What is it Going to Take for Us to get Sick of Zombies in our Popular Culture?
It used to be that zombie movies were their own genre. Much like action, romance, or detective movies, zombie apocalypse films could give audiences a familiar story — the slow burn discovery of a zombie epidemic that soon overtakes the world is as familiar as chocolate cake — and layer interesting characters, themes, and twists on top of it, like frosting. Day of the Dead, one of the very best zombie movies, is essentially a perfect vanilla cake topped with a really weird, interesting coconut meringue.
This It's is kind of cake I want served at my birthday party.
But ever since Shaun of the Dead combined zombies with the romantic comedy — and let's be honest, the romantic comedy needed it — we've seen the zombie genre itself become less of a cake and more frosting. It seems that whenever an entertainment property needs a jolt, they haphazardly throw zombies into the mix. We've seen this zombie-as-addendum-fad happen to South Park, Red Dead Redemption, Crackdown, Pride and Prejudice, Community, Call of Duty, and even Marvel's superheroes.
No better feeling than knowing ALL MY HEROES ARE DEAD.
Zombies in pop culture have become so widespread that even franchises that had been purged of zombies now have zombies again. Capcom made the decision to take zombies out of Resident Evil starting Resident Evil 4, replacing them with the more intelligent Ganados. But with last month's release of Resident Evil 6, the zombies are back, meaning that even those we thought were cured are still susceptible to infection.
"This is like déjà vu all over again!" my functionally brain dead
uncle would say if he played Resident Evil 6 in an attempt
to connect with me.
Listen, I love zombies, and I want them to be culturally relevant as possible. So the question is, is this a problem? Should there be movies, books, and video games specifically devoted to telling zombie stories or should zombies play a role in other stories. To resurrect a long-dead metaphor, do zombies function better as cake or as frosting? On one hand, there's the risk of overexposing zombies, and making everyone sick of them.
On the other hand, zombies have been hastily added to stories for a long, LONG time.
Maybe it's good for zombies to ebb and flow in and out of pop culture. The argument could be made that zombie movies were becoming stagnant, with every zombie movie having a ruthless, inhuman military and some form of the "run and find somewhere new to survive or hide in the basement where it's safe" dilemma. But I do believe zombies are in danger of being overexposed. If we're going to save zombies from death, then for right now. It's time for zombies to pull back. And the first step is quarantine.
No zombies in any movies besides zombie movies.
And then, as new zombie-specific movies are released, we can study them. Find out what makes zombie movies so appealing.
"Heyyy, they can still have a BRAIN."
Then, we can think back on what made zombies' appearances in superhero comics, western video games, and animated TV shows successful. Those lessons can then be brought BACK to stand-alone zombie films.
In other words, we can teach zombie films new things.
And soon, we'll have zombie movies that are better, stronger, and smarter than they were before. We can have a whole new kind of zombie movie. A zombie movie that could gain some cultural respect. A zombie movie that could win an Oscar. A zombie movie that could attract some A-list talent. Can you imagine? A zombie played by Robert Pattinson?
And then we'll have a zombie movie we'd be really comfortable to invite into our homes.
Are you tired of zombies in your popuylar culture yet? Let me know on twitter @mikeyfromsu or in the comments below!
Check out Has the Zombie Apocalypse Already Begun?