Films, games, books, TV, clothing ranges, public events, themed cruises and theme parks; just like if the dead truly were to rise, there’s just no escaping zombies. But why on earth did they get so fashionable? The saturation of the undead in popular culture these days has me asking only one question: Why won’t zombies JUST DIE?
Hey everyone! Have you played that new zombie action survival horror game with zombies in it? Oh and have you seen that zombie drama on AMC? And that other drama on AMC about zombies? What about that film that’s like a sweet coming-of-age romantic comedy but then there’s zombies in it? And please tell me you’ve read that book that desecrates a classic Jane Austen novel? Wow I just can’t get enough of those zombies, every time a new zombie game gets released I just have to buy it and play it for the whole two minutes it takes for another zombie game to come out. It’s okay, it’s not like zombies represent the mindless sheep mentality of idiotic consumerism, that would be horribly ironic!
Yes har-har, very funny, well done me, et cetera; but let’s not get me wrong, it’s not as if I automatically dislike any game with zombies in it. Dead Rising 2 is exactly as fun as you would expect of a game that lets you mount lawnmower blades to the top of your head and sprint into a crowd of fat undead tourists; Dark Souls is essentially a zombie game and I’ve put so many hours into that I sometimes find myself clawing for the “raise shield” button when I see someone walking towards me down a narrow alleyway; and Left 4 Dead is just as fun as ever to play on the couch with a few buddies (the fact that it popularised the four-player co-op shooter leaves me with more than a few bones to pick, although if we blamed Valve for all the mistakes of idiots copying Valve we’d probably have to trial them for war crimes by now). But while some zombie games can obviously be fun, the continuing enthusiasm of the nerd community for this very specific cultural theme is as baffling as it is overwhelming.
“It’s not like zombies represent the mindless sheep mentality of idiotic consumerism, that would be horribly ironic!”
It was a while ago now that people realised that the classic zombie template had gotten a bit boring, and started shifting the focus of films and games away from action and gore and more towards the drama that occurs between characters in the stressful environment of post-apocalyptia. This structure was already old hat by the time games such as The Walking Dead and The Last of Us came along, but it didn’t stop the latter being awarded a BAFTA for best action/adventure and best overall game in 2014. I just couldn’t understand it (especially since BioShock Infinite only got one measly win for best original music); the whole zombie thing has been done – if you’ll pardon the pun – to death. But now things have sunk even lower, and the fact that there is nothing original left to be done with the zombie concept has failed to stem the flow of its current fashionable status.
Open the “Top Sellers” Steam page on any given day and you can be sure there’s at least one zombie game on there. Just searching Steam with the term “zombie” reveals such gems as Zombie Bowl-o-Rama, Zombie Solitaire, and Plants vs Zombies (a concept I don’t find any less ridiculous despite its popularity), that people have actually bothered to put time and effort into creating. Every year thousands of people go on “Zombie Walks”, gathering in city centres across the world to limp around in torn clothes and green make-up, neither for charity nor some weird sexual thrill. People just like the concept and the aesthetics so much that you can now slap reanimated corpses into any old medium with no attempt at proper context and it’ll sell.
“The whole zombie thing has been done – if you’ll pardon the pun – to death”
I don’t know, maybe I’m just being too harsh and over-analytical of a trend which has become more about dumb fun than anything else. Maybe I just don’t get the whole zombie thing because I find them the least scary horror monsters since Night of the Living Bread. But for me the whole cultural phenomenon of zombies has expired. It’s stagnant and rotting away, flailing its useless limbs and dragging itself along in the hope of finding some kind of imaginative sustenance, something that might return it to its former status. Wait, I wonder if I could come up with an analogy for that..?