Zombies are everywhere today. Not literally, thankfully, but there can be no denying that the craze itself has stumbled into mainstream visibility in the recent years, almost becoming a genre in and of itself. With that in mind, we look at what made these brain-hungry monsters so popular, as well as the most popular examples we see today.
While the general idea of zombies had been around for a long while before the explosion in the modern media age, the origins see much of their popularity through a different avenue. This is the concept of the Egyptian mummies and life after death. It was here that the idea of the supernatural curses and practices kept our rapt attention for centuries, maintaining popularity long before zombies first shambled their first steps. These still enjoy considerable attention today, in a wide variety of media. From the recent Tom Cruise Mummy film, revolving around the curse of the undead to online games like the Book of Dead slot which invites the appeal of historical adventure, it was this base which helped prime modern cultural attitudes towards the mysterious undead.
In terms of modern zombie media, perhaps the most visible current example is that of The Walking Dead television series. Based on the comic of the same name from Robert Kirkman, this series, now in its 9th season, has seen popularity based on not just the threat of the looming zombie menace, but the inhumanity with which man treats man. Zombies may be the setting, but TWD sees humans as even more unpredictable, and in a way, this makes them an even greater threat.
The most popular of zombie novels take a different tack. The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z, both by Max Brooks, stand as the most successful here, both of which are presented in an epistolary style. Providing a more realistic interpretation, these books turn their focus to how individuals in different countries might handle the horde, and what tactics might more realistically prove useful against an enemy who’s already dead.
When it comes to video games, there are those which cover both the more bombastic and personal sides of the equation. For mass zombie-slaughtering carnage there are those like Valve’s Left 4 Dead series. While this series saw its last entry in 2009, fan interest maintains player server numbers, with hopes for a sequel still high.
On a more personal scale, there is The Last of Us, a game that takes place years after a zombie-led disaster cleared out the majority of humanity. With a sequel looking likely for mid to late 2019, hopes are high for Naughty Dog’s more human take on relationships and trust.
Taken as a whole, media representations of zombies are popular for a reason. It’s not just that we like to imagine how we would react in a world of almost guilt-free violence; it’s that, as a topic, zombies give an enormous versatility of focus. Television series excel at telling stories and exploring relationships through actors, so that is where they excel. Novels are capable of greater detail, so that is where they perform better. Video games can derive interest through sheer action, and the improving narrative capabilities both.
Looking at it this way it gives us an answer on why this topic is so popular – it is so open to interpretation. Drama, action, comedy, and more, the success in zombie media lies in it’s potential, and we would bet on this lending considerable longevity yet.
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