In different cultures around the world, we can find zombies or zombies-like legends. Generally speaking, zombies mostly refer to a kind of resurrected dead people. Their bodies are rotten, unconscious, and may be aggressive and contagious. Therefore, zombies can easily cause people’s discomfort and fear. With the development of culture and the elimination of superstitions, in many countries, such as China, the stories of zombies have been gradually forgotten, and no one believes them anymore.
However, the United States, which is scientifically advanced and culturally diverse, is an exception. From the publication of the zombie novel “Magic Island” by William Seabrook in 1929, to today’s hugely successful zombie drama “The Walking Dead”, which has been aired in the seventh season, zombie culture has been popular in the United States for nearly a hundred years. In the long hundred years, zombies have continuously appeared in books, games, movies, and even penetrated into the real lives of Americans, becoming an extremely important part of American culture.
Looking back at the zombie plots of the Americans for nearly a century, we will find that the reason why the American zombie culture is enduring is because zombies not only bring fear and stimulation to Americans, they also trust Americans’ human nature and social environment. And reflections on political trends.
Early zombie culture
American culture is actually born out of the zombie voodoo in Haiti in the 19th century. Haiti is an island country in the Caribbean Sea close to the United States. Since the 17th century, the French have continuously brought black slaves from West Africa here. According to West African folklore, if a person dies abnormally, such as by murder, then he will “unsatisfy” and lie stiff in the grave. At this time, the wizard has a way to resurrect the corpse and dominate every move of the corpse. On the basis of the primitive culture of West Africa, the Haitians developed voodoo. The wizards in the teaching can use witchcraft to resurrect the corpses, but these corpses are unaware. Feeding them salt will restore their self-consciousness. Voodoo calls these living dead in a fuzzy state between life and death as “zombies.”
At the beginning of the 20th century, many Americans came to Haiti to open farms and plantations and employed a large number of black slaves, but Americans were still very afraid of the mysterious voodoo. In 1929, American William Seabrook came to Haiti to live for a while, and wrote his own experience in the book “Magic Island”. In the book, Seabrook mentioned that he had witnessed zombies working on a plantation in Haiti. For example, a passage in the book describes the encounter between Seabrook and a “zombie” at the American Sugar Company: “His (zombie’s) eyes are the most terrifying, beyond my imagination. They are really like the eyes of a dead person. , Not blind, but staring ahead, at a loss, turning a blind eye to me. His face is even worse, completely blank, as if there is nothing on his face. This seems to be not only a blank face, but a lack of expression at all . ”
We are almost certain that the nervous “zombie” standing in front of Seabrook is a slave employed by the Americans. These slaves lived in a filthy and filthy environment, had no food to eat, and had to work 18 hours a day. Of course, they would not have a good face. But Seabrook ignored this. In “Magic Island”, he used the eye-catching “zombie writing” to describe these slaves, making zombies a sensational social topic in the United States. The major media began to rush to report, and many reporters personally went to the Haitian plantation to inquire about the news. At this time, the United States is also becoming the center of the world’s cinema, so in 1932, the first zombie film in the United States-“White Zombie” was released.
The film takes Haiti as the stage. A white couple came to Haiti to get married, but another planter fell in love with the woman of the couple, so a despicable conspiracy appeared. The planter recruited a witch The poison wizard turned this woman into a zombie, and later developed to turn all Haitian white beauties into zombies… But in the end, the white couple was unscathed, and the voodoo wizard was pushed off the cliff.
”White Zombie” was very successful at the box office, sparking a wave of zombie films in the 1930s and 1940s in the United States. The zombie culture of this period has some common characteristics: the storylines are all based on Haiti’s voodoo religion, reflecting Americans’ fear of foreign and mysterious cults, discrimination against black slaves, and insecurity caused by foreign colonial aggression. sense.
Advocate for “political fear” and social issues
In the 1940s, zombies have evolved from the little-known Haitian folklore to a widely spread culture throughout the United States-they appeared in various songs, topics of radio shows, and featured mascots in nightclubs. However, as the political situation changed, zombies quickly gained new symbolic meaning.
At that time, Americans were entering a period of history full of fears and worries. This fear stemmed from the political situation at home and abroad. The Second World War brought military pressure to Americans; the invention of the atomic bomb made Americans feel the nuclear threat; the rise of the Soviet Union brought pressure from the Cold War… Zombie culture became a window for Americans to vent their political fears. In the 1941 movie “The King of Zombies”, a US military plane crashed into an island country in the Caribbean. The pilot encountered a foreign spy in the island country. The spy was using the zombies to steal war information from an American admiral. In the 1943 movie “Zombie Revenge”, an evil medical doctor secretly created a zombie army in Louisiana, USA, in order to help Nazi Germany win the war.
At the end of World War II, in August 1945, the US military dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1949, the Soviet Union’s first atomic bomb was also successfully tested. Americans were afraid of nuclear radiation and communism. The mood of “red terror” also began to affect zombie culture. Revealed in. The 1954 comic “Zombie: From East Coast to West Coast” is a typical example. In the comics, the gravediggers in the United States launched a strike in order to fight for their personal rights, resulting in a large number of dead bodies in the United States that could not be buried. At this time, the Soviet Union secretly sent the corpse into a “teaching tank” (this tank can teach a corpse to become a zombie), forming the “Zombie World Alliance”, step by step occupying the White House, the United States, Europe and the world. But the entire zombie riot was finally quelled by an atomic bomb. On the last page of the comic, the Soviet villain screamed: “The body tissue of the zombie cannot withstand the attack of nuclear radiation!”
Entering the 1960s, the United States entered the most turbulent period in history-assassinations and assassinations (Kennedy and Martin Lu Dekin died in this period), the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and non-mainstream hippie culture caused The turmoil in American society. It was also during this period that “Godfather of Zombie Movies” George Romero directed the revolutionary zombie movie “Night of the Living Dead”. In “Night of the Living Dead”, the young woman Barbara and her cousin met countless zombies during a tomb sweep in the countryside. After she fled into the farm, she met other asylum seekers, including black Ben, white Harry, and a couple Young lovers and a couple with a young daughter. In order to survive, these refugees temporarily united against the zombies, but the ending of the film is tragic-Harry was killed by Ben; a young lover was bombed to death; a couple was eaten by a daughter who became a zombie; Bara was taken by a group of zombies and became the dinner for all the zombies; the only survivor who escaped the attack of the zombies was killed by the white policeman.
”Night of the Living Dead” was released five months after Martin Luther King was assassinated. The film is full of political colors and directly addresses the social problems of this country. The tense conflict between the black man and the white Harry continued throughout, and finally killed each other, reflecting the sharp racial contradictions in the United States; the selfish father was killed by a zombie girl, reflecting the American family problems and rebellion against traditional culture; even At the end of the movie, the news anchor mentioned the use of “search and destroy” to deal with zombies in the broadcast, which insinuates the setbacks encountered by the US military in the Vietnam War-the US military used this tactic against the Viet Cong in Vietnam, but the Viet Cong U.S. forces were dragged into the war of attrition by using the crisscross favorable terrain.
The new moral zombie culture
has experienced political turmoil in the 1960s, the zombie theme is still in the game, film, novels focused, but the implication with the new changes: there is fear for the repeated outbreaks of plague; there Concerns about the unknown effects of new technologies; and reflections on the dark side of human nature… For example, the games “Resident Evil”, “The Four of the Dead”, “Plants vs. Zombies”, and the TV series “The Walking Dead”, etc. Compared with the past, the zombie culture now carries more diverse meanings. In “Resident Evil”, the evil organization “Umbrella Company” developed the T-type virus in order to develop anti-aging drugs, which can resurrect dead bodies as zombies. In the follow-up series of “Resident Evil”, people in almost all countries in the world have been infected, but the umbrella company is still studying a new generation of viruses in secret bases. The movies “I Am A Legend” and “28 Days of Surprise” also have similar plots. Scientists have conducted some messy experiments, and the zombie plague was released. Although these zombie plagues are varied, the underlying reasons are roughly the same, that is, humans abuse technology in order to indulge their own desires.
The famous American drama “The Walking Dead” also shows the catastrophe that humans experience in the end of the world filled with zombie plague, but zombies are not the only problem that survivors have to face. The world in “The Walking Dead” is full of mourning, zombies are everywhere, and humans seem to have returned to the tribal era. The various tribes lingered in the cracks, only interested in self-preservation. In the 7-season (and follow-up) storyline, Rick Grimes has tossed around in order to survive, constantly being harmed and threatened by armed bandits, Speed Party thugs, and fanatical cult leaders. Through his experience, the dark side of human nature was completely revealed in the disaster. For example, Rick’s friend Sean wanted to shoot and kill Rick in order to take Rick’s wife and replace Rick’s leadership position. Although the handsome governor was resourceful and courageous, his personality was abnormal. Living people do experiments, murder and rob and set up conspiracies in order to plunder resources. Therefore, in “The Walking Dead”, compared with zombies, people’s indifference, viciousness, unscrupulous means, and fighting are more terrifying.
Of course, in addition to serious themes, the zombie culture in the United States today also has a very interesting part. Zombies are dead people, although they are resurrected, they can never truly become humans. So their clumsy and depressing images are somewhat sarcastic, which is a good spiritual spice for Americans who are naturally humorous. Therefore, in the United States, activities such as zombie bars, zombie long-distance running competitions, and zombie role-playing emerge in endlessly. The game “Plants vs. Zombies” and the 2016 new movie “Zombie 15” (also called “Zombie City”, tells the story of American veterans vs. zombies, is a movie full of meaty jokes and spoofs). Use zombies to play a masterpiece of funny expertise. From the funny role of zombies, we can see that although zombie culture has different characteristics in different times, one thing will not change-zombies can resonate with Americans in various ways, providing them with a window to vent their emotions. This is the fundamental reason why zombie culture continues to flourish in the United States.