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.
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