The Logic of the Zombie Pop Culture Phenomenon

Why the current generation of young adults love zombies in pop culture

The current generation of burgeoning adults, ranging from 17 to 30 years old, has developed a subset of horror fans with an insatiable appetite for zombies in pop culture. After working most of their day to earn lower to upper middle class wages, friends in this age group gather with wine and playing cards. Instead of discussing their goals, jobs and current life happenings they hold intense debate over plans for the hypothetical zombie apocalypse and how it relates to the walking undead in movies, music and literature.

It could be the onslaught of zombie movies and other media that prod this obsession. Critics of this movement should hesitate when choosing a culprit, however. Zombie movies have been around for decades. Rob Zombie, White Zombie- these musical artists are not new to this wave of twenty-somethings. The blitz of new zombie movies being made cannot be entirely blamed, either. These films simply would not be made if the global Zeitgeist wasn’t trending toward the genre.

One of the more recent zombie movies, a comedy, is 2009’s ZombieLand. Curious minds looking up the film’s director, Ruben Fleischer, will not find a stodgy middle aged man in a fancy tie sitting in a suave Hollywood office space. Fleisher is a hip, brooding twenty-something in a hooded sweatshirt that more resembles his avid audience than a successful auteur. ZombieLand is an irreverent comedy that breaks massive ground by allowing its characters to be aware of the existence of zombies in pop culture, and how to handle them. It is a hilarious movie that has become a cult classic in short order, proving that the zombie culture finds pleasure in laughing literally in the face of death.

The young adult’s sense of immortality is another factor in the generational obsession with everything zombies. By developing theoretical plans of hideouts and handy weaponry, these young people are exerting their immortality. Of course they will be the lone survivors of a global zombie plague, they have a plan!

The modern zombie movie is also radically different from its ancestors in terms of how the actual zombies are created. It is not a dark magic leak or voodoo rite, it’s the MAN. Some awful super flu or other pandemic is what causes the dead to rise again in modern zombie pop culture and those in power are to blame. In the 1960’s restless young adults could rebel against the Vietnam War, fight for civil rights and burn their bras in the name of women’s liberation. In the 1980’s they could delve into the revelry of Reaganomics. While the current generation has its fair share of hard times to “fight the powers that be” against, it can all seem somewhat futile in an age of widely known information, an economic recession and so much technology and multimedia. It can seem far beyond their control, far outside the scope of a rally or sit in.

Those in the zombie generation without the patience to bang their heads against the growing brick walls of healthcare, gay marriage rights or the global economy kick the MAN in the shins by planning against zombies. These horror fans are informed enough to know that if zombies do someday walk the earth, fault will lay at the government’s feet.

Whatever the reason, there are mobs of movie watchers, book readers and website creators that cannot get enough of zombies. This may not be a bad obsession, mind you. When Deadites and Rage Zombies (monsters from Evil Dead and 28 Days Later respectively) come knocking down your door, you know who to look for.


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