As we have seen zombies are inextricably linked with Frankenstein in our imaginations. The concept of the zombie has developed from a simple man created from reanimated dead body parts, to the idea of the voodoo zombie to all out zombie apocalypses. Many have argued that zombies reflect the human fear of technology and change in much the same way that the androids in the previous series of blog posts did. They combine our fear of what happens to us after we die, with our rightful fear that technology can be used to cause great damage to humankind. In the zombie genre of books, films, and television zombie apocalypses are inevitably caused by human misuse of technology such as; the detonation of nuclear weapons or the use of biochemical warfare agents.
This human frailty is also what causes us to fear change and the zombie genre reflects that. While Frankenstein only reflected the fear of modern industry and modern science as a very simple primitive level, the modern zombie genre of today reflects fears that are much more complex and more driven by massive world conflicts that involve many counties as well as the use of highly advanced science and technology that the average person does not understand. The zombie genre was created out of a fear of the unknown and these fears have only increased over the last 200 years.
The themes that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote about in 1818 are still present only they have increased in size and scope. People in modern society are what one could call obsessed with the idea of the zombie genre even if they do not directly watch zombie films, read zombie books, or play zombie video games. For example, our current obsession with remaining youthful could be construed as a means of avoiding the death that we fear, the inevitable death and decay that will cause human remains to look like something from a zombie horror movie. Our reluctance to accept new technology is also reflected in how we live our lives. After all the first home computers became available in the late 1970s but it has taken nearly 40 years for them to make it into nearly every home in America.
The concept of the zombie forces modern humans to confront out fear of what we do not understand. As this lack of understanding has changed and either grown or been reduced in terms of depth and scope, so to has the zombie genre changed. The more we discover the more we fear the unknown and this is seen in the level of violence and fear present in the zombie genre. While Frankenstein is neither a particularly violent book or novel, the film adaptation is much more violent. The same can also be said of other types of media (e.g. zombie survival video games which tend to be extremely graphic). The zombie genre overall reflects humanities need to survive great changes and our fear that we will not survive great change.
The most important aspect of understanding the zombie horror genre is that much like other genres of horror it reflects our essential humanity. To be human is to be afraid and fear is just a normal part of the human condition. Whether we fear a reanimated dead corpse or that mill job we now have that makes us work 40+ hours per week for less money than we made working for ourselves, humans are fearful creatures. Zombies are all of these fears bundled up in the form of a rotting animated corpse that has essentially changed very little in physical depiction since the days of Frankenstein. The technology and formats that the average person views or interacts with the zombie genre in have changed greatly since the 19th century and we have gone from reading about zombies in books, to watching them in films, to fighting them in video games but our essential reason for being interested in the concept or the idea of the zombie has remained the same for 200 years. We are both disgusted and fascinated with zombies because zombies reflect our basic animal selves, our thinking and feeling selves (in the case of Frankenstein’s monster) and the reality of what happens to us when we die. By studying and interacting with the various forms of media that have become a part of the zombie genre one learns not just about how writers perceive and see the undead but how the original concept developed by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley has been expanded and changed throughout the last two centuries.
Thus it can be concluded that zombies are a critical part of the human mythos, present in many cultures that reflect our fears of change and death. This fear of death and change is simply part of the human condition. Zombies reflect the idea that you cannot outrun either change or death, They are both as much a guaranteed part of life as paying taxes, or rent, They also reflect the temporary nature of what makes us essentially human, that being our spirit. While out bodies may remain here out spirits the core of what makes us a person inevitably depart the body to go wherever it is we believe we go when we die (dependent on religious belief or lack thereof). Like a soulless zombie the only things that we leave behind when we go is a rotting corpse.