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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Roussel


Are zombies dead?

Okay, obviously.

Better question - are zombies still relevant?

Zombies have been a staple in popular culture for centuries and probably originated from Haitian folklore in the 17th century. A zombie, at it's most basic, is a reanimated human corpse. But since the early folklore, they have taken on a life of their own.

The Modern Zombie

Since the era of folklore, zombies have become so much more and we've seen a slow evolution of mythology surrounding them. They're everywhere. from Game of Thrones to the Walking Dead. But zombies are rarely a generic bad guy, easily replaced by any other. As the use of kids in horror, zombies are highly emblematic.

You can't discuss the modern zombie without talking about Romero. George A. Romero is widely considered to be the man who created the modern zombie with his movie Night of the Living Dead in 1968. He used zombies as a metaphor for mindlessness - a commentary on the rampant consumerism and even a dig at the violence of the Vietnam War.


The reason zombies have survived as long as they have is they're a useful stand-in for our fears. And as our fears have changed through the years, so have our zombies. Night of the Living Dead can be viewed as a commentary on rampant consumerism and even a dig at the violence of the Vietnam War. It has been said that World War Z plays on fears of immigration.

While this is disputed, many people believe that the events of 9/11 led to a new wave of zombie horror. Zombie horror is a very good fit for the anxieties surrounding America at the time; the inability of governments to protect it's people, fear of warfare, paranoia and a world brought to it's knees.

This is known as catharsis and is often behind some of our most powerful themes and tropes. This is "the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions." A good example of this would be the movies created during the era of the Cold War. I did a post about that here.

Brain Munching

Though Romero can be thanked for most tropes surrounding zombie movies, the idea of zombies munching on brains had nothing to do with him. While this first emerged in 1985's Return of the Living Dead, Matthew Belinkie believes that The Simpsons is responsible. In their spoof of Return of the Living Dead, Dial Z for Zombies has brain-eating zombies. This was aired in 1992. Belinkie says:

Millions of kids saw this episode before they were old enough to see a real zombie film. I suspect that for a whole generation, this was the first zombie story we ever saw. And that, my friends, is why we think that zombies eat brains, even though most of us have never seen a movie where this is the

The Romantic Zombie

I mean, ew, but it's true. Since the late 2000s and our post-modernist impulse to give our baddies a face-lift, zombies have been used in a very different way. They're often used as metaphors for isolation, liberation from taboos or social conventions, or even as the struggle for equality.

One of my favourite examples is Warm Bodies which is a really sweet and hilarious comedy-romance between a zombie boy and a living girl. But you can also see this in American Gods by Neil Gaiman, the movie Corpse Bride and the television series iZombie.

If all this talk of zombies has you checking your supplies and sharpening your machete, never fear.

I stumbled across this incredible blog which gives you a brilliant rundown on how to survive the zombie apocalypse. Enjoy!

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