Hey, let’s all pretend to be our own worst nightmare!
Can’t I just pretend I didn’t get eaten and die and come back, instead?
Perhaps one of the most persistently fascinating manifestations of the zombie’s overwhelming popularity and ascension to its undisputed position as the monster of the 21st century, people everywhere gleefully gather dressed and made-up as undead corpses. And I mean everywhere.
There are zombie proms
Zombie baseball games
Zombie pub crawls
Indeed, nearly every major city in North America has a zombie walk of some kind and most have become annual events (really, it’s more of a global phenomenon: London, Paris, Moscow, Recife, and Santiago all stage their own annual events as well). While these events are often held to raise money for charity or to try for world records, or even just to boost ticket sales, the explanation for the number of people that show up to these events year after year to shamble and moan with each other is simple: people enjoy pretending to be zombies. The more interesting (and difficult) question, however, is “Why?” What is it about this particular monster, and this particular time, that has allowed the zombie to transcend Halloween and the isolated cult followings typically enjoyed by most horror figures to achieve such cultural ubiquity?
Hello, my name is Emmanuel Abreu, and I am a Master’s candidate in English at SUNY Buffalo State. This blog is the focus of an independent study that I am conducting as part of my degree program and is one component of a three part attempt to make sense of all this zombie madness (that’s right: Buff State lets you study zombies and still takes you seriously). Although the other two parts will not, for the most part, intersect with this blog, I would still like to mention them briefly.
My Master’s thesis, “‘They’re Us, That’s All’: Zombies and the Horror of Familiarity,” explores the role of horror and “monsters” in shaping any culture’s understanding of itself by looking specifically at the development of the zombie figure over the years before focusing on zombie literature and film from the first decade of the 21st century. Ultimately, my thesis argues that what is most frightening about the zombie is not how different it is from us, but how similar.
In addition to my thesis, I am also co-teaching a senior seminar course at Buff State with my thesis adviser, Dr. Lorna Perez, as part of a Master’s project. The subject? Zombie fictions (predictable?). The course is designed to investigate how zombie narratives function to reflect and respond to various societal concerns and cultural anxieties. Working from the cultural studies model, we will be reading various zombie “texts,” including novels, short stories, and films, and discussing what they have to say about the culture that created them. My output for the project, however, will be a conference paper that considers various approaches to integrating film and alternative media into a literature classroom: not just to supplement texts, but as texts themselves.
Which brings me back to this here zombie blog. This blog is dedicated to everything that my project and thesis do not address. Everything that falls through the cracks. Because that’s where the meat is! TV shows, graphic novels and comic books, mass zombie gatherings, and ad campaigns. I also want to pay particularly close attention to the pervasive presence of zombies on the internet. So much of our engagement with the zombie figure finds its outlet online - in blogs and social media, on message boards and other online communities, or with self-made Youtube movies and crowd-sourced fiction like Dead Inside: Do Not Enter (a brilliant little epistolary “novel” created by Lost Zombies, a Bay area social network). By and large, though, these “texts” are ignored, both critically and in the classroom. This blog is my attempt to bridge that gap, to explore these works and interact with these communities where they reside. Sometimes serious. Sometimes silly. All zombies, all the time. Hopefully you enjoy the ride.