One of the most interesting parts of a zombie apocalypse is the beginning. How does it start? Can anyone prevent it? Is the zombie apocalypse really that scary to want to run away from it? With yesterday’s premier of Fear the Walking Dead on AMC, today’s Monday Mayhem post would be a good place to have a look at the draw people have toward zombies and why these wretched disasters just won’t go away.
On October 31, 2010, Halloween no less, The Walking Dead premiered. From there a series began that would eclipse all other television series. Its premise is simple: a zombie apocalypse has taken over the planet and no one knows how to defeat it. As the series progresses, the audience discovers human nature, with all its entrapments, becomes a central theme in the show. Sometimes, what people do to each other is more stomach-churning than the deeds of the walkers. Should Fear the Walking Dead follow in the footsteps of its parent The Walking Dead, then one would assume the show will depict the darkest aspects of human nature.
Although zombies have always had a sordid history in low-budget spectacles, even having transformed into cartoons (eg. Scooby-Doo), recent activities in the genre have placed the undead in the forefront of creative bedlam. One thing is certain, the media does not like a vacuum. With the departure of Twilight from the Horror scene a number of years ago, vampires took a backseat to walkers. To that end, the popularity of zombies has never been better.
Just like their genetic makeup, zombies have crept into mainstream popularity and are now eating away at every form of media. The movie Warm Bodies is the latest entry to the genre, which film critics loved as the zombie equivalent to Twilight. The steady growth of zombie fandom hasn’t relented one bit either. Shows like The Walking Dead and In the Flesh have captured the imagination of viewers everywhere. Sites devoted to the undead have sprung up throughout the world. Commercials have even gotten in on the act. Zombies apparently love BMW, Ford and Doritos.
In the 1920s, H. P. Lovecraft wrote a short story called Herbert West—Reanimator. Inspired by Frankenstein, Lovecraft’s mad doctor believed he could bring life back from the dead, which he did. The caveat being the creatures reanimated came back as starved cannibals, killing and eating everyone in sight. Sounds familiar, huh?
In 1954, Richard Matheson wrote I Am Legend. Although devoted to vampirism, the common story elements with modern day zombies are evident. A virus infects humans who then infect other humans with their bites. In the 2007 movie by the same name, Will Smith fights dark seekers, which blurs the lines between vampires and zombies even further. Although never spoken of as vampires, if one were to view dark seekers simply by their behavior, one would think they are zombies (feed off humans, affected by a virus, etc.).
However, it wasn’t until 1968 when director George A. Romero released The Night of the Living Dead that zombies became what they are today—single-minded eating machines. These are the same zombies featured in the show The Walking Dead (born from the dead, crave human flesh and will die with a blow to the head—as I’d written in my post The Three Commandments).
This gradual escalation of zombie popularity has yet to abate. Once we see a full-scale acceptance of the zombie genre, that’s when a true zombie apocalypse will have taken place and everyone will fear the walking dead.
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Do you like zombies? Why? What draws you to the zombie genre?