There are a million zombie games, movies, and TV shows out right now it seems. The term “zombie” dates back to African and Haitian cultures with Voodoo/Vodou myths of reanimation of the dead into brainless beings. The film The Night of the Living Dead popularized the current version of the zombie, where an infection is involved and they crave eating flesh.
The funny thing to me is the theory that prion diseases (such as mad cow disease) are the real source of the zombie myth. The people who are infected with this will lose mental and physical capabilities and the primary way of acquiring a prion disease is by eating infected prions and prions are found in the brain. It sounds pretty familiar. The funny thing to me is that the myth and this theory are backwards of each other. In the myth, becoming a zombie makes you crave brains and flesh, but in this theory eating brains would turn you into the “zombie.”
Back to the question at hand. Are zombies popular because it is a legitimate fear that bodies will reanimate and try to eat the living – or that a virus will be spread about via biting that turns all infected into brain-dead people?
No. So, why have these things become so common?
We’ve gotten to the point where killing things isn’t something that we get upset over. And zombies are on the short list of things you can kill or injure without backlash. Here is a quick list of things it is okay to kill (on television or other media):
- Aliens – it is pretty easy to convince somebody that an alien is “bad.” It is also rather difficult to confuse a gigantic bug with a human being.
- Supernatural beings – including demons, vampires, and zombies
- Criminals or “bad” people – most of the time this is okay
- Nazis – they fall under the “bad” people category, but it seems it is always okay to kill Nazis
Things that cause outrage if they are killed in a video game, TV show, or movie:
- Living people who aren’t criminals or Nazis
The reason why zombies are so popular is because they are one of the closest things to a living human that can be killed without upsetting most people. Beyond that, zombies don’t feel pain, so they can be maimed or violently killed without many ethical problems. Using a chainsaw, axe, baseball bat, or dismemberment against them is just fine because they are already dead, so who cares? Violence sells and these things are a very easy way to show lots of violence.