The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an official reassurance: no zombie apocalypse.
CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms), agency spokesman David Daigle told The Huffington Post.
Who knows, maybe the CDC statement allayed a few anxieties. I found it downright depressing. That the CDC felt compelled to issue an official denial that the zombie apocalypse was upon us seemed like another discomfiting moment in Americas cultural descent.
All this, of course, was set off by the savage May 26 attack on a homeless man on the MacArthur Causeway and the horrible hospital photos and the overwrought on-line, hit-driven media coverage. And, as zombie apocalypse trended to become the second most popular search term on Google, it was as if Americans, some of them anyway, couldnt be bothered with the intellectual distinction between a very real, brutal tragedy in Miami and the ghoulish zombie fantasies of movies, TV and literature.
Ive written quite a bit about the current zombie renaissance, but things are starting to go far beyond the ideas I explored in my book, Kyle Bishop, author of American Zombie Gothic: The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of the Walking Dead in Popular Culture, told me by e-mail Monday. I thought we as a culture were simply seeing a renewed and increased interest in monster narratives as a gut-check reaction to 9/11 and the War on Terror.
Now, however, the zombie has become something much more visceral, something that has taken hold on our collective unconscious. People many people, probably think zombies, or something like them, may actually, indeed exist, Bishop stated.
Elizabeth Bird, a professor of anthropology at the University of South Florida, sees these reanimated corpses plodding through pop culture as surrogates for the pervasive fears that nag at modern life: pandemic diseases, nuclear destruction, environmental collapse, the idea that were consuming ourselves. If world comes to an end, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
Professor Bird said that the CDC probably didnt help itself last year with a tongue-in-cheek youth-oriented campaign, with ads and buttons and a novella packaged as a fun new way of teaching the importance of emergency preparedness. Our new graphic novel, Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic demonstrates the importance of being prepared in an entertaining way that people of all ages will enjoy. Readers follow Todd, Julie, and their dog Max as a strange new disease begins spreading, turning ordinary people into zombies.
The CDC slogan: If youre ready for the zombie apocalypse, youre ready for any emergency.
I keep wondering what anthropologists, digging through the remnants of our society, will make of us, a thousand years from now. Judging by the content of our most popular books, movies and TV programs, well look like a culture much more obsessed with vampires and zombies, with the occasional werewolf outlier, than, say, religion or philosophy or science.
I expect anthropologists in the future will find our collective fascination with zombies (and other supernatural monsters) amusing the wild rantings of a backward and superstitious culture, ventured Bishop. Or maybe theyll be more sympathetic and see how we used our monsters to try to explain our society (and vice versa).