Zombie apocalypse

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A zombie apocalypse is a particular scenario of apocalyptic literature; in a zombie apocalypse, a widespread rise of zombies hostile to human life engages in a general assault on civilization.

In some stories, victims of zombies may become zombies themselves if they are bitten by zombies or if a zombie-creating virus travels by air, sexually, or by water; in others, everyone who dies, whatever the cause, becomes one of the undead. In some cases, parasitic organisms can cause zombification by killing their hosts and reanimating their corpses, though some argue that this is not a true zombie; in the later scenario zombies also prey on the living and their bite causes an infection that kills. In either scenario, this causes the outbreak to become an exponentially growing crisis: the spreading "zombie plague" swamps law enforcement organizations, the military as well as health care services leading to the panicked collapse of civil society until only isolated pockets of survivors remain. Basic services such as piped water supplies and electrical power shut down, mainstream mass media cease broadcasting and the national government of affected countries collapses or goes into hiding, the survivors usually begin scavenging for food, weapons and other supplies in a world reduced to a mostly pre-industrial hostile wilderness. There is usually a 'safe zone' where the non-infected can seek refuge and begin a new era.

Genre[edit]

History[edit]

George A. Romero was an early contributor to the genre with his 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead.

A begining inspirational work of the genre was Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend (1954), which featured a lone survivor named Robert Neville waging a war against a human population transformed into vampires.[1] The novel has been adapted into several screenplays, including The Last Man on Earth (1964), starring Vincent Price, and The Omega Man (1971), starring Charlton Heston. A 2007 film version also titled I Am Legend starred Will Smith, in a more contemporary setting.[2] George A. Romero began the idea with his apocalyptic feature Night of the Living Dead (1968) from Matheson, but substituted vampires with shuffling ghouls, identified after its release as zombies.[3]

Thematic subtext[edit]

The literary subtext of a zombie apocalypse is usually that civilization is inherently fragile in the face of truly unprecedented threats and that most individuals cannot be relied upon to support the greater good if the personal cost becomes too high,[4] the narrative of a zombie apocalypse carries strong connections to the turbulent social landscape of the United States in the 1960s when the originator of this genre, the film Night of the Living Dead, was first created.[5][6] Many also feel that zombies allow people to deal with their own anxiety about the end of the world.[7] Kim Paffenroth notes that "more than any other monster, zombies are fully and literally apocalyptic ... they signal the end of the world as we have known it."[8]

Story elements[edit]

There are several common themes and tropes that create a zombie apocalypse:

  1. Initial contacts with zombies are extremely traumatic, causing shock, panic, disbelief and possibly denial, hampering survivors' ability to deal with hostile encounters.[9]
  2. The response of authorities to the threat is slower than its rate of growth, giving the zombie plague time to expand beyond containment. This results in the collapse of the given society. Zombies take full control while small groups of the living must fight for their survival.[9]
Night of the Living Dead established most of the tropes associated with the genre, including the unintelligent but relentless behavior of zombies.[10]

The stories usually follow a single group of survivors, caught up in the sudden rush of the crisis, the narrative generally progresses from the onset of the zombie plague, then initial attempts to seek the aid of authorities, the failure of those authorities, through to the sudden catastrophic collapse of all large-scale organization and the characters' subsequent attempts to survive on their own. Such stories are often squarely focused on the way their characters react to such an extreme catastrophe, and how their personalities are changed by the stress, often acting on more primal motivations (fear, self-preservation) than they would display in normal life.[9][11]

Generally the zombies in these situations are the slow, lumbering and unintelligent kind first made popular in the 1968 film Night of the Living Dead.[10] Motion pictures created within the 2000s, however, have featured zombies that are more agile, vicious, intelligent, and stronger than the traditional zombie;[12] in many cases of "fast" zombies, creators use living humans infected with a pathogen (as in 28 Days Later, Zombieland and Left 4 Dead), instead of re-animated corpses, to avoid the "slow death walk" of Romero's variety of zombies.

Reception[edit]

Academic research[edit]

According to a 2009 Carleton University and University of Ottawa epidemiological analysis, an outbreak of even Living Dead's slow zombies "is likely to lead to the collapse of civilization, unless it is dealt with quickly." Based on their mathematical modelling, the authors concluded that offensive strategies were much more reliable than quarantine strategies, due to various risks that can compromise a quarantine. They also found that discovering a cure would merely leave a few humans alive, since this would do little to slow the infection rate.

On a longer time scale, the researchers found that all humans end up turned or dead, this is because the main epidemiological risk of zombies, besides the difficulties of neutralizing them, is that their population just keeps increasing; generations of humans merely "surviving" still have a tendency to feed zombie populations, resulting in gross outnumbering. The researchers explain that their methods of modelling may be applicable to the spread of political views or diseases with dormant infection.[13]

The Zombie Institute for Theoretical Studies (ZITS) is a program through the University of Glasgow, it is headed by Dr. Austin. Dr. Austin is a character that has been created by the university to be the face of ZITS, the ZITS team is dedicated to using real science to explain what could be expected in the event of an actual zombie apocalypse. Much of their research is used to disprove common beliefs about the zombie apocalypse as shown in popular media, they have published one book (Zombie Science 1Z) and give public "spoof" lectures on the subject.[14]

Government[edit]

On May 18, 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published an article, Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse providing tips on preparing to survive a zombie invasion.[15] The article does not claim an outbreak is likely or imminent, but states: "That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this...." The CDC goes on to summarize cultural references to a zombie apocalypse. It uses these to underscore the value of laying in water, food, medical supplies, and other necessities in preparation for any and all potential disasters, be they hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, or hordes of ravenous brain-devouring undead.[15]

The CDC provides a Zombie Pandemic graphic novel.[16]

Weather[edit]

On October 17, 2011, The Weather Channel published an article, "How To Weather the Zombie Apocalypse" that included a fictional interview with a Director of Research at the CDD, the "Center for Disease Development".[17] Based on a seasonal attraction in the Atlanta area called The Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, Weather.com interviews "Dr. Dale Dixon" (subtle references to characters in AMC's "The Walking Dead") asking questions about how different weather conditions affect zombies abilities.[18] Questions answered include "How does the temperature affect zombies' abilities? Do they run faster in warmer temperatures? Do they freeze if it gets too cold?"[17]

Genre examples[edit]

Films[edit]

Comics[edit]

Literature[edit]

Television[edit]

Video games[edit]

Role-playing games[edit]

Music[edit]

  • The zombie parody of The Beatles, the Zombeatles, began in 2006 with the song "Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead" and are set in a world where the zombies have eaten all the remaining humans.[60]
  • Technical death metal band Brain Drill's 2008 album Apocalyptic Feasting has cover art and songs depicting a zombie apocalypse.
  • All music, lyrics and imagery surrounding metal/hardcore band Zombie Apocalypse revolve around the idea of a zombie apocalypse.
  • The 2008 Metallica music video for the song "All Nightmare Long" features the Soviet Union using a spore found after the Tunguska event on the United States to covertly create an army of zombies, and then openly destroy all of them, in order to take over the US.[61]
  • Metalcore band The Devil Wears Prada released their Zombie EP on August 24, 2010. The five song EP is about an impending zombie apocalypse derived from lead vocalist Mike Hranica's strong interest in the subject.[62]
  • Songwriter Jonathon Coulton's 2006 "Re:Your Brains" satirizes office culture and buzzwords using the zombie apocalypse theme. Incidentally, this song can be played on the various jukeboxes found in Left 4 Dead 2, as it plays, a zombie horde is summoned.
  • Send More Paramedics were a horror film-influenced crossover thrash band from Leeds in the north of England. The band played in the 1980s crossover style, what they described as "Zombiecore...a fusion of 80s thrash and modern hardcore punk", with lyrics about zombies and cannibalism, and are heavily influenced by zombie movies. On-stage, they dressed as zombies.
  • The zombie apocalypse is frequently depicted in explicit detail in songs by death metal legends Cannibal Corpse.

See also[edit]

  • Zombie Squad, a non-profit charitable organization that uses an upcoming zombie apocalypse as its shtick.

References[edit]

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External links[edit]