WE are knee deep in the pop culture of zombies and frankly I’m getting nostalgic for vampire kisses, wizard tournaments and wolf riding in the forests of New Zealand. The success of TV’s The Walking Dead is now old news; the mobs of post-apocalyptic trailer trash have been storming the ratings for the past year. Warm Bodies, the movie, is on the big screens, bringing a romantic blush to those pasty-faced survivors of poor urban planning. And in a few months, we’ll watch Brad Pitt take on zombies in World War Z.
Who’d have guessed the great unlaundered would become bigger than the iron-depleted lads of twilight. I mean, it’s sort of sexy to be bitten by a vampire but it’s positively smelly to be bitten by a zombie. You might go crazy for a vampire but you’ll lose a bit of your brain to a zombie.
Some people could have guessed we’d move on from the long dead to the undead: cultural theorists have been all over these trends like a, well, like mobs in dirty linen that have just spotted Anna Paquin on the horizon.
The popularity of zombies, one historian said, is symptomatic of our ‘‘ cancelled selfhood’’. According to another academic it’s a ‘‘ convenient metaphor for the way that [we] are feeling powerless within the system’’.
And, if you want a Socratic perspective, it’s about our admiration for the simple life — in particular, the simple drive to eat brains. ‘‘ Zombies do not care what new artist will make the top 40. They just want to eat your brain. Zombies do not contemplate the rel- evance of environmental ethics — they want to eat your brain.’’ Etcetera.
So, the cultural gist of zombies is that they are projections of our post-global financial crisis feelings of helplessness; they reflect our sense that we are husks of our former selves and can only get motivated by the opportunity to eat the brains of those who survived. In short, we all want a bit of a Wall Street banker.
On a personal level, zombies resonate because we are so dead tired; we feel out of sync with the world and can’t be stuffed doing another load of washing so we’re going out in these old rags. But that may just be me.
This zombie economic theory makes sense, but only if you accept that the vampire moment was driven by pre-GFC moods. Back in those days, we were impressed with fastmoving, bloodless men who promised us eternal life in exchange for a quick subprime mortgage. They sucked us dry. But we sorta liked it. We even went back for more. Until the zombie era arrived, that is.
The problem for Hollywood is that we’re going to get sick of this post-Omo world of listless men with hungover eyes. So, what comes next? You can imagine the conversations going on in movie studios. What about
just sexy, violent families from a folkloric past? Nah, Game of Thrones just did it. What about blue people living on another planet? Avatar.
Or, how about giant wolves, goblins and fell beasts? Lord of The Rings and Game of Thrones.
Wizards? You’re kidding, right. Witches? Actually, a few cultural theorists have suggested we are on the verge of a witches rebirth, largely because a couple of Hansel and Gretel movies have been commissioned. However, the moment may have passed quickly after Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Still, if we put our minds to it, we can get ahead of the Hollywood bandwagon. We just have to imagine where we are in the economic cycle and how we’re going to feel as it unfolds.
And I’m thinking Ireland. I’m thinking that basket case in theeurozone is having a quiet, stoic recovery and, even if there are no Tigers on the economic horizon, there are still fairies at the bottom of the garden.
Oh yes, it’s time for a Celtic reimagining of the world. As dawn breaks on the little island at the misty end of Anglo mythology, we could find our movie magic with the creatures of Celtic myth. And what a cast that mythology offers. There are leprechauns, hobgoblins, bogeymen, changelings, banshees, imps, pixies and fairies playing at the bottom of the garden. A re-enchantment of our world awaits.
There are a few problems. I’m not sure Brad Pitt will like wearing big ears and child-sized tights but I’m sure he won’t have any trouble attracting the fairies and will feel OK about raising changelings.