George Romero’s 1978 zombie flick Dawn of the Dead wasn’t a zombie movie; it was a movie about commercialism and how we’d become slaves to objects. So much so that the very draw of the mall would bring the undead masses from natural modern instinct. Yes, not even death could stop you from wanting a new pair of Converse tennis shoes, polyester pants or Star Wars action figures.
Flash forward to the very sad news of days of rioting in London. Growing mobs attacking people and stealing all the electronics or clothes they can with no care of who gets hurt. Just as Romero’s zombies are instinctively drawn to the place they were in life, today’s London rioters seem winched en-masse to those spots they’ve always been called, not caring if they render dead a man’s livelihood; simply giving into a feral need to sate their lust for
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My original belief was that it was largely race-based. While it’s true that there are subversive elements in any group, it seems that the underlying core of even these elements, in modern times, could well-be a monster of our own making — an experiment gone awry. What happens when society deems the nuclear family no longer important? What generational lessons are lost? What happens when kids go through school and life without reprimand, because teachers can no longer teach-by-example that some actions are simply unacceptable in modern life? Meanwhile, what arises when we pity those very groups and tell them they can move through life as such while being provided free food and healthcare while telling them they’re not truly alive unless they have the latest iPod or Toshiba laptop?
We don’t know whence Romero’s zombies came. Other movies have the origin as either a military or corporate lab test-gone-wrong, while others are of our own ignorance or simply an act of nature. It seems today’s rioting is a perfect storm of all. That’s not to say individuals are slow-and-stupid or the disease is incurable, but it’s not one given up easily. An easy life, we were never promised.
Zombie movies are often more than simple horror flicks meant to elicit fear or churn stomachs. They can help us prepare for nearly any disaster (do you have one gallon of water per person per day stored? ). But sometimes, they might also give us clues to the human experience. Indeed, zombie stories aren’t necessarily scary because they are movies about monsters, but because they are a slightly distorted reflection of us.
Update: A Huffington Post author makes a similar analogy of the riots being a zombie-attack-made-real, only differing in the cause of the outbreak.
Update II: It’s interesting to see that a mere few months ago one hundred fifty zombies shambled through Leicestershire to raise awareness of the city’s unpreparedness for a zombie attack, only to successfully repel one in the recent riots.