Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why is the Zombie Apocalypse so Intriguing?

Views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the Writing Rogues as a whole.

Recently I watched an anime called High School of the Dead and just a few minutes ago I finished the manga.  Zombies attack a high school and the main characters fight their way out and shenanigans ensue.  It's a little heavy on gore and fan service, but, even so, I enjoyed it.  It made me wonder: why did I enjoy it?  Why do many people find the zombie apocalypse such an intriguing premise and environment?  I think there are several reasons.

First the inconvenient trappings of modern life everyone dislikes, such as taxes, paperwork and the larger status quo, have been wiped away.  There are no rules except those you make for yourself and those necessary for survival.  It's an opportunity to remake your life without the restrictions of a higher authority.  In the zombie apocalypse you have the opportunity to take initiative and change the status quo.  Many people feel like they do not have the same options for taking the initiative in our structured society.

I think the growth of government power in the West over the years is part of the reason apocalypse stories have grown in popularity.  A more powerful government can impose a more rigid structure and people then feel more restrained.  Whatever logical arguments may be made for this or that law, there are still those who feel themselves prisoners of circumstance and the structure of a society they were born into without much input about how it should work; I think this is true especially in the case of Millennials, many of whom have entered the workforce since the 2008 Recession.  You can see it in the success of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Whatever you may think of their ideas, their success represents disillusionment with the status quo among significant segments of the population.  Socialist paradise is one means of destroying the status quo, Trump's brand of politics is another. The zombie apocalypse is yet another means we can fantasize about, even if logically we would never want it to happen.  If you do find yourself subject to a higher authority in the zombie apocalypse at least you'll probably have met them face to face.  It's not going to be some bureaucrat or politician in Washington or Santa Fe.

A second reason for the popularity of the zombie apocalypse and apocalypse in general is related to my first point, but not quite the same.  Life in the zombie apocalypse is simpler.  You don't need to worry about all the myriad little things anymore.  There's only one thing that matters and that's survival.  In the zombie apocalypse what's left of humanity is forced lower in the hierarchy of needs and many people can't help but be attracted by that simplicity on some level, even if they would never really want to experience it.

A third reason for the popularity of the zombie apocalypse is the opportunity it represents for a man to be manly.  What could give a man greater pride than smashing the heads of mindless monsters who wish to eat his woman?  There aren't any frontiers to explore, there's not much anarchy to battle, or even big wars to fight.  Certainly Iraq and Afghanistan were no laughing matter but in general the world is more peaceful today than it has been in past eras.  All of this means there aren't so many opportunities to do the manly task of defending the household and greater community.  Related to that is a largely subconscious resistance to today's brand of feminism.  Diminishing opportunities for displays of manliness are disappointing enough without adding in the emasculating influence of present-day feminism.  In the zombie apocalypse manly men are needed to take risks, kick ass, and defend the community, and opportunities for extravagant displays of manliness are common.  Many men like the idea of kicking ass and defending the community.  It appeals to our pride and it would be a source of self esteem and identity that many find appealing.

A fourth reason for the popularity of the zombie apocalypse is that we can think to ourselves, "What would I do?"  There are so many things to consider.  How do I get resources?  How do I kill or avoid the zombies?  How am I going to interact with other people or other groups of people?  All of these things are parts of the larger question: How do I survive?  It's a fun mental exercise that we hope to never use.

All of this is assuming you're not one of the people who becomes a zombie of course.