A Decade of Zombies I: Social Infection and Romero's Influence

It was much simpler back then. Zombies, just like pirates, robots and ninjas became a significant part of pop culture due to the enduring appearances in movies, comics, video games and the Internet. In the past decade however, the term “zombie” has been ironically stratified into many other sub-types. Before the influence of George Romero’s zombies from Dawn of the Dead (originally from the 1968 Night of the Living Dead, remade in 2004), the “zombie” was defined as a soulless husk that retained ambulatory functions. Although zombies fed on humans, it was Max Brooks (The Zombie Survival Guide, 2003) who clarified that zombies only feed because they can, out of feral instinct, not because they need to, as opposed to the archetypes of 28 Days Later (2002), that need flesh in order to survive.

Today, the walking dead go by many names. J.K. Rowling refers to them as the Inferi. Other works of literature call them ‘ghouls’ or ‘revenants.’ The most common however are “The Infected” which refer to the fast moving, feral like traits that evolved from the George Romero Zombie, and was further brought down into games such as Valve’s first person shooter, Left for Dead I and II (2008-2009). In this decade, zombies have evolved to become much faster, almost like meta humans to re-instill fear into the hearts of society. In the same way that Hollywood turned sharks into monsters, they did the same by upgrading zombies with extreme agility.

This series doesn’t aim to list down every single zombie film and reference in the past ten years. What it wants to achieve however, is to bring together a sort of cohesiveness into the building of a cultural phenomenon that hinges on two themes: breaking social norms in order to survive, and finding order in total anarchy. In more sociological terms, the zombie apocalypse asks this question, “What would happen to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when family, career, and self-fulfillment are trimmed from the pyramid.”

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