The Zombie Appeal, part 1: An odd puzzle.

13 Nov


I just finished season two of The Walking Dead. The show is tailor made for me; I’ve been fascinated by zombies since I was a child; George Romero is one of my heroes; I love post-apocalyptic fiction and movies; near the top of my favorite movies of all time is Night of the Living Dead; and I’m from Atlanta (where the show is filmed), and spent my summers wandering around the creeks and woods of Decatur with my cousin, Keith. I have a glowing nostalgia for the show’s locales and immense love for the show’s inspirations.

I like it, quite a lot at time, but I’m puzzled by its popularity. It has three modes: slow and ponderous; turgid and melodramatic; and ultra-violent and gory. It’s bleak. It’s derivative; I don’t see how it’s improved on the original Dawn of the Dead, save for elongating the story. In some sense, the scale of the show, with a few memorable set pieces, is smaller than its on-screen counterparts.

What’s so appealing by flesh-eating corpses?

The acting has improved, but originally it was quite awful. Ditto for the script (although with crackerjack Glen Mazzara as a producer, the writing is much punchier). Some of the episodes are weak, and many are repetitive. Some of the characters are thin, some are redundant. It’s clear some of the characters are the equivalent of the red-shirted Star Trek dudes; they are on the show just to die.

The show was popular from the start, and there’s something to its popularity beyond its quality. It has double the audience of Breaking Bad and almost triple the audience of Mad Men. Ten million more people watched the first episode of season three than Paul Thomas Anderson’s newest film, The Master. It’s a runaway smash, a blockbuster.

I’ve been working my way to figuring out why this is. So here’s a couple of entries on the history of zombies and why they’ve become more and more popular with age.


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