Shocking Zombie Research Explains Why We Love 'Walking Dead'

Say What!? 8

Good news, zombie fans! It turns out our macabre fascination with the undead has some actual science behind it! And I guess by "good news," I really mean "bad news," because according to a professor who's been studying the popularity of shows like The Walking Dead, we turn to zombies when we're feeling high levels of cultural dissatisfaction and economic upheaval.

So the next time someone criticizes you for being obsessed with a gory TV show, you can loftily point out that you're not just watching people get eaten alive in high-def -- you're exercising your right as a citizen to process your feelings of political disempowerment. In other words, you love zombies because you hate THE MAN.

Or something like that, anyway. Sarah Lauro, an English professor at Clemson University who studied zombies while working on her doctoral degree, theorizes that zombies have become popular because we are dissatisfied with the government or society. Lauro is a self-described horror "chicken" who researched movies, television shows, video games, and zombie walks in order to explore the nature of zombies in society. She says,

(People dress like zombies) to make visible their dissatisfaction with a government they feel isn’t listening to them or an economic system that makes them brain-dead consumers; some do it as a kind of exercise of community, just to show how the collective can be organized and made to participate in an event without any ties to commercialism; many have no idea why they do it, but some play dead, one supposes, just to feel alive.

She points out that the notion of a dehumanized individual not in control of their actions can be used to explore the dangers of science, of emerging technology, the fear of rapid change, and other societal harms. Of zombie mobs, which originated in 2003 and escalated in popularity along with the public's dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq, Lauro says,

It was a way that the population was getting to exercise the fact that they felt like they hadn't been listened to by the Bush administration. Nobody really wanted that war, and yet we were going to war anyway.

She adds,

We are more interested in the zombie at times when as a culture we feel disempowered. And the facts are there that, when we are experiencing economic crises, the vast population is feeling disempowered. ... Either playing dead themselves ... or watching a show like 'Walking Dead' provides a great variety of outlets for people.

Who knew there were so many serious, complicated feelings behind our fervent desire to see Andrea gnawed by a hungry zombie? Now someone needs to do some important scientific research into my newfound love for Duck Dynasty.

Why do you think we love zombies so much?


Image via AMC

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SaphireH SaphireH

okay this study or whatever it is is absolutely ridiculous and stupid, there doesnt need to be a scientific reason or what not as to why people like things they just do so deal with it. also i am not a bush fan but to mention him in the article is beyond moronic when theres no reason to blame him

Leah Denise Presley-Fox

Hmmm I think someonw who describes herself as a "horror chicken" should use her time more wisely. If horror movies scare you enough you already have a skewed point of view, and you can not see the enjoyment people really find in it. Trying to say we are in some way acting out towards a government we don't approve of because we like zombie movies is just really silly. I know this...When Walking Dead is on I'm not subconsciously thinking "Oh no our economy is in the toilet and our government is corupt!! What ever shall I do??" I am thinking, "Holy shit did you see that zombie take a piece out of that guy?? That was freaking AWESOME!!!"  I don't see how government comes into play, but hey what do I know. I'm sure a professor who is fluent in psychology, and all the workings of a persons mind knows what shes talking about...wait... she's an English Professor? SMH.

Kirby Gruver

It's Bush's fault we like zombies? Now I've heard everything.

catwo... catwoman123456

  Bullcrap- it's an interesting and sometimes surprising, storyline, that's all. You really don't have to have deeper meaning behind everything. Cripes, it's just entertainment !cat

nonmember avatar Nina

I totally called this when 28 days later was out. Now we have how many million people watching this show? That is a lot of cultural and class dissatisfaction. Hope we do something with it more than watching a show.

Melissa Jessee

This was a joke right?? I love the show & really like the progression to good and evil people being the real threat & now some sort of mutation of the virus will cause even more chaos. Itsreally just a great tv show, nothing more

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nonmember avatar Brick

I hate to jump on this late in the game, but I feel like you missed your mark on this one. I disagree with the whole "feeling powerless" parallel. While I'm sure a few of these role players have that intention, it really all comes down to one word: bandwagon. People tend to jump on trends like kids on a trampoline. It's unfortunately a common reaction for most. One of my favorite movies is "Night of the Living Dead (1968)", but I hate what zombies have become. Like Elvis and Jimi Hendrix, they have been dumbed down for the average person; the genius in their design no longer recognized.

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