Zombies in media a reflection of society

Oct. 7, 2013

Nick Burns
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We are at the edge of our seats for the Oct. 13 “The Walking Dead” season four premiere, and our fascination with zombies is no accident.

“The Walking Dead,” or TWD, has helped bridge the gap between zombie fanatics and everyone else. It has reached households in ways previous zombie outlets have failed by de-emphasizing the zombies and social commentary.

The 1920s provided the first appearances of a zombie fascination with a mythical creation from Haitian voodoo.

On through the middle of the century, the living dead was an occult creation that reflected the time period’s societal fear of superstitions, loss of one’s own control, the fear of foreign invaders and even racial tensions.

George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead,” for instance,” is a blatant commentary on consumerism in the late 1970s.

TWD doesn’t make clear commentary but still encompasses many themes and points of views on survival, trust, fidelity, faith, fear of government, the use of violence and community.

It is the mainstream Sunday soap opera that we come back for each week.

The show intrigues people who love many different genres because it is really about the characters as they interact in a world-gone-apocalyptic with zombies.

TWD represents our American cultural need for a release from the mundane. Viewing a more realistic portrayal of survival in the extreme makes our daily grind just that much easier.

Our relationships aren’t as bad as that of Rick and Lori Grimes, whose marriage is already on the rocks prior to the zombie apocalypse.

Still, we feel better because we don’t have to worry about raising our kids in fear they will be ripped apart. We know where our next meals are coming from and know who to trust.

We also watch for the zombies. The speculation is still open on what TWD zombies represent, but I agree with Max Brooks, author of “World War Z,” that zombies are our daily fears and anxieties.

Regardless of our personal fears – dying young, the newest strain of bird flu, terrorism, the pressures of school and work – the bloodthirsty, relentless and mindless actions of zombies speak to that core fear.

When the world seems to be getting darker and we don’t want to face the truth, zombies are our psychological form of copping out. We can face it in an abstract fear and watch someone else fight for survival.

We love the zombies because it gives us a way out of our own accountability and fear if only for a little while.

TWD is the best reflection of societietal issues compared to other zombie shows, evidenced by its ability to reach 12.4 million viewers for the season three finale.

It reflects our growing unease with the stability of our society, but we can brush it off because it is simply fiction… hopefully.