Zombies were recently brought to my attention by one of my pals on Facebook, as she commented that she really didn’t understand the over-worked fascination that we, as a culture, seem to have with our bumbling, bloated friends. She asked me if there was any higher purpose to Zombies (as they are found everywhere in media these days), and my response, which was intended to be rather tongue-in-cheek – really got me to thinking.
In fact, there does seem to be a spiritual reason for our enormous enthusiasm for the undead right now. And, it’s not the first time it’s happened.
I’ll be darn.
Upon looking into the energy signature that humanity assigns to “Zombie”, I find that it corresponds with how we, as a species, become increasingly morbidly curious about our own impending demise. (Raise your hand if you can see the “2012” foreshadowing here.) And, in our recent history, the last time this fascination with Zombies arose in the media, we were also terribly curious about our own impending doom. The 1950’s and early 1960’s were a breeding ground for the fear generated around the idea of the extinction of the human race. The United States stared the nuclear crisis in the eye, first with the Soviet Space Race and backyard bomb shelters, to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. With ten years of “you could be dead tomorrow” hanging over a nation who once felt safe beneath a Daniel Boon cap while the knowledge that the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans would keep the world out – this was traumatic news. So when the United States was dealt its final blow in morale as the Vietnam War tore through our country’s inventory of young men while heavily-laced drugs became the new black, and I don’t mean panther — our poor cultural psyche snapped. In 1968, we saw the production of our first mass modern projected personification of what we had become, as a society – something monstrous and eerie, glassy-eyed, that resembled us, but had no heart, no mind, no anything but instinct to drag lifelessly along in a herd, destroying anything in it’s path. In 1968, we saw the introduction of a film that would launch the Zombie phenomenon into the stratosphere – Night of the Living Dead, the cult classic directed by George R. Romero.
It seems whenever we fear we may not exist anymore – we start working out our inner anxiety by making Zombie movies, and projecting everything we are afraid of onto one central, evil character, that was once us, but now has become a monster, infected with a mysterious pathogen whilst innocently living its life. This pathogen comes like a thief in the night, and we never really know where it originates – much like it’s too difficult to really pinpoint THE moment when a culture’s scales tip to the point of utter non-recognition. Even the way one becomes a Zombie is horrific: One single bite. For the human species, who views itself as an apex predator (don’t tell that to a great white shark or a lion), the psychological ramification of being something’s food – it’s prey – pinches every control and survival issue we can muster.
Yet when we are in these historic and present times of utter sociological free-fall and chaos, where we are unable to pinpoint an enemy in order to anchor our “us-against-them” illusion of security in the United States, we crave a focal point that embodies all of our fears. And, psychologically, one Zombie is equal to a laundry list of insecurities. If there’s one thing we can’t stand here in the USA, it is not knowing who our Enemy Du Jour is. In 2001, the War on Terror began. We went to war not with a country, or a movement, or a political system — but for the first time, we went to war with a concept. Our Twin Towers and Pentagon destroyed, downed commercial airliners pepper vacant lots, and we declare war against a concept – oh, and one guy, who is hiding somewhere on the Planet Earth. The next ten years will become the most expensive (and misleading, but that’s another blog) “Where’s Waldo Game” in American History.
Talk about pushing every American insecurity button.
Due to this strange and nebulous pursuit and a blatant prostitution of the checks and balances in the American monetary and election system that started in 2000, the American economy tanks in 2008, banks become predatory lenders, we first blame “over-spenders” and then realize, wow, those banks really were on crack – and now it’s too late. The Federal Government is threatening shut down every five seconds, natural disasters are moving entire countries nine feet to the West and creating nuclear threats for the entire world that no one is talking about, a temporal doorway in space and time is video taped by thousands of people in Norway but no one wants to talk little green men in the midst of a nationwide meltdown, everyone is turning against the same President they swore was their savior, and – there’s no one at all to bail us out, because we bailed out the same huge conglomerates that ripped us off since 2000, thanks to Federal de-regulation of EVERYTHING that financially protected the middle class. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in a cultural free-fall and economic shift akin only to the last one, forty years prior, where every moray, sociological ballast and cultural litmus was blown clean apart by Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In. So how do we handle this horrible case of modern cultural bed-spins? In 2010, the AMC Network – the same American Movies Classics that once broadcast John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn into wee hours of the night – satiates America’s craving for a single effigy wearing our many spun-out traits – delivering to us the ever-disturbing, ever-nerve-wracking kingpin of all Zombie offerings, the TV series: The Walking Dead.
I watch it every week. It’s a lot more disturbing this season. I’m hanging in there.
Because, it seems, for the same reasons that people slow down on the side of a freeway to gawk at the site of an accident, we stare at the TV screen, delightfully sickened by a glimpse of all of our internal moving parts now displayed in on the outside in a pool of green slime, dripping down the animated corpse known as Zombie, that at one time – was just like you and me.
Moreover, we are bitterly terrified, yet equally fascinated, at the prospect of becoming something that would betray our very humanity – betray the very things that we hold dear – like, you know… life.
Zombies are cannibals, so therein lies another blasphemy that we would commit against one another – eating our own. Not only is human life held above all things by many religious cultures, but to eat another human being is to debase oneself with such a perversion. (Unless you’re stuck in a crashed airplane up on a snowy mountain top at 12,000 feet with a deceased soccer team for more than five days. Then it’s just recycling.)
If we look at where we are, sociologically, in our culture today, it’s no wonder that we are utterly fascinated with our Undead Pals. They represent everything that we are terrified of having become. That’s right – past tense – everything we have become. Like Zombies, the world is screeching under the weight of its own scales, where on one side, we have been returning to desensitized instinct-only behavior, scrounging for existence and bashing someone over the head to take what they have. And on the other side, we have those of us who are attempting to shine a light on that same “looking out for number one” behavior to mention that perhaps, in these most volatile of changing times – it’s not the best idea.
Even down to our physical fascination with Zombies, as we stare into their hollow eye sockets and missing lower jaws, we are culturally emulating our Disfigured Dead Friends. On the Los Angeles radio airwaves right now, in 2011, there are more ads purchased by the cosmetic surgery industry than even car dealerships. At any given moment, a commercial pops on in between Bruce Springsteen and Cyndi Lauper (because the plastic surgeons aren’t advertising on the station that’s playing L’il Wayne, people – do the math) and a perky woman’s bell tone voice chimes in: “Head down to the Beverly Hills Cosmetic Surgery Center where, with the purchase of a brow lift, you’ll receive a check implant procedure for 50% off! This weekend only!”
You think I’m kidding. I’m not.
One of my favorites was the radio ad where the woman came on, and in that same “buy one get one free” voice stated that for a Valentine’s Day Special, you could receive a boob job (because nothing says “I love you” like “Honey, get those droopy teets under the knife before I go blind!”), AND a tummy tuck, on a simple monthly payment plan, but only if you signed up for both – so hurry! Space was limited!
Again. I’m not kidding.
We augment our bodies with implants and surgeries to the point of disfiguration. We order a face out of a book, and look shockingly like the man next to us in the grocery store line, as if a Ken doll factory exploded and here we all are, buying Mennen and avocados. Like Zombies, whose faces are frozen in death, our faces are shot full of Botox, and don’t move at all.
Thanks to the almighty dollar, Modern America has re-directed the focus off of the quality of human life, and onto the bottom line. And, just like our cannibalistic mob, in this redirection, we will take out anything that gets in that bottom line’s path, and ingest it.
We are the Borg. Resistance is futile.
The Borg, the famous Star Trek villains, are a Sci-Fi version of the Zombie, only half-rotten, and half mechanical. The Borg’s “mob mentality” was a touch more civilized, however, with a directive that was all about taking over the Universe, and becoming a perfect race by assimilating all races. That’s where the Borg jumped straight off the Zombie Track. In the late 1980’s when Star Trek: The Next Generation was born, the country was on top of it’s game, especially sociologically. We just didn’t have the need to push that cultural panic button and create the true Zombie horror effigy that reflected everything we fear in ourselves. We just didn’t have it in us at the time. We even gave the Borg a desire to better themselves. Because in the 80’s, we believed in bettering ourselves. It was all George Michael in his “Choose LIFE!” T-shirt — that had nothing to do with the GOP — and Annie Lennox shocking us because she wore a red crew cut. Oh, scandal!
Our biggest problem in the 80’s was how to get MTV carried on the cable provider. Hardly Zombie-inspiring stuff.
But 2011 is a different story. It is the thing Zombies are made of. Here we are, Zombies everywhere — on TV, in films, in candy and Halloween costumes and T-shirt decals. Zombies — unlike any other time in my life, which spans a little over the 40 year period between our last socio-cultural and economic upheaval, and this one — are at an all-time high. Because we are at an all-time low. And here we sit, grasping at projected third-party horror allegories in order to make some sense out of the chaos, until we reach the end of this transition — just like before.
So – in answer to the original Facebook question, “Is there any higher purpose with our obsession with Zombies?” – the answer would be “Yes”. Any onslaught of Zombies in the media heralds the beginning of “The End” of the socio-economic cultural shift toward a new and better operating system. And it appears that as we continue to navigate the choppy waters of this 2012 transition into a new era of the “we” consciousness, bringing an end to the “I” consciousness, we may again lose our fascination with our favorite Rotting Rascals. With extremely large yet passive movements like Occupy Wall Street shifting the energetic focus onto the empowerment of the whole, rather than the isolated fear of the few, the obsession with watching the process of “a few uninfected people” battle the “infected hoard” will likely lose its fanatic appeal.
However — in all fairness – I’ll be Tivo’ing The Walking Dead until they pry my DVR remote from my cold, dead hand. Because let’s face it — at the end of a hard day, nothing says mindless programming like a mindless hoard yelling “Brains!”