In the Season 4 finale of True Blood, the red-headed waitress Arlene, dressed as a zombie for Halloween, says, “Zombies are the new vampyres! Didn’t you know that?”
No. I didn’t. And I don’t think I agree.
Well, it may be kind of true on a superficial ‘fad’ level.
Let me explain…
(The vampyre Selene, portrayed by Kate Beckinsale in Underworld)
The last decade has seen a wild and overwhelming increase in the popularity of vampyres throughout our culture, in books, magazines, movies, television and the internet. Vampyres capture our imagination, playing on two deep levels… attraction/love, and revulsion/fear. On one hand, they are vicious predators willing to drain our blood and, perhaps, kill us; on the other hand, deep down we secretly want them to want us, to take us and, perhaps, make us one of them.
Somehow, I don’t see that level of emotional investment… and certainly not conflict… when we think of zombies. Zombies are ‘pure’ in that we universally dislike them and want to destroy them, or at least to avoid them at all costs. The thought of rotting walking corpses that want to eat us tends to gross us out.
(Crawling zombie girl from The Walking Dead)
In the last couple of years, there has also been an upswing in zombie popularity but nothing nearly comparable to that enjoyed by vampyres. I also notice a difference in the way people, in general, feel about the two groups. While we may have fun with zombies in a spooky Halloween kind of way, it doesn’t seem to me that people have as deep or as close a connection with zombies as they do with vampyres.
So why do we prefer vampyres to zombies? They both used to be human.They’re both dead. Vampyres are the undead. Zombies are the living dead. So, in essence, they are both just reanimated corpses. They both view us as food and want to feed on us. So why does one make us all tingly and weak at the knees and the other makes us want to blow chunks?
I think part of the reason lies in the fact that, on a deep emotional and psychological level, we don’t take zombies as seriously as we do vampyres. They are not as ‘real’ to us because they can’t get us where we really live… in our hearts. They aren’t as human as vampyres. And because of this fact – that they are less than we are, that they are, in essence, de-humanized – it is easier to make fun of zombies and have fun with them… and kill them.
But zombies are a riot! When it comes to childish good times, it’s tough to beat zombie-play. The whole Upcoming Zombie Apocalypse thing is a wonderful source of harmless fun. In colleges and universities all over, zombie apocalypse games are common. Students are divided between zombies and survivors. The goal of the survivors is to keep from being attacked by zombies and to survive another day. The zombies’ goal is to turn a survivor into a zombie. From what I understand, The Last Man Standing wins. It is supposed to be enormously popular… and a good time is had by all.
Vampyres never achieve that level of playfulness. Sure, there are vampyre comedies but those very same comedies play on the fact of people being so attached to the whole vampyre mystique.
Another thing to factor in is that vampyres are more like us in that they can communicate with us and play with our minds and hearts. Vampyres can seduce us. A zombie, at least the classic George A. Romero model of zombie, can’t communicate. Nor can it, on any real level, think… let alone come up with a half-decent pick-up line. They are mindless automatons with one thing and one thing only on what is left of their rotting minds… to eat. Us!
Maybe that is what it boils down to in the end.The vampyre gives us that all important illusion of romance and desire before they take the ultimate advantage of us.
So while there may be a temporary flirtation with zombies… and as I said before, they’re a lot more fun than vampyres… ultimately, it is the vampyres to whom we return.