Several years ago I heard a talk by Nina Auerbach, author of OUR VAMPIRES, OURSELVES. She discussed the popularity of vampires in the media and the possibility that their dominance was waning. At the time, she predicted (partly on the basis of such movies as THE SIXTH SENSE) that ghosts would be the Next Big Thing in pop culture.
Vampires haven't faded into obscurity, by any means. They've been joined in urban fantasy and paranormal romance, however, by creatures such as werewolves, demons, angels, and witches. The main Next Big Thing in fiction and film, though, doesn't seem to be ghosts but zombies.
Why zombies? Personally, I don't see the attraction. They don't have nearly so much versatility as vampires (which display many different faces in both literature and folklore), and they lack the potential romantic allure of werewolves and demons. Does the theory that zombies symbolize a revulsion against the pervasiveness of "faceless" bureaucracies and mass market consumerism in our society account for their recent explosion in popularity? Do we have a horror of the mindless shambling hordes? Or a horror of BECOMING part of the mindless shambling hordes? Or does the zombie motif reflect a secular mindset that finds an afterlife in the all too physical body more believable than an ethereal afterlife in spirit (ghosts)? Or what?
Margaret L. Carter
Max’s Make Over, Part I
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