Via SlashDot, here’s a brief piece at Forbes that wonders whether the zombie is Americas equivalent of Godzilla – a symbol of technology run amok, but one that can be dealt with in hand-to-hand mano a mano combat rather than by the deployment of the state’s military resources:
[…] there’s one major difference between Godzilla and the attack of the zombies: Godzilla fought scientists and the military (and maybe the occasional band of adorable children), but zombie battles usually are a person-to-ex-person struggle. While Godzilla swatted at planes and crushed tanks underfoot, zombies are done in by weapons such as shotguns, hand grenades and the ever-handy chainsaw.
Americans must like the idea that, as out of control as our hubristic science might become, a good machete and a 12 gauge in the hands of a competent man or woman can always save the day.
To be sure, it’s easy to read more into the popularity of zombies than might actually be there. Film-goers have always loved a good scare, and a shambling collection of neuron-challenged corpses make a pretty terrifying story. And if my zombie-obsessed 14-year-old son is a representative sample, blowing the undead away with heavy weaponry has a solid adolescent demographic appeal. But there’s no question, at least in my mind, that zombies (and Godzilla) are an allegorical representation of our fear that science and the technologies it spawn will lead to our destruction.
It’s a plausible reading, I think, though I’d hesitate to claim it as anywhere near definitive. It does chime rather well with our very own Jonathan McCalmont’s theory that the modern iterations of the zombie trope reflect a fear of transhumanism. I also seem to remember reading a recent critique that pegged the zombie as representing our subliminal fears of population expansion due to increased lifespans for the “unproductive elderly” (and/or immigration), but I’m damned if I can find the link or remember the source – anyone else catch that one, at all? [image by ella_marie]
One thing I can say for certain about zombies, though, is that I’m sick to the gills of hearing about them. As far as shark-jumping in the genre blogosphere goes, the only meme that comes close to the tedious prevailing ubiquity of zombies is steampunk… which is also starting to wear the welcome mat very thin indeed, at least in this household.