A spate of bizarre crimes has people wondering if zombies walk among us.
“First came Miami: the case of a naked man eating most of another man’s face,” according to an Associated Press account in the New York Daily News. “Then Texas: a mother accused of killing her newborn, eating part of his brain and biting off three of his toes. Then Maryland, a college student telling police he killed a man, then ate his heart and part of his brain. It was different in New Jersey, where a man stabbed himself 50 times and threw bits of his own intestines at police. They pepper-sprayed him, but he was not easily subdued.
“He was, people started saying, acting like a zombie. And the whole discussion just kept growing, becoming a topic that the Internet couldn’t seem to stop talking about.”
And why not? With the success of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” zombies are in. People on Facebook discuss methods for surviving a zombie apocalypse. Max Brooks, son of famed comedian Mel Brooks, penned books called “World War Z” (individual accounts by survivors of the fight against the undead) and “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.”
Amazon offers everything from zombie hunting licenses to zombie games; one user compiled a “Modern zombie apocalypse survival kit” on Amazon, providing a list of items to have on hand when the dead begin to rise. About one item on the list, the user wrote: “This tomahawk can penetrate the skull easily to damage the zombie brain, which is required to kill the ghoul. Of course, your primary weapon will be a 12 gauge shotgun which can blow away zombie brain from a safer distance.”
Zombies are everywhere in pop culture. In the decades since George A. Romero first terrified audiences with his low-budget, black and white “Night of the Living Dead,” zombies have evolved from slow-moving agents of mindless destruction to, well, quick-moving agents of mindless destruction in the “Resident Evil” series and “28 Days Later.” Zombies loom large in humorous films, too, such as “Shaun of the Dead” and “Zombieland;” an upcoming movie, “ParaNorman,” features a boy who can speak to the undead and must protect his town from ghouls and zombies.
It’s a jump, though, to go from the pop culture version of zombies to the recent crimes in Miami, Texas and New Jersey. Those aren’t made-up things; they’re horrific events that actually happened.
So why are people making that leap?
According to AP:
“Zombies represent America’s fears of bioterrorism, a fear that strengthened after the 9/11 attacks, says Patrick Hamilton, an English professor at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., who studies how we process comic-book narratives. Economic anxiety around the planet doesn’t help matters, either, with Greece, Italy and Spain edging closer to crisis every day. Consider some of the terms that those fears produce: zombie banks, zombie economies, zombie governments.
“When people are unsettled about things beyond their control — be it the loss of a job, the high cost of housing or the depletion of a retirement account — they look to metaphors like the zombie.
“’They’re mindless drones following basic needs to eat,’ Hamilton says. ‘Those economic issues speak to our own lack of control.’”