An undead family history: How zombies have changed over time in popular culture

Grrr! Yargh! Bleurgh! A zombie from Fear the Walking Dead, currently my favourite ongoing piece of undead storytelling (image via SpoilerTV (c) AMC)

“The zombie, they say, is the soulless human corpse still dead but taken from the grave and endowed by sorcery with a mechanical semblance of life. The zombies of Haitian folklore are controlled by a sorcerer called a bokor who uses them for his own ends often for menial work resembling the slave labor and by the way, they don’t eat or crave human flesh at this point.

“Once in the popular imagination [via George Romero’s 1968 film
Night of the Living Dead], it took only three years for this conception of the zombie to find its way to Hollywood to a film industry eager for another monster after the successes of Dracula and Frankenstein…Romero changed the rules first …” (synopsis via Laughing Squid (c) Evan Puschak / The Nerdwriter)

If there’s one thing we can probably all agree on, it’s that there are an awful lot of zombies in midst right now.

Not literally thank goodness because my undead killing skills would likely leave a lot to be desired, but in pop culture terms, zombies are everywhere and have been ever since George Romero popularised stories of the decaying monsters back in 1968.

In his latest excellent video essay, “Where Zombies Come From”, Evan Puschak, aka The Nerdwriter – who you can sponsor on Patreon should you so desire – beautifully explains the origins of the undead stories which fill our screens and books through TV shows like Fear the Walking Dead, books like The Girl With All the Gifts and movies like World War Z and how they have changed over the years (besides decaying, of course, because duh).

It’s a fascinating look at how they have taken control of pop culture consciousness and why they’re not likely to disappear anytime soon …

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