How Zombies Wormed Their Way to the Modern Culture

by admin

Often depicted as mindless corpses that seek out living flesh for their consumption and survival, zombies have infiltrated the 21st century pop culture. Zombies are associated as creatures with decaying flesh, sometimes randomly protruding bones and oozing blood controlled by a master: a virus, sorcery or dark magic. But what is most interesting about this folkloric character is how they have been romanticized in media depictions – from literary novels, video games to films, and the reactions of the modern man with the living dead.
Origins of Zombie
Before we go any deeper on the effects of the zombies to the modern culture, it is helpful to get further insights on the origins of zombie and its evolution to the present times. The most common story of the origin of zombie is one that is told in the Haitian culture. In the book Voodoo in Haiti by Alfred Metraux, the zombie (spelled zombie) in the book is described as person whose death has been recorded. The dead person’s burial was witnessed by friends and family, but is found several years later to be alive and controlled by a sorcerer called bokur.
From the Haitian folklore, the zombie has already been pictured as a living dead without his own willpower and bids the commands of his master. This zombie did not attack humans or eat flesh (yet), but it was depicted as a slow-moving living dead. The common people in Haiti met their ultimate fear with the zombi: it was not to be eaten by a zombie but to become one. So in efforts to stop possible zombification of the dead, Wade Devis went to Haiti to further investigate the phenomena. In his 1985 book Serpent and the Rainbow, he outlined that the bokur possibly used poison to rouse the dead from the grave but there were several antidotes to prevent this like sewing the corpse mouth or laying him face down to earth in order to disable him from answering the sorcerer’s call.
 Consuming Zombies in Our Daily Media
It is interesting to note that zombies have inched their way from their Haitian origin into our homes in the forms of popular consumable media: video games, films and literature.
Perhaps the first depiction of zombies in films was in 1932 in the filmWhite Zombie by Victor Halperin. Much like the zombie in the Haitian voodoo, the female living corpse in this movie was not flesh-eating. In fact, the producers refuse to portray zombies as cannibalistic by nature. But much like the bokur or sorcerer in the Haiti folklore, the zombie in this classic film was controlled by some form of hypnosis.
While these zombies spread terror in films, their nature became more violent and gore in the following decades. In the movie I am Legend released in 1954, a post-apocalyptic story of surviving a world-full of zombies in the suburbia. Much like the Haitian folklore, the zombies in these films are friends, family and neighbors who had been infected by some sort of a virus.
You can read more of this article in our Jan/Feb 2015 issue of ModelsMania

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