It has occurred to me that perhaps our culture’s fascination with zombies is much more revealing than we realize. In fact, I think people readily identify with the zombies. After all, we seem to wander around aimlessly, and the symbolism of eating human brains is obvious: As long as we can consume other people’s thoughts and don’t have to think for ourselves, we’re content. We have political pundits and cultural gate keepers such as Ryan Seacrest to tell us what to think and what to like.
(Two parenthetical thoughts: The first is that the popularity of Ryan Seacrest is totally unexplainable except through some supernatural force such as zombies, and the second is that the most unrealistic element of zombie movies is the idea that there are so many brains out there on which they might feast. An average trip to your local Walmart suggests that your local zombie horde should die of starvation within a month or so. Okay, a few days.)
It is instructive to look back at horror movies of the 1930s, which for the most part were played straight and did contain quite a few scares through scenes of ever-increasing tension and the implication of what was not seen. Once America entered World War II however, the horror movies that were produced were more in the vein of Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The horrors throughout the world were real enough and we did not need to see more on the big screen. Laughing at this campy horror was a form of group therapy (the group being the entire country). The same was true of violence in Westerns in the immediate post-War era. In episode after episode, cowboys such as the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers shot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand, but never shot him. Too many had seen too much shooting.
In some ways, the horrors of the world today are equal to those of World War II, although that could be debated. What cannot be debated, however, is that the average person is exposed to far more real-life horror than during the War or at any other time in human history. Perhaps, we are now exposed to so much horror that we have to turn ourselves into unfeeling, non-thinking, half-dead creatures to merely survive it all. Even many of our leaders—and I’m using that term very loosely—seem to just want the bad stuff to go away. The same attitude prevailed before World War II and it almost cost us the world. The true leaders of the time, Roosevelt and Churchill to name two of a fairly small number, knew that such horrors had to be, not merely defeated, but destroyed. They assembled armies of common men and women, and inspired them to be leaders in this fight. Perhaps, such a common man bore the title “sergeant” rather than “President,” but he was every bit as important in destroying the evil taking place then. No one is asking us to make such a sacrifice in order to combat today’s horrors and so we just sort of wander about.
You know what would be a really cool movie? If the zombies were cured instead of killed and having lost their lives once, they now roamed the world teaching just how precious every day can be, and destroying anyone who brought misery into the lives of others.
Eh, it would never sell.