There’s much discussion about zombie movies but not as much about zombies themselves — and what they symbolise.
The zombie apocalypse has emerged as the metaphor of the decade
The zombie represents raw consumption. It does not seem to imbibe the things it consumes; it simply extinguishes them. And no matter how much it consumes, it’s hunger seems like a bottomless pit. It craves with singularity, and that craving becomes its very nature.
Unlike other monsters
The physical descriptions of zombies differ from other fantastical creatures. Vampires are flushed, mysterious, even sensual. Frankenstein’s monster is pitied, empathised with, understood. The werewolf is mystified (like the concept of a she-wolf). But zombies are ugly in the basest sense of the term, and hide nothing behind that exterior. The potency of the metaphor here is that zombies are inhuman in human form, completely dehumanised despite looking, for all intents and purposes, closest to human than any other fantastical creature.
A paradoxical nature
It is human and non-human, living and not living, cultural and non-cultural, natural and supernatural, suspended between fundamental binaries that most definitions presuppose.
Are zombies inherently evil?
Probably not, since they lack a brain and therefore lacks motive or malice or whatever it iss that makes something inherently evil. Its main crime is its obsession with brains; it is more the basest of sensibilities, a complete reduction of man short of death.
As fears change, zombies too
Zombies seem to be a pretty common metaphor, but its interesting that what zombies represent tends to change over time.
- 30s: feared evil spells -> zombie priests
- 40s: political strife -> mindless creatures with no will of their own
- 60s: feared radiation and government malfeasance -> zombies caused by secret government/ corporation experiments
- 00s: disease -> mutation/ escaped experiments