It might seem masochistic to watch TV shows and movies that depict your worst nightmare, but it’s actually part of our heritage — and for good reason. The ancient Greeks understood the need to experience our fears through the arts, recognizing that a given population remains stable when its individuals can vicariously live out their fears. People can empathize with characters on screen (or in the case of ancient Greece, the stage), and feel what it would be like to live in a lawless reality, and then return to their ordered, rule-abiding lives.
Whereas uncertainty-related fears dominated the zombies of ten years ago, today we’re staring down stressors produced by human arrogance: be it a lab-borne infection or a reaction to anthropogenic climate change, we have only ourselves to blame for the existence of these zombies. They’re our punishment for years of abusing the Earth.
Likewise, we’re beginning to see the zombie transition from its status as a metaphor about humanity to an actual human: movies like “Warm Bodies” and TV shows like “iZombie” present the infected fighting their instincts to feast on our flesh, instead contributing to society in a positive way.
This isn’t to say our fears that produce zombies no longer exist, but that we are beginning to think that there are more positive ways to respond to them. These humane zombies reveal that we can fight our baser instincts, that even a monster can be redeemed through action. What’s not to love about that?