Zombies. They're everywhere in popular culture. They're in movies, and TV shows, and books. They're on Mythbusters, and they're on the range.
Okay, I admit it - this craze has pretty much passed me by. I'm just not all that interested. Yeah, it's fun to joke about the Zombie Apocalypse, or use it as a preparation metaphor for virtually any disaster - see the CDC http://emergency.cdc.gov/socialmedia/zombies.asp
But other than that, the phenomenon has just not grabbed me like it seems to have with the rest of the population. So, I've been pondering what the fascination is.
I read this article recently, which makes some sense, but I don't think it delves far enough.
The article pretty much stops at the politico-social situation currently. But I think there is more to it than that. I think that our feel-good society has gotten to the point where it isn't socially acceptable to have "enemies" anymore. You are supposed to love and understand everyone, and excuse their awful behavior, because "compassion", or because "repressed", or because "underprivileged". I think that zombies have become this generation's "Nazis" - the guaranteed enemy that nobody minds if you hate, and nobody minds if you kill -- Because there isn't anyone else left. Zombies are the last bastion of Acceptable Bad Guys.
When I was a kid we played Good Guys vs Bad Guys all the time. These were pre-Offense-at-Anything days, so sometimes the Bad Guys were western outlaws, sometimes they were Indians, sometimes they were Nazis or Japanese, and sometimes they were even "guards at the orphanage". (Yeah, that one was basically a kid mash-up of "Annie" and "Hogan's Heroes" that a couple childhood friends and I used to play LOL.) I fear that modern sheltered kids don't even play let's pretend games like this anymore, but that's a whole other topic.
But the point is, there were always Bad Guys in some form or other who had to be vanquished or escaped from. Nowadays though, you can't have "Bad Guys" without being accused of being racist, or classist, or sexist, or culturally insensitive, or offending someone in some way. The Nazis have been sort of the last to go - probably because they are white European types, and it's still ok to hate them. Oh, and Confederates - those are white guys who it's still ok to hate, too.
Other previous groups our country has been at war with, like the Native American tribes, the Japanese, the North Koreans, the Red Chinese, the North Vietnamese, and more recently Middle Eastern Extremists (of an unnamed religion), all fall under the "racist" umbrella as even fantasy-game bad guys. It is just not socially acceptable to portray these groups as enemies or Bad Guys - even in a game or fiction.
This apparently extends to humans of any type - even cardboard humans. A few years ago I showed a non-shooter friend a video of me shooting an IDPA stage. Her response - "So you shoot people?" - took me aback for a minute. She was communicating her disapproval of using a cardboard cutout of vaguely humanoid proportions, and was equating that with shooting actual people. It took me awhile to formulate an appropriate response, but I replied that - Yes, in a way, I shoot "people". Not because I have murder in my heart, but because if I should ever have need to defend myself, it will likely not be from "Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!", but from predators of my own species. Thus, the cardboard cutouts are of vaguely human geometry.
Yup - Society has gotten to the point that you can be socially ostracized for showing aggression even to cardboard of human-ish resemblance.
But, enter Zombies.
Zombies are not people anymore. Maybe they used to be your neighbors, and maybe they still look roughly human, but now they want to eat you. They are dead (okay, UNdead), and rotting and ugly, and thus not pleasing to the eye like a human enemy, so there is little chance that you might be squeamish when pulling the trigger. You don't have to work to psychologically "dehumanize" your enemy, because they are already sort of un-human. Literal disgust for your enemy is perfectly ok, and even expected. (Wouldn't you be disgusted by rotting flesh?) It is also difficult to re-kill a zombie, so employing methods which would otherwise be considered gruesome are perfectly ok. Think heads shots, chainsaw, etc.
In short, zombies are humans that are socially acceptable enemies. (That is, until some "Respect the Undead" group comes along). People who wouldn't otherwise consider themselves aggressive or bloodthirsty really get off when it comes to zombies. To me, it is evidence that there is some heavy-duty psychological repression and dissonance going on. It may be just harmless fantasy for most. But some people scare me, in that they work to disarm their fellow citizens against REAL dangers, and yet gain gratification from employing fantasy weapons against fantasy enemies.
It is as if these folks pretend to have no connection at all to their very human and normal urges to protect or defend, because even defensive "aggression" is discouraged and suppressed in our society. Kids at school are punished for defending themselves against a violent bully. You can be ostracized as a weirdo if you recognize and prepare yourself for genuine dangers like sexual assault or home invasion, or you are concerned about the influx of potential bad actors into the country, yet those who upbraid you for preparing for the real world, then turn around and cheer their favorite zombie hunter characters on TV or practice their head shots on video games.
I'm thinking that this isn't particularly healthy - for either the individual or the country.
But what do I know. I'm just a grumpy old gal who used to play "Orphanage".