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american undead; generation X's obsession with vampires and zombies

Updated on June 8, 2012

American undead, the 21st century fascination with zombies and vampires.

Today’s movie goers might be under the mistaken impression that zombies are a new phenomena, but historically they’ve been distracting/entertaining us for hundreds of years.

Even during the plague in Europe, the zombie myth was alive and well, so much so that the clergy were documenting the hysteria. the undead have walked the recesses of our imaginations from Egypt to Europe, the Congo, and into the west to Haiti and beyond. The superstitions surrounding the undead still linger in our collective psyche, holdovers from fears of the past, evidenced by mid-evil archeological digs that reveal skeletons with stones shoved in their mouths, in the hope that the practice would stop the dead from rising.

With the advent of the media/entertainment industry, the zombie came into its own in the middle of the 20th century, scaring us with movies and horror science fiction,... To the point that zombie sci-fi has carved out its own genre of fiction.

Its been asserted recently by such lauded sources as the history channel, that an obsession with zombies is symptomatic of a society on the verge of collapse, that a culture worried about its imminent demise seeks to objectify their fears in some way,… and that hordes of undead flesh-hungry zombies are how our society copes with its fears.

this notion is correct in part.

Zombies in fiction are indeed a cooping mechanism,… but not for the fear of cultural collapse.

Zombies are our cooping mechanism for our fear of/fascination with death.

Humans have always feared death, a completely rational fear dealt with in all too often irrational ways. Our society is so far removed from the aging process that we now need elder programs to walk us through the clinical and spiritual steps of growing old, and correspondingly, we need hospice programs to hold our hands through the process of dying.

While previous generations have employed the undead in literature and local lore to cope with death all around the such as during the plague period in Europe, Generation X has embraced the zombie, and the vampire as a coping mechanism of a different sort.

Perhaps it’s the visual imagery of it all, the gore, the destruction, the blood, the humanity veiled in the inhuman,… what ever the reasons, this generation is the first in American history to embrace the macabre since that of Edgar Allan Poe, and in ways that Poe’s fan base couldn’t have dreamed of. This is evidenced in our celebration of Halloween as it has morphed into a celebration of the ultra-macabre, designed for we adults as much as our children, if not more so.

Why do we love them?

The reasons are as wide and varied as the persons who might love them

A) zombies and vampires may well be the last acceptable representation of death in our pop culture. As a people, we have removed ourselves from the process and end result of death. We have insulated ourselves in various layers of traditions and customs. We’ve sought to defeat death through medical science, investing in our physical bodies so that we might never show or feel our age. Should death not be defeated through science, we invest in our belief systems so that we might purchase for ourselves a mythical life after death.

B) Zombies defeat death in that they rise from the dead in a new form, devoid of emotion, unable to perceive pain, with no recognition of each other. This generation may view this a preferable state, in losing the sensation of pain, unburdened by emotions, and un-tethered to familiar attachments.

C) the vivid display of blood and macabre associated with zombies may satisfy the baser instincts of our primitive selves. The aggression freely engaged in, with no moral justification needed.

D) the vampire may also satisfy the same need for aggression while applying a virtue to the situation. Most vampire stories involve a moral dilemma of some sort, this allows us to like the bad guy, understanding his angst.

E) the vampire too, cheats death, but in the story line it always comes at a price,… immortality being lonely in the end.

F) vampires also deal in death,… they are god like in that can not only take life, but can also grant immortality.

G) vampire as well as zombies possess a superhuman strength. they are portrayed as powerful, the vampire in more of a psychological and corporeal way, the zombie in just the physical sense.

What does our fascination with the undead say about us?

We generation X’rs seem have a sense of something being missing. We feel left out, left behind. In short, we miss what our forefathers cast aside. We miss our mortality. Our fascination with zombies, vampires and all things deathly is part of our search for that mortality,… death being quite possibly the only thing left that we feel we have any control over.

In an ever increasing age of narcissism, and denial of reality at every turn, generation X’s obsession with the macabre may be the healthiest thing we could be engaging in psychologically.

Love the soundtrack to your favorite zombie movie?… its probably heavy metal. Find out why generation X loves heavy metal in the companion article….. “120 decibels of anger; generation X’s love of metal”


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    • stclairjack profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from middle of freekin nowhere,... the sticks

      thanks for the eye bethperry!

    • bethperry profile image

      Beth Perry 

      8 years ago from Tennesee

      I like the food for thought here, stclairjack. You've proposed some interesting interpretations!

      Now my friends who are were raised in the Vodou faith probably don't have a good opinion of the zombies portrayed on TV and film these days. Their idea of the zombie is much more traditional, like what's found in The Serpent and The Rainbow. But love the article, voting up.

    • stclairjack profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from middle of freekin nowhere,... the sticks

      MamaNeedsJava --- tripped by to read your things and loved your witt,... and just between you and me and the rest of the known universe on the web,... zombifacation may be the only explanation for DC! ha!

      epigramman --- i am, at the moment, still trying to pick my jaw up off of the floor,... a little drool might have slipped out,... what in the name of rum and soda did i do to deserv the praise you just heaped on here????.... and what do you want???? ha!

      thank you,.... sincerely, thank you.

    • epigramman profile image


      8 years ago

      ....this may just be the ultimate and most definitive hub subject ever on the undead and will be posted proudly to my Facebook page with a direct link back here in order to 'wake up the dead' over there with this most superior piece of writing (talent) you have and the world class presentation which I found here on your hubpage of awesomeness ..... amen!!!! lake erie time ontario canada 2:00pm

    • MamaNeedsJava profile image

      Bea Toome 

      8 years ago from Undisclosed

      An interesting take on things. I read something that said Zombies are in favor when we have a Democrat for President (the losers see brain dead drones mindlessly following a leader to doom) and vampires or werewolves are popular when a Republican has the big chair (Democrats fear sudden and coordinated violence).

      I don't know why we love them when we do but it used to be Buffy and Ann Rice and now I'm all about zombies and mocking sparkly vampires.

    • stclairjack profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from middle of freekin nowhere,... the sticks

      i loved ann rice too. thanks for the read, i'm glad someone else understood what i was getting at,... the next hub (when i get around to it) is about generation X and anger,.. why we love metal.

    • amymarie_5 profile image

      Amy DeMarco 

      8 years ago from Chicago

      I truly enjoyed this hub. The theories are interesting. I'm also a generation Xer and have always been fascinated with vampires. I read all the Ann Rice books (and was a bit obsessed with Lestat). I remember so many people that were like me. It's very interesting that our generation loved these things relating to death. I like your theories. It gave me something to think about. Rated up and interesting.


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