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There’s nothing very special about zombies. They’re literally just walking corpses, incredibly slow moving corpses at that. They’ve got nothing on the immortal, bloodsucking vampires or the shape shifting werewolves. With those creatures, you usually need a wooden steak or a silver bullet to finish them off. But zombies? Just a bullet to the head. Simple and done. So why is it, out of all the horror monsters out there, that zombies have seized modern media?
Think about it for a second. We have an ongoing comic and television series in “The Walking Dead”, both with rave reviews. Video games like the “Deadrising” and “Left 4 Dead” series are raking in millions. And then there’s Hollywood, where zombies aren’t just the stuff of straight up horror anymore.
Yeah, we occasionally get something like “28 Days Later”, but then there’s the action-heavy blockbusters like “World War Z”, the comedies like “Zombieland” and “Shaun of the Dead”, and now even romances like “Warm Bodies”. This is a film where a human girl actually falls for a reanimated corpse. Since when are zombies even considered sexy?
When “Twilight” and “True Blood” made vampires the “it” creature, I could see how the bloodsuckers could be desirable, even if I didn’t like it. But vampires have fallen by the wayside, as zombies rise to replace them. If we really want to understand this monster’s appeal, we’ll have to look at the father of the zombie genre, George Romero.
From 1968 to 1985, Romero released a trilogy of loosely connected films, “Night of the Living Dead”, “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead”, that practically defined the zombie apocalypse. Not only were these films packed with blood and gore, they were also sly commentaries on our own society. “Dawn of the Dead”, for example, uses its setting in a shopping mall to comment on American consumer culture, making consumers themselves into zombies.
The Romero films are considered horror classics, almost a Bible for zombie aficionados. But despite their influence, zombies remained nothing more than a niche in the horror genre until now. The recent success of “The Walking Dead” may have accelerated the movement, but the fact that zombies are now in almost every form of entertainment shows how appealing they are.
For some odd reason zombies have taken quite well to our generation. The reason, however, isn’t as odd as you might think. In a post-Sept. 11, post-recession world, we feel like the world could end at any minute. There’s a greater emphasis on survival stories, set in an America after a great society-ending crisis. Zombies are great for survival tales, not so much because they’re easy to kill, but because they’re so overwhelming that we can’t deal with them.
Look at how “The Walking Dead” deals with our struggle to keep our humanity while fighting zombies. It’s easy to see how our society is so drawn to them. It’s not the creatures themselves, but the situations we can create with them that make zombies popular. Well, it may also be the gore. It is Halloween, and we do love that rotting flesh, now don’t we?

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