zombies

Apocalypse Redux

EVERY SUMMER brings the end of the world. But not since 1998’s Deep Impact and Armageddon both threatened the end of the world with objects from space has there been such apocalypse redundancy in summer blockbusters: This year, class wars, real wars, ecological exhaustion, aliens, and zombie viruses destroyed our planet in as many different ways.

In her excellent e-book The Zombies are Coming!, Kelly J. Baker reminds us that apocalyptic fantasies have been part of the popular American imagination since at least the Puritan hellfire sermon. Even without a common religious narrative to guide them, end-of-the-world stories mostly function as a form of cultural critique and utopian longing. We can only imagine a desired future out of the ashes of the utterly destroyed present. In other words, things are going to have to get a lot worse before they get better.

If Baker is right that we seize on apocalyptic fantasies both to express a deep feeling that something is very wrong with our current state of affairs and to imagine some better alternative, then this summer’s world-ending movies display a profound lack of imagination. Most of them are not even particularly good at conceiving the end of the world, and none of them offer us a vision of how things might be different.

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Nothing But the Blood?

From "True Blood"

IF YOU’VE EVEN casually watched TV in the past five years, seen a movie with coming attractions, driven past billboards and fast food restaurants, or walked into a Barnes & Noble, you can’t avoid the onslaught of vampires in popular culture. As the summer draws to a close, so does the fourth season of HBO’s vampire comedy-drama True Blood. This summer’s vampire big screen attractions—the movie remake of the 1960s vampire soap opera Dark Shadows and the movie adaptation of the young adult novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (it is, improbably, exactly what it sounds like)—have come and gone. The fourth season of CW network’s young adult vampire melodrama The Vampire Diaries begins in September. And the publicity blitz for the final Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn-Part 2, (coming to theaters in mid-November) is about to colonize fast-food merchandise, billboards, and magazine covers.

Ever since John Polidori wrote “The Vampyre” as part of a bet with his good friend Mary Shelley and since Bram Stoker gave us Dracula, the vampire has never exactly gone out of fashion. Vampires are often the horizon on which we project our fears and anxieties, and, like other supernatural fantasy creatures, they help us take stock of our own humanness. If, as Nina Auerbach has argued in her book Our Vampires, Ourselves, we can learn a lot about different epochs of Western culture by the kind of vampires that are in vogue, what do we make of this current crop of blood suckers? What might they teach us about our humanity and our theological response to the world we live in?

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A Theology of America's Zombie Apocalypse

Zombie. Image by Aaron Amat /shutterstock.
Zombie. Image by Aaron Amat /shutterstock.

It seems that America is on the verge of a zombie apocalypse.

First, Ronald Poppo had most of his face eaten off by Rudy Eugene, and now, Alexander Kinyua reportedly killed his roommate, Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie and then ate his heart and part of his brain.

Is it just coincidence that this spate of violent attacks comes when the county’s fascination with zombies is at its height, or is there a connection?

From movies to video games, Zombies are the big ticket these days. The undead top the media charts, gnawing and clawing their way into the forefront of our imaginations. Move over vampires; Zombies are the new black.

It’s hard to say if the pop culture popularity has influenced similar copycat killers, or if the zombie craze simply has made us more sensitive to similar real-life stories. Either way, both the fictional tales and actual news items may speak to something going on in our collective imaginations.

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