I love zombies. I love the genre, I love the plot, I love everything about them. I have been this way ever since I was a little kid and watched my Uncle play the original Resident Evil with my cousin Brett. I was entranced from the start and while my tastes might have changed, my love for zombie stories has not once subsided over my 23+ years of life on this planet. I can even go further back and mention that I loved to play the Arcade Games Area 51 and Carnevil with Brett when we were kids.
For the longest time I was a huge Resident Evil fan. I had Resident Evil 1,2,3, Code Veronica, and 4. But after RE began to shit the bed and turn into Call of Duty Resident Evil, I began to fall away from the games.
But since then I have picked up new likes. As I have stated many times before The Walking Dead is my favorite comic book series and is the series that got me into buying comic books in the first place. It is also one of my favorite TV shows as of late. My favorite games also include Left 4 Dead and Dead Rising. Plus I am a regular player of the college campus game Humans vs. Zombies and frequently travel four hours to my alma mater just to play the game with my friends. I am also in the process of creating my own Zombie RPG which if all goes as planned I will send to various publishers just to see what happens.
So now you see where I am coming from when I talk about zombie stories. I was a fan way back in 1998 and I will continue to be a fan of the genre way after the current craze is finished.
Zombies just like vampires and werewolves are just things that are never going to go away. They have been ingrained in our culture for centuries and they will continue to be around. Sure there will be times where they are less relevant but fifty years from now I guarantee you there will be people making zombie movies, games, and so forth just like vampires and werewolves. It is never going away and it is something that just needs to be accepted.
But why is it that zombies have stuck around for so many years? What is it about zombie apocalypse films, video games, books, and so forth that keeps us coming back for more. Sure there is the lore but for something to stick it has to touch us on a level that we might not even realize. So in this list I set out to touch on just what is it that makes us love these stories so much. Why do we keep coming back to them? What is it that drives us for more? Without further ado, this is the reasons why zombies stories are so popular.
1. Man vs. Nature
One of the great things about being human that I think a lot of us are aware of but still take for granted is the fact that we are on the top of the food chain. Now granted we share the spot with other animals that may want to turn us into tasty snacks, but for the most part we have the free range to build and do whatever the hell we want without another animal to keep us at bay. The world is ours, uncontested, plain, and simple.
… Then zombies come and suddenly instead of being able to do whatever the hell we want we find ourselves in the same position as the bear, tiger, and so forth. We are still a threat, we are still menacing, we can still kill hundreds if not thousands of zombies, but we have been replaced as the top of the food chain by the zombies.
One of the key parts of a zombie story is that we as a society were unable to contain zombies from taking over a certain location, whether it be a town, a village, a city, or the whole Earth. Then the protagonists in said location now have to live while being constantly hunted by an animal. It is fascinating to see how people react when they are no longer at the top of the food chain and when they essentially have to live the life of an ‘inferior’ creature like a rabbit. You have your safe little holes you use to hide, you come out to scavenge for food, drinks, and what have you. But all the while, while you are out there you run the risk of dying around every twist, turn, corner, and crook of the world.
I think this is a major reason that we like zombies stories because it is one of the few stories that can actually eliminate humans as the reigning food chain winner without raping the realm of plausibility.
2. Man without Society
Another thing that I think we take for granted is the fact that we have law and order. Sure you get pissed when you get a speeding ticket or angry when you have to pay taxes but for the most part there is a world out there with a set of rules keeping us as a society in tow. It prevents us from murdering, raping, and pillaging without prejudice. Now I’m not saying that we would all turn into savage feral animals if society was suddenly ripped away from us but in a way, thanks to society it keeps a lot of us in tow and a lot of us depend on it.
… Then zombies happen. The Walking Dead really shows this more than any other series of what happens when there is no government, police, and so forth. The whole crux is everything is gone and we, as a people are now on our own. I find it fun in the comic books how it evolves and how we revert back to our old pack mentality ways. We form tight grouped tribes and breaking into or breaking out of said tribes is a very difficult process. People are allowed to kill someone for food or drinks, if there is no one around to stop them they can take advantage of any poor soul to come across them, whether it be physically, sexually, or so forth. It then evolves from hunting and gathering groups to agrarian lifestyles when they attempt to settle down in one location and fortify that location, and then it shows villages of people again rebuilding society. Essentially it is like watching the evolution of man on ultra fast forward. Thousands of years of progress jam packed into a year or two after the fact.
And people love it! This is something that transcends zombie genre and moves into other genres like the world ending disease in Stephen King’s The Stand or nuclear holocausts, the dystopian futures that you see in Mad Max, and so forth. One question is always what do we do without someone telling us what to do. Well zombie stories do a fantastic job at showing that. They establish that yes, odds are we would revert back to the old packs that we used to cling to during the age of the cave man. We would then attempt to rebuild society from what it once was with people toting VERY different opinions on how people should be governed.
It is the destruction, life without, and rebuilding of society that really drives a good zombie story.
This is probably the number 1 BIGGEST reason that people love zombie stories. Now from the other movies that show the destruction and life without society, the dystopian future, the superflu that kills everyone, and the nuclear holocaust, they all have their own genres and people who love them. But zombies seem to beat them. But why is that? If you remove the whole element of God vs. the Devil in Stephen King’s The Stand the Walking Dead and the stories are essentially the same. The world goes to shit, society is gone, and now a group of people who survived are rebuilding society. But why is it people are talking about surviving the zombie apocalypse and not talking about surviving the superflu? Because in their mind, they have control over whether or not they live or die in the zombie apocalypse.
You can make a bomb shelter and hope it holds out through the nuclear bomb and the later nuclear winter… But you have no control on if the nuke says ‘lol fuck it’ and bulldozes through your tiny hole in the ground like tissue paper. You have zero control over your bodies natural immunities. If you are susceptible to a flu that kills 99.8% of the population and odds are you are one of them you can do nothing but lay back in your bed and wait for death to take you. But in the zombie apocalypse you do have control or at least the illusion of control. This is why whenever a group of people is watching or playing a game with a zombie plot you have at least one person around you saying ‘If I were in a zombie apocalypse, I would do X to ensure that I stay alive.’ And everyone else in the room is thinking the same damn thing. Anyone who enjoys zombies stories, ever played one, or what not has had the fantasy saying well if I were in the zombie apocalypse I would do this and I would naturally be alive while all my friends and family are dead.
Take three friends watching a zombie film. Ben is thinking while looking at his chubby friend Jim ‘Hell yeah I would stay alive. Unlike Jim, the fat tub of lard. He couldn’t run two feet without getting winded. Unlike me, I can run 20 miles straight.” Meanwhile Beth is looking at Ben thinking ‘Ben doesn’t have a chance. If he looses his glasses he can’t see five feet in front of him. Not me, I have perfect vision AND I have a gun. Problem solved.’ Meanwhile Jim is sitting there thinking. “Ben and Beth are fucked. I got the ultimate plan. Sit upstairs with a bunch of food, water, and ammo, destroy the stairs and wait until those fuckers rot. No way am I going to die.’
Odds are all three of them would be dead within the first week. But in their minds they are clearly going to be one of the few lucky survivors who didn’t get cornered, trapped, or just plain unlucky and survived while the rest of the world perished.
That just about wraps it up. At the end of the day when it comes to zombie stories it really is the idea of human vs. nature, the destruction of society, and the illusion of control that keeps us coming back for more and will keep us coming back for more as the years go on.
That does it for me for this one. Next time I will come up with a review instead of another list. If you enjoyed this please like and subscribe for more from me.