What do Zombies represent for us? Other than harbingers of a slow, painful death, many believe that Zombies are a ready vehicle for ambient, societal fears. Consider this, George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead was as much about fighting off the undead as it was about the Vietnam War.
In this 2003 article from the Sydney Morning Herald, writer and historian Marina Walter explains some of the cultural significance that has been rolled into the culture around Zombies over the years.
‘Zombie is actually a literal description of a slave … somebody living whose soul has been sucked out by a spirit master, a demonic figure, who does it in order to make that person work for them day and night,’ Warner says.
The zombie’s colonial origins were apparent in the first celluloid representation, White Zombie. The 1932 movie portrayed Haitian zombies working for an evil white sugar mill owner, played by Bela Lugosi. More recently, the ’60s shlocker Night of the Living Dead featured zombies activated by nuclear radiation, a reflection of the cultural anxiety of the time.
The zombie can embody our response to contemporary experience: soulless work-slaves powerless to alter their existence in an industrial or post-industrial era.
Zombies as mindless, soulless, shambling automatons are an easy scapegoat for other things that go bump in our collective conscience.
They can be an antiwar protest or an outcry against consumerism or a representative for our fears of pollution, disease and radiation. It’s because the image of the zombie is so malleable, that we can shape and mold it to fit new anxieties as they bubble up.
Sometimes though, Zombies are just the only appropriate way of putting together a music video.