Necrophilia? You can love zombies, but you shouldn’t “love” zombies.

In terms of response and traffic, my post Everybody Loves Zombies  had an overwhelming response.  Also, zombie penguins.  Which made me stop and think… why, exactly, does everybody love zombies?  Where did we even get the idea of zombies?  Why won’t this zombie thing go away?  So, in order to stop having audienceless monologues like a supervillain without the lair, I will be writing a few posts on zombies.  This first one: zombigenesis.   Where did zombies come from?

There are stories from cultures all over the globe that feature animated corpses.  Anchimayen, basically zombie children, in Spain.  The draugr, who guards graves in Norway.   The jiang shi, from China, Vetala from India.

The zombies in books, graphic novels, and movies, mostly have their origins in the zombies of Voudoun.  Practitioners believe that they are corpses controlled by bokor, Voudoun sorcerers who practice black magic.  One scientist (for more on this, see his book The Serpent and the Rainbow), whose specialty is ethnobotany, thinks that the zombies are created by basically drugging someone out of his/her mind, including ingredients that make the victim extremely suggestible.  Like being frequently dosed with Rohypnol.  Incredibly creepy, but not exactly raising the dead.

Why, though, have zombies captured our collective imaginations?  The first zombie movie came out in the late 1930s, and since then it’s been a genre that just won’t… die.  Sorry, had to. Also, let’s not just look at zombies that are called zombies.  What about mummies?  Basically zombies, but more stylishly dressed.  What about people that are just empty shells, being controlled by alien puppet-masters?  Still zombies.  If you expand your definition of zombie to anything where someone that is dead, and despite that is still walking around (debating inserting joke about bible being original zombie story), zombies show up even more often than you think.

Is it a fear of death, of the body’s fragility, that makes us fascinated by zombies?  Because the zombies aren’t showing up in rom-coms (Corpse Bride excepted, and really anything by Tim Burton), they’re in some of the most disturbing books and movies of all time.  Is it literally coming face-to-face with mortality, in all it’s scariest , lingering, painful forms (radioactivity, virulent disease, evil magic)?  The desire to be able to kick the ass of Death, preferably with a sawed-off shotgun, a la Bruce Campbell?

Or maybe we just like being grossed out.

My first zombie experiences were Thriller,  and The Hilarious House of Frankenstein (I don’t remember which came first), both of which featured Vincent Price, possessor of the world’s creepiest voice.  I know my sister agrees, because I used to use his part of  the “Thriller” track  to send her fleeing out of our shared room.   I still love B-movie zombie flicks more than sincere horror.  Bruce Campbell will always hold a special place in my heart.  Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, Army of Darkness… For books, after the ones I have already mentioned, I will note  The Cell, by Stephen King.  Good, classic, hide-under-the-blankets horror.

So.  Where did your love of zombies start?



Filed under Books, Review

7 responses to “Necrophilia? You can love zombies, but you shouldn’t “love” zombies.

  1. Ah, zombies. How I love thee! So much so that I’m including them in my novel.

    Hmm, where did my love affair with the undead start? It would have to be Return of the Living Dead. You know, the tongue-in-cheek zombie spoof.

    As a kid, all that gore was just spectacular. Eventually, I got a copy of the original Night of the Living Dead, and that one just scared the shit out of me.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but my fascination with zombies centers around the idea of being eaten by another human being and how terrifying that is. Sure, animals can eat people, and that sucks too, but it’s the idea that something that isn’t built to eat raw flesh is tearing you apart.

    I mean, look at our teeth. You wouldn’t really expect that kind of behavior from us, crouching over a corpse and tearing at it with our fingers, which have no claws. It’s a terrifying, slow death at the hands of inexperienced hunters.

    That’s my take on it anyway. 🙂

    Please, keep the zombie-ness coming!

    • Ooh, good one! Yup, and speaks to my point also, slow painful death. Also, cannibalism, always interesting. Which, for anyone who is a Firefly or Serenity fan, also explains why the Reavers are so damned scary. And they really, really are. Really.

  2. “They’re coming for you, Barbra!”

    I feel disappointed in myself when admitting I haven’t read zombie-related literature, but I enjoy zombie movies. In particular: the original Night of the Living Dead, and I can’t go without mentioning my favorite zombie spoof: Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead.

    To be honest, I am a huge Walking Dead fan, and I’d say that show is largely responsible for my recent zombie interest. It’s a high-tension realistic look at survival while letting go or clinging to a previous life–a set of morals and former ideal of humanity.

    The frightening thought of serving as a zombie meal, feeling your body torn apart, is unsettling. Although my fascination is mostly grounded in how attitudes and behaviors change when facing hungry, people-eating creatures. Or! To witness a loved one become infected and reconciling that the reanimated version is no longer the person you knew and loved. Observing psychological and emotional aspects in a zombie setting is always interesting for me to think about–or in any setting, really.

  3. My appreciation for zombies came when I first realized that a zombie is a creature that wears our face like a mask and has no agenda but to spread it’s illness. (Speaking of virus infected breeds of course) There’s no race, religion or politics. It’s humanity against a beast that confuses our emotions and grief giving in to an unspeakable terror as our minds try to process what we face. Its about what we do to survive and to prove that humankind has a right to be here still.

    Oh and reading World War Z sealed the deal. 😉

  4. My fellow Zombie Enthusiast!

    For your inquisitive probes into the nature of our zombie enemies, I’ve nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award.

    Thanks for the great posts. 🙂

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