The Walking Dead and the Zombie Meme

As season 3 of AMC’s successful zombie series The Walking Dead draws to a close, what does this cultural fascination with the lumbering undead say about society? One of the greatest zombie movies of all time wore its satire proudly on its bloodied sleeve – the commentary on rampant consumerism in George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead looks tame in comparison to footage from Black Friday; a prophetic work on materialistic lifestyles devoid of emotion.

Via Rotten Monkey:

It seems like wherever one looks nowadays there’s a zombie. There’s TV’s hugely popular The Walking Dead series, which actually seems poised to rival American Idol and the like as a major cultural meme in the United States. Then there are the prank alerts warning of a zombie apocalypse that have recently aired over the radio in several states. Even the so-called “zombie walks,” festivals where any number of Americans don tattered clothes and ghoulish makeup and wonder aimlessly around public parks in an attempt to get in touch with their inner undead self, are increasingly becoming a fixture of the American landscape.

What does it all mean? Recently Clemson University professor Sarah Lauro attempted to put the modern zombie phenomenon in perspective. Lauro, who teaches English at Clemson, first began studying zombie culture while working on her doctoral degree at the University of California at Davis. Lauro sees the zombie meme as a historical trend that mirrors the cultural dissatisfaction and economic upheaval the United States is presently experiencing.

The first reported instance of a zombie walk occurred in Toronto in 2003. By 2005 its popularity had escalated dramatically in the United States, which roughly coincided with growing dissatisfaction with the Iraq war. Even after the immensely unpopular Bush regime was replaced with the feel-good Obama administration the zombie meme continued to escalate as the “new normal” resembles a never-ending recession more and more every day. As of last year the zombie walk has spread to 20 separate countries.

Lauro strongly links the deteriorating standards in the real world to a growing obsession with zombie fiction. Recently she stated: “We are more interested in the zombie at times when as a culture we feel disempowered… And the facts are there that, when we are experiencing economic crises, the vast population is feeling disempowered. … Either playing dead themselves … or watching a show like ‘Walking Dead’ provides a great variety of outlets for people.”

Perhaps Lauro is onto something. More than a few Americans have expressed to me that the present state of the economy and the political situation makes them feel like they are already dead.

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2 responses to “The Walking Dead and the Zombie Meme

  1. Who needs a zombie walk? Just go to any supermarket and watch the shoppers!!

  2. Thanks for sharing some info from our article in your post. It’s always good to see people appreciate what our writers have to say.

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