Granted. They’re not pale-skinned shimmering vampires that have adolescent girls and middle-aged women worldwide swooning over the taboo fantasy of illicit, dark netherworld romance. But, Zombies still hold a strange fascination for most. For guys, the attraction lies in their almost-therebut-not-quite humanity, and the reckless abandon with which they can be killed… without any fear of criminal prosecution or moral condemnation.
It provides freedom from everyday constraints with which we interact with other humans. Added to this is the ideal of a Zombie apocalypse where all bets are off: No mortgage, car payments, tax returns or the need to interact with authority. In a Zombie apocalypse you are the authority. Take what you want, do what you feel and the devil take the hindmost.
As strange as the resurgent cute vampire phenomenon has been, albeit slightly adapted with a romantic twist that does away with the traditional dread with which vampires were viewed, it may not be so strange that Zombies have also seen a welcome return in popular culture. It may be that a scapegoat has been needed to assume the role of the boogie-man, since vampires have morphed into trendy, fashionable and just-to-die-for-gorgeous creatures. Zombies are the perfect patsy upon which we can vicariously foist our frustrations now that vampires have been moved down the list of ghouls you’d never like to encounter. Moving from wooden-stake and garlic-fearing Nosferatu to the slightly nauseating boy you wouldn’t like your daughter to date, vampires have left a vacuum at the top of the boogie-man list. Who better to fill that spot with than Zombies: they’re kitsch, dumber than a bag of nails and can be killed without any twinge of conscience.
Zombies also feed into that fear we all experience when faced with the overwhelming pace and demands of the modern lifestyle. Our lives are overrun with the incessant need to pay bills, or interact with the kid’s teachers at school or colleagues at work in a civil manner. The constant hum-drum of modern social chores can be overwhelming. And who hasn’t fantasised that your irritating boss, who seems to have climbed the corporate ladder when stupidity and ineptitude were a job requirement, is a drooling day-walker (which isn’t that much of a stretch, when you come to think of it…) intent on eating your brains. Your survival depends on using your shotgun to scatter him all over the office, thereby saving the few chosen members of humanity from the same fate. Zombies are laughable, disgusting and kitsch, but you just gotta love ’em, and our reaction to them may be a knee-jerk one that allows us the ultimate escapism. Not just the escapism of having an illicit affair, or the daydream of a new romance, but the escapism of the whole hog: Total destruction, take what you want and need. That escapism is a throwback to probably our baser survival instincts of food, shelter and survival. As mankind has evolved and technology grows faster than we can adapt, this reaction may be based on a primal need to slow things down. so, the next time you’re waiting for the latest version of Window NR (Not Responding) to unfreeze and live up to its claims of making your working day more productive, and as your mind wander to thoughts of throwing your computer out of the office window and grabbing the sawn-off shotgun taped under your desk, share a thought for the mental curative powers of the humble Zombie.
by Roy Bannister
Published in Playboy South Africa March 2014