What Our Zombie Movies Tell Us About Our Attitudes Toward Science

There is no better barometer of the values and fears of our society than the monsters our culture creates. The zombie, in all its various formulations, has been interpreted in a multitude of ways: as a reflection of the political leanings of the United States, a response to Haitian slavery, as an expression of anxiety regarding globalization.What these types of interpretations often ignore, however, is the thread that stretches across all countries and their zombie films: the role of science. I don't mean the scientific possibility of a zombie or its use as an academic exercise, but the perception of science and its role in society.The 21st-century zombie renaissance began in 2002 with 28 Days Later and Resident Evil, two films whose plots were dependent upon the abuse of genetic engineering (and questionable scientific methods). For the next decade, the majority of mainstream zombie films followed the same premise, demonizing scientific intervention as the harbinger of the apocalypse.But that's changed. I'm an academic who specializes in the undead, and in my research, I've found that in the past eight years, zombie movies and television shows have shifted focus. In more recent tales, the primary causes of the zombie epidemic are natural, caused by an increased reliance on electronic technology, unknown, or quietly left out of the plot altogether. No longer do zombie viruses emerge from the lab. Instead, science becomes a mechanism for survival. Zombie apocalypse survivors are now shown dedicating time and effort to developing a cure or developing personal relationships in a demolished world. In other words, the origin of the disease is less important than humanity's need for hope of survival.  Continue reading...

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