Why Do Zombies Matter?

It seems that zombies are everywhere these days.  They’re not just in horror movies like 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later.  Now we have zombie computers and zombie banks.

Zombie computers are computers controlled by hackers who use them for nefarious purposes, such as sending out spam.  Zombie banks are insolvent banks that are propped up by the government.

The term zombie didn’t even come into existence until around 1871.  The Haitian Creole word was used to describe individuals in the West Indies who had died and come back to life.  In most cases, these cadavers were resurrected by practitioners of voodoo.

One of the first books about zombies was Magic Island by W. B. Seabrook concerning Haitian zombies, but zombies didn’t really catch on until horror movies popularized them in the 1930s.

One of the earliest and most popular zombie movies was Victor Halperin’s creepy White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi in 1932.  Lugosi is an evil genius who uses zombies to do his bidding.

At this point in the evolution of these monsters, zombies are Haitian-type creatures that have been resurrected by a voodoo-practicing malefactor, or by an evil madman, who orders them around like they are slaves.

It is interesting to note that these zombies evolved during the Great Depression and also during Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Nazi Germany.

The zombies in White Zombie shuffle around with their eyes staring blankly out of their heads as they act like minions to the whims of their evil master played by Bela Lugosi.  The zombies’ servile obedience to Lugosi can be interpreted as mirroring the Germans’ blind obedience to their fuehrer Adolf Hitler.

The next incarnation of the Hollywood zombie came in 1968 with the release of George Romero’s low-budget classic Night of the Living Dead.  Like the zombies in White Zombie, Romero’s zombies shamble around mindlessly.  However, these newer zombies are different in several important respects.  First, they don’t take orders from an evil genius, and second, they have developed an overpowering appetite for living human flesh.  In fact, the only reason they exist is to eat.

The next generation of zombies manifests itself in 2007’s 28 Weeks Later.  Like their predecessors in Night of the Living Dead, these zombies are flesh-eating ghouls, but there is a striking difference.  Whereas the older zombies shambled around like drunks, these new zombies are fleet-footed like humans.  The new generation of zombies isn’t resurrected from the dead.  These zombies are infected by plague, which may explain why they can move as fast as their fellow living humans.

Modern zombies reflect the collapse of contemporary civilization and its inability to cope with its failing and disintegrating economic systems.  These zombies aren’t controlled by a Hitler-type evil genius.  They aren’t controlled by any human being.  Mindless, they are controlled only by their insatiable craving for living human flesh.  Zombies now represent mankind run amok.

It is no wonder then that zombies, who most accurately symbolize the times we are living in, have become the ne plus ultra of bete noires for modern times, superseding other monsters like vampires, Frankenstein monsters, and Godzilla.