Monday, November 2, 2009

Zombie Historiography

We have talked in class about how current ideologies influence the way we view the past. Native Americans became environmentalists when Americans did. When civil rights was a major issue, it influenced the way we answered the question "Why Europe?" and analyzed slavery. Southern resistance to the imposition of Brown v. Board created the "States rights" (mis)interpretation of the Civil War.

Evidently, current events also affects how we view zombies. Max Brooks, author of The Zombie Survival Guide, explains the spate of new Zombie movies in Heeb Magazine:

"I think we’re living in very scary times right now. The first time zombie movies were popular it was the 1970’s. And the ’70s were a time of unprecedented social anxiety on a massive global scale. You had unpopular wars, you had terrorism, you had environmental degradation, you had economic collapse, and you really had a time when the average citizen of the western world literally did not know what was going to happen every morning… Well, we’re reliving those times. We had a nice couple of decades of relative quiet, and now the time of browning our shorts is back with a vengeance. And we have terrorism, we have war, we have horrible new diseases, plagues of pig flu and bird flu – whatever. We have environmental catastrophe in which the whole planet may drown. We have economic crisis and I’m not just talking about this recession. We’re talking about our whole global economy is being spent on oil and the oil is running out. I mean the average citizen doesn’t know what’s going to happen every time they log on AOL. It’s terrifying! People need a place where they can sort of look at the apocalypse. They need a vessel to store their anxieties…A zombie movie is really an apocalyptic movie, but it’s safe because zombies aren’t real… I mean, if I wrote a book about the planet drowning under the weight of its own carbon footprint, that wouldn’t be so fun."
Heh. History is everywhere - even zombie movies.

UPDATE: If you think I'm a dork for using zombies to illustrate a historical point about historiography, I'd like to point out the dorks who used the zombie apocalypse to develop a mathematical model for epidimiology. Math and science are everywhere, dudes.

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