An individual zombie is almost no threat to any healthy adult. It can be easily outrun or dispatched by a decent blow to the head. What makes zombies a threat is that there are so many of them and their bite results in the absorption of their victims into the horde.
This is a super monstrous way to go for the Modern self. This is because we are so incredibly individualistic. We are so individualistic, we have no idea how individualistic we are.
Isn’t Individualism normal?
Individualism is the idea that the individual’s life belongs to him He can live it as he sees fit. The individual is sovereign, an end in himself. We assume our individuality, but we didn’t always think this way.
The groups to which we belonged used to have something to say about how we lived our lives. Collectivism is the idea that the individual is a member of a community and he must sacrifice his values and goals for the group’s “greater good.” In collectivism, the group is the end.
Before the Enlightenment, people were concerned with the idea of honour–and not individual honour, for honour was usually conferred collectively. A shift occurred in the Enlightenment when ideas of honour were replaced with notions of the dignity of all human beings. Dignity replaced honour.
In the late-eighteenth century, the idea of universal dignity was complemented with the idea that each of us has a particular way of being human. Do you see the germ of individualism there? Thus, it became “important to find and live out one’s own [humanity], as against surrendering to conformity with a model imposed on us from outside, by society, or previous generations, or religious or political authority” (475).
The 1960s as the “hinge moment” (476) where this individuation became mainstream. Significantly, it was in this decade that the first modern zombie movie was released. Romero’s zombies in Night of the Living Dead(1968) are monstrous in that they attack this new understanding of the individual.
The basic thing here is that Individualism and Collectivism are two points on a continuum. Cultures fall in between them somewhere. Our culture is a long way down the Individualism end of the continuum and is moving closer all the time.
Our collective Modern identity is that we are a group composed of autonomous individuals. As we became more individualistic, our monsters have become more collective.Historically, our monsters have usually been solitary: Grendel, Satan, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Dracula, Injun Joe. This changed in the 20th century, especially after Second World War. Click To Tweet
“I’m out of ammo . . .”
The zombie horde absorbs the individual into a mindless collective.
This characteristic of the zombie makes it ideally suited to terrorize our contemporary society. They attack in large numbers and overwhelm their victims by sheer weight of numbers. The horde absorbs individuality.
Significantly, it was in this decade that the first modern zombie movie was released. Romero’s zombies in Night of the Living Dead (1968) are monstrous in that they attack this new understanding of the individual.The bite of the zombie means an imposed conformity that bases identity, not on uniqueness, but on context.Click To Tweet
In an age when the dignity of all human beings translates into the importance to being true to oneself, a zombie’s bite obliterates that unique self. The zombie horde is a mass in which all individuality has been eradicated; it is an ironic caricature of the “mass phenomenon” of modern individualism.
There are small differences between zombies, like clothing or “degree of putrefaction,” but these “only exacerbate their similarity, since they are markers which refer to the state of their corpse when they died, not anything that has been chosen to create individuality since reanimation” (Cooke 167).
We are committed to radical individualism, but zombies question that commitment.
The bite of the zombie means an imposed conformity that bases identity, not on uniqueness, but on context. This is yet another source of horror that the zombie horde embodies for the modern self, who considers itself, above all things, autonomous.
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