I get a kick writing about zombies. Unlike their vampire horror counterparts, I find the whole zombie genre fascinating. However, I dare not draw a direct comparison between zombies and vampires, even though at times one would be hard-pressed not doing so. Perhaps one day I can write about the transformation of the vampire genre in our modern age. But not today. Today, I’d like to add to my Monday Mayhem series the immortal nature of zombies.
When I think of zombies, I think of them as these non-stop, eating machines. In a past post, I’ve compared them to sharks. They hunt and feed. Nothing else. Their makeup is of the design of wanting to fulfill the emptiness felt within. They lurch back and forth, hauling their limbs from one caustic kill to another. Their only enemy being us, humans, who also happen to be their main meal.
Before zombies grew to become these grease-lightening, run-for-your-life, all-consuming creatures, as seen in World War Z, zombie fans only had George A. Romero’s biblical-like telling of how zombies should behave.
They had to drag. They had to moan. And they had to appear as if a truck ran over them. Several times, in fact. Their head tilted to one side became their trademark.
Yet, in all this, what does it mean? Every so often, I’ll add my two cents to the zombie coffers in an attempt to demystify the legends from fact. I’ll give an opinion regarding zombie origins, diseases, curses, events, possible apocalypse scenarios, and the like. I’ll delve into the science behind today’s zombie blitzkrieg, the whys and wherefores. The question remains though, what does it all mean?
If you will, allow me a few moments to lend you my take of what zombies represent in our culture. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I believe my opinion is ready for some good ol’ fashioned primetime critique.
I believe zombies represent humanity’s desire to capture the idea of wanting to live forever. This is not a new concept in the zombie genre. It’s been around a long time in the vampire realm, but for zombies, no one really talks about it. Who wants to? Do you want to see a zombie live forever? Uh-uh, not me. Not in my backyard. But, the implication is there. Zombies and humans have a limited shelf life. Both eventually will die and return to dust.
You might ask how can I know this? Look around. We have spas for rejuvenating vitality, convincing ourselves we can reverse the process of aging. Oils and lotions to keep our faces from losing collagen, so our skin won’t sag to our chest in our retirement years. We run, swim, bike, walk in hopes we can keep the heart pumping to an optimal level in order to avoid a massive coronary or fatal aneurysm. Our commercials tell us we’ll lose twenty pounds from our figure if we consume their products. It’ll make us look young and we’d be able to attract those much younger than us of the opposite sex. How young do we need to regress? Will we be satisfied if we have a magic cure-all to find ourselves back in our mother’s womb?
It’s a craving we have for youth similar to a zombie’s craving for human flesh. In a zombie’s case, no matter how much meat it eats, it will continue to rot until it dies a miserable death. Not much different from humans, really. We can shoot a man to the moon and back but we can’t find a cure for aging.
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Do you think zombies represent humanity’s plight against getting old? Can you think of anything else zombies might represent?
18 thoughts on “Zombie Immortality”
Both how a zombie looks and how it behaves are key to the symbolism of the genre. Yes, an obsession with ageing is pertinent and the beauty industry’s implied threat is that without their products we’ll end up looking like zombies! But there’s almost a remorseless, unstoppable way in which the archetypal zombie threatens. Beat them and they come back, get rid of one and two appear. It’s the fear of the mob, the fear of overwhelming power, one against the world, and that is also a common concern amongst ordinary people everywhere it would seem.
I don’t mind getting older (My vanity wishes I didn’t look as tired, but that would be helped by going to bed at a decent hour! 🙂 ), but I agree with the idea that zombies and vampires are our fight with immortality – it’s almost as though the deeper parts of ourselves want it, but wonder if it comes at too high a price – Vampires are often described as soulless but powerful, and zombies are husks of themselves, constantly pushing forward, looking as you said, to fill the endless hunger.
I’m not as up on my zombie lore, so this question may be silly: are zombies also referred to as soul-less, or is that just reserved for the monsters that still interact and pretend (sometimes) to be human?
There have been studies (and I’m not making this up) that zombies become popular when there are major issues going on where the general public feels disempowered, like unnecessary warfare or the economic downturn that started in 2007. I don’t know if it’s so much about immortality as it is about what’s rotten in a culture and how we will (literally, in the zombies’ cases) feed on ourselves. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/03/11/increase-in-zombie-obsession-is-connected-to-dissatisfaction-and-economic-upheaval-researcher-claims/
Reminds me of the semi-immortal Captain Jack Harkness and the Face of Bo in the Torchwood series.
Insightful. Often we think it’s better to live longer regardless of the quality of life than to truly enjoy the time we have been given.
I think that aging is a gift rather than something to be feared, if only we could make it painless. I wouldn’t mind looking old as long as I didn’t feel old. How would that work? Ha!
Funny how that works, huh? When we’re young, we wish we were older. “I can’t wait until I’m out of high school. I can’t wait until I’m out of college. I can’t wait until I get married.” My mother-in-law, bless her heart, bestowed upon me a wonderful quote I’ll never forget, “Don’t go wishing your life away.”
I think we’re going to have to wait until we get old to find out how that would work!
Not something I think about much but you’ve given a lot to consider here Jack. It’s a topic that’s very popular, that I do know.
Signing up to follow your blog today! 🙂
PS I still have a problem with Zombie immortality …
I have made some progress on Day 42 (DayZ of DiZeaZe) http://contrafactual.com/2013/07/11/hzv-day-42/
You might find it interesting.
I have yet to see World War Z, but the fast Z concept was not apparent in the original book (unless I missed something). So even if it appears that I “stole” the fast Z idea, it was an independent “discovery”. Perhaps I can claim the “naked Z” concept as my own 🙂
As soon as WWZ comes to pay per view or iTunes I will watch. I am eager to see it.
Be seeing you …
Fast zombies is nothing new. Check out the 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead. The zombies of WWZ, however, look like they’re amped up on adrenaline. The idea’s been around for a while!
you know it’s so true. We will hang on to “life” even if it means we aren’t actually living. Great post Jack!
Some of us are not really living and only going through the motions. But that’s another post for another day!
To me, it is a class thing. Vampires have always represented the pinical of the elite. They’re rich, charming any, more often than not, influential in human the lives of the humans that they prey upon. But they always hold out that promise that, instead of eating us they will admit us to their world. That seductive bargain is an important part of their appeal.
Zombies, on the other hand, are the slumbering, lumbering, disheveled masses. Sometimes they are riotous, sometimes they sweep across the land like a slow tide, but they always wear tatters and they always want… Yeah, to me they represent an unconscious fear of slipping deeply and irrevocably into poverty. Perhaps that is why they have become so popular lately.
Interesting theory. One could say that zombies are a symbol of immortality gone wrong too. They can live forever, but it’s a terrible state of existence. As much as we fear death, we fear unending pain and misery even more.
So true, Charles. I’ve never really thought of it that way before.
It just came to me. I’m more into vampires than zombies. Going along the same veins, it could also be said that vampires are the ‘pretty’ version of immortality and zombies are the opposite.
Yep, the whole immortality thing has been around for a long time for both genres. Vampires thirst for blood while zombies go for the meat and everything else, including blood.
Interesting how so many old movie monsters were immortal. Even the Wolfman seemed to be immune to dying of old age in a way.