Fear is a primitive impulse, brainless as hunger, and because the aim of horror fiction is the production of the deepest kinds of fears, the genre tends to reinforce some remarkably uncivilized ideas about self-protection. In the current crop of zombie stories, the prevailing value for the beleaguered survivors is a sort of siege mentality, a vigilance so constant and unremitting that it’s indistinguishable from the purest paranoia.– Terrence Rafferty, New York Times
Fear and paranoia have become hallmarks of the modern American experience, impacting how we as a nation view the world around us, how we as citizens view each other, and most of all how our government views us.
Nowhere is this epidemic of fear and paranoia more aptly mirrored than in the culture’s fascination with zombies, exacerbated by the hit television series The Walking Dead, in which a small group of Americans attempt to survive in a zombie-ridden, post-apocalyptic world where they’re not only fighting off flesh-eating ghouls but cannibalistic humans.
Zombies have experienced such a surge in popularity in recent years that you don’t have to look very far anymore to find them lurking around every corner: wreaking havoc in movie blockbusters such as World War Z, running for their lives in 5K charity races, battling corsets in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and even putting government agents through their paces in mock military drills arranged by the Dept. of Defense (DOD) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
We’ve been so hounded in recent years with dire warnings about terrorist attacks, Ebola pandemics, economic collapse, environmental disasters, and militarized police, it’s no wonder millions of Americans have turned to zombie fiction as a means of escapism and a way to “envision how we and our own would thrive if everything went to hell and we lost all our societal supports.” As Time magazine reporter James Poniewozik phrases it, the “apocalyptic drama lets us face the end of the world once a week and live.”
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