombies symbolize a breakdown of technological society, and the survivalist chaos that would arise in its absence. Most popular zombie movies feature the complete or near destruction of human civilization by the zombie horde. The humans then spend the movie scrounging for weapons, food, shelter, etc, and other humans generally pose at least as great a threat to them as the zombies do. The zombie apocalypse is fundamentally a survivalist fantasy, in which those with guns make the rules and there is an unlimited supply of enemy targets that are only dangerous in numbers, easily fooled, and which can be shot to pieces without ruffling any ethical feathers. In short, a survivalist paradise. This is what appeals to the (probably mostly male) audience. Men are built for violent competition in an environment with no technology and competing, relatively small groups of people, and by largely removing technology from the picture, zombies put us in exactly that situation.

Breeding Zombies... (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937805)

...zombies brought to life by some kind of biological mishap...

Or a simple: if (0 fork()) exit(0);

Re:Breeding Zombies... (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937865)

Make that: if (0 < fork()) exit(0);
(Damn HTML coding. See what happens when you forget to "Preview" - sigh.)

Zombies As American Geek Expression of Hope (2, Insightful)

Memroid (898199) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937819)

I would argue that zombies are nothing related to a fear, but rather the geek's hope for a post-apocalyptic world where they can go back to the basics.

No more 9-5 jobs.
No more waiting for the release of the next piece of entertainment.
No more races for popularity, money, and possessions.

A simple fight for survival where those who are still alive are considered the successful, the happy, and the free.

Frankenstein? (2, Interesting)

RyoShin (610051) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937829)

according to this essay over on Forbes.com, zombies are more than just the trendy monster on the block, they are to Americans what Godzilla is to Japanese: a personification of our fear of science and technology.

I would have put that label upon Frankenstein. While perhaps not of American creation (are zombies?), Frankenstein is as well known as Mickey Mouse. And, as opposed to zombies, Frankenstein is, in every iteration, a creation of humanity; whereas Zombies can become as such thanks to any number of suddenly-unearthed virii.

I would say, though, that zombies strike more fear because they are more unknown. In most versions, Frankenstein answers to someone or can be stopped by some repressed sense of humanity (or a woodchipper, whatever). Zombies, however, have a bloodlust that is rarely stopped short of a shotgun to the head.

But that might be the reason for the popularity of zombies currently: they have a much more versatile origination scenario than does Frankenstein.

Re:Frankenstein? (1, Redundant)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937867)

It's better to say Frankenstein's monster. Frankenstein was a human, Dr. Frankenstein.

(The popular ethos has clearly given over to calling the monster Frankenstein, but that doesn't make it better to do so...)

Brains? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937833)

I'm dressed as a zombie right now and I'm looking for head! Head! HEAD!!!

Re:Brains? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937993)

I don't know about this year, but judging from the internets, you should have dressed up as a prisoner, hot girls appear to enjoy dressing up as slutty cops.

But.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29937861)

But is "zombieism" a pre-existing condition? My insurance company....

Profoundly Wrong (2, Interesting)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937919)

Zombies in no way personify a fear of science and technology. They personify a fear of the elderly. Every American I have ever known to be preoccupied with zombies is a young person. The monsters of elderly Americans' generations were King Kong (Blacks) and, before that, Dracula (Jews).

Zombies are catatonic, un-dead creatures that forcibly feast on the brains of the living in the same way that elderly Americans forcibly rob younger generations of progress, instead co-opting the best and brightest to work to extend their lives indefinitely, turning them into zombies as well in an unsustainable, exponentially-growing process.

"You'll eat your young." --some American

Re:Profoundly Wrong (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937965)

The monsters of elderly Americans' generations were King Kong (Blacks) and, before that, Dracula (Jews).

      I'm just wondering what Godzilla was supposed to be about, then...

Yes and no (1)

darCness (151868) | more than 4 years ago | (#29937987)

Representations of the Zeitgeist, sure. What the Zeitgeist is? Eh, no. How about representing many of the things Romero intended? All that stuff hasn't really changed. Mass consumer culture; a rebellion against a sterile, mindless society; unease and dissatisfaction with the state of the country and the world - and the attendant social unrest. Forbes' analysis is interesting, but off the mark, IMO.

The issues that were salient when the original movies were made are just as salient now, if not more so.

Meaningless lives, and Zombies. (1)

LionKimbro (200000) | more than 4 years ago | (#29938081)

I think zombies reflect our empty commercial lives.

We're skeptical of pretty much all systems of meaning, so we see ourselves as "half alive," merely cannibalizing on each other (pretty much.)

uuuhhh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29938089)

Braiiiiinnns.... uhhhh....

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