Someone asked me why zombies were such a big deal. As a creature whose entire existence has been taken up with that very question, I have a thing or two to say about that! So excuse me while I launch into an uncharacteristic, Clément-like rant. We have that in common, Clément and I—we love a good rant.
The “zombie thing” is actually much larger than one would think on first blush … or gush … or whatever. It’s actually part of a sociological trend that is linked to the absence of myth in our current environment and the consequent popularity of the supernatural. Any psychologist would tell you that myth and magic are manifestations of the unconscious and its odd connection to the numinous in our everyday lives. Today, this has found its way into a very left-brained, linear culture through things like magical realism, the supernatural and, yes, even the virtual world.
This is why the Harry Potter books, Twilight, True Blood, vampires, zombies, superheroes, and comics have “captured” the mass imagination.
So what do zombies represent? According to one of my favorite shrinks, Kirby Surprise, Psy.D., “We tell ourselves stories to try to make sense of our lives. They help us see the world in terms of conflicts and relationships we have not solved for ourselves.”
Just as the vampire is the manifestation of the ego, in all its power and accomplishment, the zombie represents its opposite. Vampires are ever so popular, even desirable, because they are charismatic, independent, immortal, willful, all-powerful. They are the hunters, the singular, the wealthy, the perennially successful species, destined to survive and thrive at great cost to all others. Zombies represent the masses, the horde. They are the enslaved, the factory worker, the immigrant, the hapless soul trapped on an endless treadmill of servitude and dependence.
Dr. Surprise says, “We fear zombies because they are not in touch with their very obvious pain and we feel that, perhaps, they have no empathy for us as well.”
Zombies represent all that we fear … the loss of self … and so what do we want to do? We want to kill zombies. We want to kill that part of ourselves that will betray us, misuse our minds in ways that are wasteful and consumptive. And we fear them. At the root of zombie fever, and some of the madness that is tearing through this country—any country where personal power is worshipped—is the fear of contagion, the fear that we can become enslaved, lose our powers and freedoms simply by association.
I, Erin, am the tip of the iceberg, a girl who—rightly—wants to protect her individuality at any cost. The rest is under the surface—in the book, in life, in the disasters that plague our interactions with other people, cultures, countries. But it is there, whether you “see’ it or not.
—Erin Orison, DEAD LOVE/The Daily Slice
zombie art courtesy of Bart Frescura, copyright Bart Frescura