Welcome back Damien Williams for a riveting rant on, well, the aforementioned bogeymen, and what kind of future our culture is choosing.
Please pick another apocalypse. Image by Quidditch.
I don't like zombies. I don't mean I'm afraid of them, or that they skeeve me out. I mean that I don't like the current use of them as trope, or a modern cultural cipher. I told you this the last time we spoke, and I told you that I'd tell you why.
You see, back in the day, when Romero was using zombies to talk about consumer culture and the death of individual preference in the face of mass markets, a zombie horde was a potent symbol. It was crushing, endless, homogenizing death. Why do you think Dawn of the Dead takes place in a mall? It was a terrifying indictment of what Romero believed was happening to our society.
Later, when the zombie symbol came to be applied out to Western society as a whole, and not just its consumerist leanings, the fast zombie became the stand-in for the hyper-connectivity and infectious nature of concept, idea, and emotion. Unthinking Rage just spreads and spreads.
That was all well and good. The problem is, zombies don't represent that anymore. Honestly, so far as I see it? Zombies don't represent anything anymore. The modern zombie is an empty symbol, representing only itself. The fight against zombies is now only the pure expression of futility, of never giving up in the face of odds which will defeat us. Zombies are just about Fear. They are collapse and terror and, yes, also the changes that survival of terror wreaks on people. But, in the final offing, I think that's boring.
I'm what some might call a pop culture junkie. I'm interested in all aspects of the popular media (even if, as I say, I don't exactly enjoy every single one of them), because I believe that our pop culture is reflexively connected to the wider culture. It tells us what we're thinking, it tells us how we're feeling, and in turn it influences those thoughts and emotions.
Pop culture amplifies and exaggerates our existing beliefs, distilling them down and reflecting them back to us in a glittering panoply of spectacle and story. What this means for you and me is that, as long as I'm here at The Breaking Time, I'll very often talk to you about the nature of our society — and our perception of its imminent and immanent collapse — through the lens of our pop culture and what it is doing for and to us. If the ascension of “Reality” television is Jean Baudrillard's nightmare scenario, then the rise of zombie apocalypse narrative is mine.