Zombies, Pop Culture, and Media: Oh My, Indeed…

Find me one person who dislikes old television shows.

What’s not to love about the programs of the “good ole days” in their ever-improving technicolor and animation, their values and morals, clean humor, and their overall classic charm and appeal?

(In case you were wondering, my overdue absence may be blamed on lack of inspiration, travels, and college. Dramatic emphasis on the last one.)

One day, my history professor, Dr. Cheryl White, paused in the middle of a lecture about the Hundred Years War and said something so astounding that resonated with me the rest of the day: “Popular culture is a reflection of what is soon to come.”

“What? What what? Seriously?

“Yes, seriously.”

We demanded an example.

She rattled off old 60’s shows that everyone has seen, or at least heard of, like The Jetsons (1962) and Star Trek (1966), and I can add Dr. Who (1963) to that list. What do they have in common? Futuristic shows that project a fantastical world of bizarre and wonderful technology and advances. What happened only a few years after these shows premiered? NASA sent the first men to the moon in 1969. Plus, all the featured gadgets we loved and envied as children are now accessible to everyone! Have you seen those Samsung watches??

Class was dismissed and the pop culture topic was forgotten until she mentioned her intrigue of zombie culture the next day.

She brought up all sorts of media that features zombies, from The Walking Dead to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to Left 4 Dead. She pointed out common elements found in most of these works: the undead; war/combat; hopelessness; and a desolate, apocalyptic landscape.

“So, what’s your point, Dr. White?”

She went back to the 1960s, an age filled with hope and determination for a bright, shimmering future of robots and medicine and big ideas. The 60’s was a time of possibility where everyone valued education and opportunity as doorways into the future seen on television. Look where we are today because of that mindset fifty years ago!

And now let’s return to current pop culture and some of its common genres:

  • Apocalypse (War of the Worlds film, 2005; The Road novel, 2006; I Am Legend film, 2007; Revolution tv series, 2012-).
  • Dystopia (Hunger Games trilogy, 2008; Divergent trilogy, 2011; Elysium, 2013).
  • Zombies (Shaun of the Dead, 2004; Warm Bodies novel, 2011; World War Z film, 2013;).
  • Vampires (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter novel, 2012; Hotel Transylvania, 2012; Dracula television series, 2013;).
  • Werewolves (Underworld film series, 2003-; Van Helsing, 2004; Red Riding Hood, 2011).

These are the current media fixations, and if the theory is true, where does that put us ten years from now?
Five years from now?
Maybe even three?

Will our obsession with death and despair bring on supernatural creatures and widespread disaster? Maybe not. But when realistic portrayals of death and decay continuously ravage our minds, a unified mindset of pessimism and dread is born.

And what sort of future will arise from this? Fifty years from now, when our grandchildren look back, what will they say of us? I guess there’s only one way to find out.

 

 

Big thanks to Dr. Cheryl White, who always has incredible insight and ideas and often shares them with us! I’m not trying to steal anything of hers, but she demands that you open your mind and think in her class. If you’re in the northwestern Louisiana area, I strongly recommend taking one of her courses, attending her seminars, or purchasing her books!

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