Ah, zombies—the shambling, drooling darlings of the fiction world that we just can’t seem to get enough of, like a parasite-infested car crash we can’t look away from.
From George A. Romero’s genre-defining flicks to the highly-addictive The Walking Dead, the appeal of zombie fiction endures much like the zombies themselves: sluggish yet relentless, decaying yet indestructible.
But why do we, a sophisticated society who can split the atom and invent lab-grown meat, have this ceaseless attraction to the undead?
Nihilism Never Looked So Good
Let’s be honest, the real world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Climate change, political ineptitude, and existential dread serve us daily reminders that perhaps, we’re on a sinking ship.
Enter zombie fiction, the lifeboat you didn’t know you needed.
When you watch a decaying corpse gnaw on human entrails, your own problems seem, well, less problematic. After all, your boss may be a tyrant, but at least he’s not trying to eat your brains—yet.
The Schadenfreude Factor
Nothing screams ‘guilty pleasure’ louder than watching a fictional character meet their end in the most gruesome manner imaginable.
Did that annoying bloke just get torn apart by a horde of zombies?
Oh, what a pity—pass the popcorn, please.
In the survival-of-the-unfittest landscape of zombie fiction, Schadenfreude is king.
We love the idea of justice being served, one grisly death at a time.
Rekindling Our Primal Instincts
Buried under our layers of civility and table manners is a primordial beast that relishes the idea of survival at its most basic.
Zombie fiction taps into this by stripping away the societal constructs that usually bore us to tears.
No more mortgage payments, no more queuing, no more pretending to enjoy your cousin’s one-man show.
All that’s left is you, a cricket bat, and the gnawing question of whether you can smash a zombie’s head in before it takes a chunk out of yours.
Carpe Diem with a Side of Brains
We’ve all heard the adage ‘live each day as if it’s your last,’ but nothing drills this message home like the imminent threat of becoming zombie chow.
When characters in zombie fiction wake up, they don’t dread the monotony of another day at the office; they dread the possibility of not seeing another sunset.
And while we wouldn’t recommend adopting a zombie apocalypse as your new life coach, there’s something darkly invigorating about embracing life in the face of death.
A Zombie by Any Other Name…
Finally, let’s face it, zombies are the ultimate metaphorical blank canvas.
They can stand in for anything—consumerism, governmental decay, viral epidemics, or even just the fear of the Other.
These flesh-eating fiends are a literary gift that keeps on giving (or taking, depending on how you look at it).
So there it is. The grotesque allure of zombie fiction might be as complex as the tax code and as mysterious as why cats hate water, but one thing’s for sure—it’s not dying out anytime soon.
And even if the genre did meet its untimely demise, it would probably just come back to life and keep shambling along, much to our dark delight. Cheers to that.
If you’re a fan of zombie stories, check out my ongoing serial Punks Versus Zombies!