Saturday, January 16, 2016

Why Zombie?

iZombie's Rose McIver
Hi Everyone,

While watching the return of iZombie this week (Method Head, S02E10), it struck me how much these creature have evolved – Zombies, that is, not the CW or TV show runners in general (though maybe them too!).

As I wrote in a 2013 review of Warm Bodies, romance wasn’t the most expected direction the Zombie genre could take.

But maybe social psychologist Sara Sutler-Cohen can make sense of it:
"On-screen zombies have always reflected their era, creating a cultural arc and a ‘mirror image of what’s happening in society at that moment’."
If that's the case, the original attributes of zombies (White Zombie in 1932) including lack of speech or self-awareness, single-minded hunger for human flesh, slow, staggering gait, unstoppable, corpse like physicality controlled by a voodoo master, mirror something of the times. The zombie image didn’t waver much for the next seventy years and might reflect a culture grappling with issues of power, control, freewill and self-determination. Maybe throw in fear of death.

Not until 1985 do we see a change with the first brain-eating zombies (in Return of the Living Dead, directed by Dan O’Bannon). It makes them even more terrifying as the brain (memories, choice, more impulse control) indicates our conscious volition and individuality. Our identity. This might correspond to the the post-modern perception of perpetual incompleteness and deconstructivism where reference to cultural, ideological and moral opinions are reappraised (the death of the author - a zombie ate their brains?)

French TV drama series Les revenants
By the 2000s, we start to see quicker, more dynamic and resourceful zombies. They're becoming a lot more like us. In Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002), these iSmart zombies are the results of infection, not magic. The fear is what can 'get into us' from the outside - AIDS, Bird Flu, Ebola . . .

Then came 2010 with Isaac Marion’s archetype shattering novel, WarmBodies were our hero is a zombie who falls in love and turns into a real boy again.  It was followed by the French TV drama series Les revenants, or The Returned (2012), with deceased teenagers returning home years after her death, complete with memories, self-awareness and angst.

Warm Bodies - a Zombie love story
The latest in the tropes in of highly functional zombies is the Olivia Moor character on iZombie. She's a top med-student and fiancé turned zombie. In this new, DC Comic based, Zombie universe, the affliction has it’s perks in the form of memories (where eating the brains for a victim can lead to solving the crime.) Liv Moore not only can love individuals, she's driven to help others as well. Quite the turnaround from 1932s White Zombie.

Does this mean we, as a reading and viewing collective, are opening up to the perceived, monstrous 'others' out there in the world? Are we connecting with our inner dark side and transforming it through love? Definitely a thought I want to explore

And no, my next book is not a zombie romance, (it's an urban fantasy featuring Ava Sykes - a creature of a whole other kind), but I do think we can learn from this collective shift toward monsters with heart.

How about you? A fan of the zombie? New or old? Feel free to share in the comments. xxKimmy

Kim Falconer is a Supernatural Underground author writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, YA and epic science fantasy novels.

You can find out more about Kim at the 11th House Blog, and on FaceBook and Twitter.

She posts here at the Supernatural Underground on the 16th of every month and runs Save the Day Writer's Community on Facebook.

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