Throughout history each generation has had its monumental problem that at times has seemed insurmountable and infects everyone in sight. And just when it seemed that problem could not be conquered, in rode the hero.
Whether the hero was a white knight, or a man in tights with a bold S across his chest, the hero rose to the occasion.
From time to time society has a hard time pinpointing their particular problem, though a true pressing force it seemed invisible or faceless. And when a face can’t be pinned down, society would often choose a zombie to illustrate its frustrations in the cinema.
Zombies originated from Haitian Voodoo, and the word means “spirits of the dead,” in Haitian. Legend says when a family became extremely annoyed by someone, they would hire a Bokor, a Voodoo priest who practiced black magic, to administer a certain powder, called coup padre, which would turn the annoying into a zombie. Films started with this idea of zombies, but as societal pressures mounted and changed, so did the concept of zombies.
And although society isn’t a Voodoo priest, they did take a problem they were so terribly annoyed with and turned it into a zombie.
In the 30’s and 40’s zombies were portrayed as creatures controlled by some unknown and evil master, unable to think for themselves. Across the ocean, in real life, it seemed that Hitler was that unknown master with an army of zombies, too afraid to break from his control.
In the 50’s and 60’s the role that society required the zombies to play shifted, and they became more sinister, more vicious. Though still controlled by an unknown master, the reanimated dead craved human flesh, turning on what was once their own kind. During the cold war, the fear of spies and straying from societal norms was as rampant as the zombie’s flesh-eating disease. Friends, neighbors and even family members would turn each other in for communistic tendencies or acting an enemy to state, becoming cannibals of thought.
The 60’s also presented America with a new kind of horror, the Vietnam War, and the brutality seen in the war was mirrored in the way zombies were portrayed.
Towards the end of the 60’s and heading into the 70’s and 80’s zombies took on the role of immoral beings who participated in incestual acts and cannibalism, which spoke for the time of “free love,” no rules and the general lack of societal morality.
And with our intensely technological world, perhaps zombies in the future will transform into cyborg-like creatures, undead machines, manifesting the fear of technology taking over the world.
It doesn’t seem to matter what the public fears, zombies become the perfect villains. Their gruesome faces become the picture of mankind’s problems, and for a few bucks the world can see their problems conquered on the silver screen, and once their dilemma is given a flesh decaying face, then it is time for the heroes to arise and save the day.