We are becoming increasingly fascinated with the undead. Films over the past 40 years (starting with George Romero’s 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead), TV shows and now computer games show our continued fascination with zombies. The Walking Dead, on AMC TV in the US, for example, attracted 5.3 million viewers on its first showing. This is 83% more people than watched the season 4 premiere of Mad Men.
Why are we so interested in something that can’t talk and doesn’t mind getting shot? Perhaps it’s not what these creatures are, but rather what these monsters represent. Maybe zombies represent a subconscious fear about the consequences of untethered scientific research. It’s to do with a fear of diseases such as SARS or H5N1 flu. (Vampires might equal HIV/Aids or, more likely, a loss of purity and innocence). Maybe it’s all connected to a fear about living too long or having to look after other people who do?
Maybe our fascination with the undead has nothing to do with our deep fears, but is simply related to how we feel about everyday life? Maybe Night of the Living Dead is analogous with working late at the office? You might even draw parallels between blasting 200 zombies with automatic weapons and rapidly deleting hundreds of emails in the office. You can spend all day doing this, but like the tweets and Facebook updates, they just keep on coming.
I think that’s it. On a superficial level there is pleasure in destroying things, but at a deeper level, these things represent the Internet, robots, social media and maybe even AI. We are fearful about these things – and perhaps machines in general – consuming us. It is about having our life and our souls being taken away from us by things that cannot be deleted, paused or ignored. Things that won’t talk to us and don’t seem to understand what it means to be human. Just a thought.
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