Social Question

SuperMouse's avatar

Seriously, what is behind this fascination with zombies?

Asked by SuperMouse (30785points) March 9th, 2013

Pop culture seems to be saturated with zombies. Zombie movies, zombie television shows, zombie books, more zombie books and even a report from the CDC on zombie preparedness. It is kind of old, but there is also a song about zombies! So what gives? Why the interest in zombies? Is it some reflection of our fear of death? Does it even go as deep as that? Why not a vampire or werewolf boom? What is the reason for the rise of zombies in pop culture?

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37 Answers

Pachy's avatar

I honestly don’t get the fascination for disgusting-looking dead people walking around. I’ve always avoided movies and TV shows about them, and now there’s a new series of TV commercials running—I can’t recall the product—that I immediately turn off when they come on. This is a fad, I guess, and will eventually fade away, but it can’t happen fast enough for me.

Shippy's avatar

So glad you asked this, as I feel the same way. Somehow for me the zombie trend didn’t appeal at all. I just find it silly. But maybe things I enjoy others find silly! The vampire thing too leaves me cold. I haven’t watched one twilight saga. I guess I am just not into pop culture overall.

ETpro's avatar

Me three. I can’t figure it out, but I’m answering anyway to be plugged into the thread for when some Jelly Genius explains it all in terms I can grasp.

Plucky's avatar

I’ve actually studied this before. I will post more later, when on my PC. Basically though, the main reason for the modern fascination is the apocalypse aspect of it all.

ccrow's avatar

I don’t get it either; I watch Walking Dead, but for me it’s not about the zombies… more the premise of end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it and how do the survivors deal with it. I liked Stephen King’s The Stand for the same reason.
^ I see @Plucky is on the same wavelength:-) Said it better, too!

hearkat's avatar

Vampires, too. I was joking a couple weeks ago that someone needs to come up with a different kind of “undead”.

bookish1's avatar

I recall hearing in some class in college that the original vampire fascination arose because of anxieties about race and mixed blood in England. I wouldn’t be surprised if the zombie fad is because of anxieties about the apocalypse, human mortality, overpopulation, biotechnology, etc.
I killed a conversation last night at the bar when a woman asked me if I was “into” zombies and I had to say no. Haha.

woodcutter's avatar

A good excuse to write video games and make a crapload of money. It will be easier to stir imagination and make this a real possibility that our civilization could end as we know it. And it will. Zombies is one way to do that.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

I love, love, love zombies, probably because they’re about the most frightening thing I can imagine. There have been plenty of apocalyptic books, movies, and TV shows in which most of humanity dies and the survivors are left to fight for existence and build a whole new world order. With zombies, however, the dead people don’t go away; they’re a constant and ongoing danger.

fremen_warrior's avatar

In a zombie apocalypse you get a blank slate. You can redefine yourself, quit your hated 9–5 and become the valiant leader that you know deep down you were actually born to become! ;-)

In a zombie apocalypse laws no longer apply, you not only can, but you are EXPECTED to disobey the laws (loot, steal, kill) in order to survive in this new version of society. Your mundane everyday life turns into a thrilling adventure, filled with violence, a return to close-knit tribelike groups, and – if you get lucky – sex with equally wired-up survivors.

The whole zombie thing, just like any other fantasy or sci-fi scenario, allows you to take a break from your ordinary life, and dream of a place where you truly are the master of your own fate. Personally I just watch it for the blood and guts xD (jk)

Aethelwine's avatar

I don’t understand the fascination with Fifty Shades of Grey. I’d rather read about a person trying to survive during a zombie apocalypse. I enjoy sci-fi, action and horror, not erotic romance novels. Meh, it makes life more interesting when we don’t all like the same things.

ucme's avatar

Because as with all good horror, there’s a grain of truth/possibility in the notion.
Take a look around next time you’re out shopping, some folks look/act like braindead arseholes…one step removed from pure zombification, kinda.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I do not know.
I never understood the popularity of Seinfield, either.

flutherother's avatar

It started for me when I read Lot 249 by Arthur Conan Doyle. It sent a creepy chill down my spine.

glacial's avatar

@jonsblond “I don’t understand the fascination with Fifty Shades of Grey. I’d rather read about a person trying to survive during a zombie apocalypse.”


RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Because Zombies are the best fantastical depiction of our dumbed down society in reality.

We relate to it.

mazingerz88's avatar

Seriously, @Symbeline’s not waded in yet-? Lol.

I’m fascinated with zombies for reasons mentioned by the OP. Fear of death. And not only fear but Fascination with death actually. Why not-? Most everything fascinate us human beings. Why not death and why not in an imaginative and quite gruesome way-?

All these attention given to zombies now have a rather shallow but very practical reason behind it. It’s called Capitalism.

SuperMouse's avatar

@jonsblond I have to say that I have as little interest in Fifty Shades of Grey as I do in zombies!

Pachy's avatar

@SuperMouse, amen to that!

Aethelwine's avatar

@SuperMouse That’s good to hear. :)

AstroChuck's avatar


mazingerz88's avatar

^^ I must say I agree with the point that you made right there, but not the first one, the second one. And no, I don’t think it’s raining outside.

Rarebear's avatar

Because they make great stories.
Vampires were cool too until Twilight ruined them.

glacial's avatar

@Rarebear Vampires will survive Twilight.

Rarebear's avatar

@glacial God, I hope so. I“m watching Buffy season 6 again right now.

glacial's avatar

@Rarebear That would explain the bleak outlook. ;)

Plucky's avatar

@fremen_warrior explained it well.

Stories of zombies are actually as old the human race. You can find them throughout recorded literature. However, the modern zombie has changed significantly. Most of what we see of zombies today are the result of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968). He used zombies as a way to criticize the many negative social standards present in the real world – such as slavery, bio-engineering, religion, exploitation, greed and government incompetence. He added post-apocalyptic themes to tempt our innate interest in human survival – how far one might go to merely survive in such a world.

The fact that zombies are usually reanimated humans is what makes it all the more interesting (however gruesome and terrifying it may be). They are usually depicted as creatures who do not feel pain and do not need to eat/drink to sustain themselves…who keeping coming back until their brains are destroyed/severed. One bite and you become one too. All these qualities make zombies terrifying in any form, let alone the human version. Those distinctions make them very different than aliens, vampires, demons, etc.

A post-apocalyptic zombie world forces us to face our own mortality. Mortality, in itself, is a topic that has interested us from the time we became cognitive beings.
There are many people pining for an apocalypse in any form… a new start for humanity – of course this depends on enough people surviving one. This aspect alone, peaks our curiosity.
As time moves forward, the possibility of something apocalyptic happening becomes that much more real. More people are thinking about it (maybe not the zombie aspect, but of something big enough to splinter society as a whole). There are many people, from all walks of life, preparing for disaster.

In short, the fascination of zombies can be seen as a reflection of (and reaction to) our own fears, curiosities and social unrest in the growing unreliability of the world around us.

rooeytoo's avatar

I have no interest in zombies. The only one that intrigues me is Taylor Lautner, now there is a vampire/werewolf that grabs my attention. I wonder if that makes me a pedophile? Probably not he is over 18. In this case I am probably just a DOW.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Maybe werewolves will make the next resurgence.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m just so freaked out that there are people who I respect SO MUCH who are voting for Zombies. Makes me wonder what my purpose for existing ever was.

GA @AstroChuck.

flutherother's avatar

Why are zombies fascinated by us? Surely there are other things they can eat? Like each other.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No…they’d get salmonella poisoning if they ate each other.

flutherother's avatar

They are too fastidious, it’s not like they’re going to die or anything.

Berserker's avatar

Zombies will never eat one another, because their instinct demands the flesh of the living. A zombie is dead, even if it walks. It does not breathe, it does not feel, and it does not think. It only does what its instinct tells it to. Zombies don’t NEED to eat, NOR does eating do anything at all to benefit their state. It does not regenerate them. A zombie could be missing its stomach, or hell, even most of its face, lower jaw or teeth…as long as its brain remains, it will eat the living, or attempt to do so. It will eat until its brain fails in containing the virus/curse. If the zombie goes undestroyed, it will eventually fall and cease to be due to decomposition.

However, I theorize that the zombie has three phases which it routinely goes through during its existence, and this theory does make room for certain exceptions.


When a zombie ’‘hungers’’, it will look for prey. It uses all its basic senses, at least that which still properly function; sight, smell and hearing. Vibrations felt by men are also a good zombie magnet. so just switch on a buncha vibrators, then escape like mad It will never actually know where to look, but will instead wander around until it finds a person, and will use its senses to help in said localization. If NONE of the senses work however, it will have to rely on ’‘luck’’; but its instinct otherwise drives it as strongly as any zombie.

Exception; Sometimes the more human side of the zombie might weakly resurface, drawing it to places it was familiar with, back when it was a normal human being. In some cases where it is believed that a virus has taken hold of the corpse’s system, there are theories that said virus might accentuate some of the senses, making it easier for the zombie to locate prey. If, on the other hand, the zombie is powered by necromancy or other magic, the source of the magic may do a lot of the work for them, depending on the power of the one responsible for the outbreak.

When the zombie locates a prey, it attacks. It has no mind of its own, and will usually go all out, despite whatever resistance or obstacles lay in their way. In these cases, the zombie may often make use of physical prowess which it otherwise never displays. Most common are surprising speed and frightening strength. Its natural abilities, such as insane resilience to everything until the brain is destroyed can make it a formidable enemy. Note then, that no matter how rotted or fucked up a zombie’s physical state, its madness will not decrease, and it will be as effective as a fresh zombie. The only exception here is missing limbs and other obviously fatal setbacks.

Exception; The zombie still has a brain. It’s pretty much useless besides being a vessel for the virus, or the control point of ’‘soul’’, but it happens that, again, the human side may resurface. In this way, a zombie can ’‘learn’’. Use blunt objects to smash windows, or comprehend the functions of a door and its handle, and therefore open it. It can learn this by accident or observation. In most cases the zombie can never upgrade to anything beyond extremely primitive tool handling, but it should not be overlooked.

When a zombie has eaten and is ’‘satisfied’’, it may begin to ’‘explore’’. The rudimentary life which its source has given it will allow it to sniff things, handle objects, or stare out at something, or at nothing, for hours on end, until it is once again ready to hunt.

Exception; The zombie may attempt at more human things, such as trying to drive a car, flip the pages of a book or use a phone. However, these are sad remnants of its past life, which the zombie does not, in any way, comprehend, and anyways, is often very short lived. The instinct of a zombie is so strong and pure that, even if it ate flesh two minutes ago and is ’‘satisfied’’, if a human walks by, it will give chase. besides Bub from Day of the Dead; that fucker MOURNED; irony bro
It should be noted too, that while in repose, a zombie may taste and eat other things. This is all it knows to do, therefore, this should be expected of them, when they are in a more docile mode. Munching on the brains of a fallen zombie, or licking chips. However, when the instinct kicks in, and said instinct is a short fuse…they abandon whatever is not human flesh.

There are different kinds of zombies; classical and zoombies. Classic Romero/Lucio Fulci zombies that walk very slowly, and sprinters, which can run. My new favorite term for these kinds is ’‘zoombies’’. There are also spoof zombies, which are found in more humorist settings; zombies who learn to speak, wield firearms, and crack jokes. However, despite their physical aptitude and differences, a zombie, in order to be a zombie, must feed on the flesh of the living and pretty much be mindless. I personally do not consider a zombie which is aware of its existence a true zombie, but they still kick ass.

But zombies were not always flesh eaters. The African and Haitian beliefs and mythology present them as reanimated corpses which need no feeding and do not have the instinct to do this. Apparently, only certain sorcerers or shamans had/have the power to perform such magic as to raise the dead. The zombies can follow simple commands, but as corpses, are usually too weak to wreak havoc, and to make more than one or two rise from the earth in a short time is said to be extremely taxing on the summoner, so never mind an actual battalion of them.

Furthermore, I…

…uh…sorry guys. I can only just really talk about zombies, and enjoy them. I have no idea really, what deeply rooted reason is responsible for their fascination, but I will point out, it is nothing new. Zombie fascination, both flesh eaters and the ones closer to the actual myth, have been around since the thirties, at least by my personal identification throughout entertainment. It goes back much further than this, though.
Zombie love goes through plenty of phases, but like all horror, it is ancient, and here to stay. I have tried plenty of times to explain why, but actually, I do not know. The problem with me is that my love of horror feels natural to me, and has never been, therefore, an ’‘interest’’. It was always just THERE, so I’ve never felt the need to explain it.

However, I completely command both @fremen_warrior and @Plucky for their posts, and I bow to them. ’‘head falls off’’

TLDR; Twilight fucking sucks.

Seek's avatar

Just one more obsession of the nerds-in-the-know for the mainstream to catch on to 25 years too late and bastardize for their own devices. Just like vampires, werewolves, anime, metal music, and BDSM.

bookish1's avatar

^^ What she said!

Wait… isn’t zombieism sort of like mad cow for humans?

antimatter's avatar

Perhaps it’s our way of dealing with death. I heard a remark from a theology student a few years ago when he pointed to the mislead and misunderstood interpretation in the Bible that the dead will rise again. The other thing is based on myths from several cultures. In African cultures Zombie related stories is very common in African myths.

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