Ever since Night of the Living Dead was released in the late 1960s zombies have held a revered place in horror culture. George Romero’s film set the standard for zombie tales, where living creatures that were dead except for an insatiable drive for human brains, attacked the living to eat their brains. Night of the Living Dead has been remade countless times and the characteristics of zombies have been too. The earliest tales of zombies actually come from religion. In the Voodoo religion it is said that Voodoo practitioners use magic and herbs that turns people into zombies. In reality there is a practice that can put people into a trancelike state and make them very open to suggestion. They are not dead, but would appear dead to someone who didn’t know what signs of life to look for. This Voodoo practice is thought to be the origin of the idea of the zombie. The zombie has become one of the most recognizable creatures in popular culture and has gone from a cult horror villain to an accepted part of cultural lore. Zombies even made the national news recently when several people who were ingesting a substance known as “bath salts” attacked other people and ate portions of their flesh which led the news to dub the attackers as zombies.
Music, film and TV have all embraced the zombie with modern zombie adaptations like the movie Zombieland and TV shows like AMC’s The Walking Dead, which is an adaptation of a graphic novel. The Walking Dead won a slew of awards in its first season and the season finale for the second season was the most watched basic cable show history with more than 9 million viewers. Season 3 is in production and fans are anxiously awaiting the return of what is arguably the most successful popular culture portrayal of a post-zombie apocalypse world. One of the reasons why zombies have gone from cult classics to mainstream smash may be due to the power of the Internet.
The Internet is full of zombie fan sites and fan fiction which has helped push the popularity of zombies into pockets of culture that it never was accepted in before. Even the government is using zombie lore. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued an emergency preparedness guide in a graphic novel format called Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse which sought to teach a younger generation about the importance of being prepared for disaster. The CDC’s creative campaign was a huge success and has won the CDC a permanent place in zombie lore. Another wildly successful Internet campaign centered on zombies is the US Army Zombie Combat Command, which started as a simple FB page and now, with more than 20,000 Facebook fans, has grown into a website and a web series that bills itself as “part Mythbusters, part Deadliest Warrior, with Zombies”. The web series is entering its third season and features shows that discuss and seek to prove or disprove myths about zombies and teach people the best ways to fight zombies.