Thursday, May 10, 2012

Barry on the Original Zombie

Angie Barry of offers a useful history and pop-culture survey of the earliest zombies. Excerpt:
Stop an average stranger on the street and ask them what a zombie is. Chances are they'll give you a strange look. And then say that a zombie is a flesh-eating monster.

They'd only be half right.

What few people know is that the lurching, ravenous undead of the screen have only been around for forty years. Before George Romero gave them teeth and the urge to use them in 1968's Night of the Living Dead, zombies were little more than brainless slaves.

The zombie was first given life in the Caribbean of the early 1800's, where the sugar cane plantations were worked by thousands of African slaves. Here, the zombie became intrinsically tied to the Vodun (or "voodoo") religion.
Read the whole thing. Barry digs further into the Caribbean zombie's connection to slavery and oppression, and her observations come none too soon to my way of thinking. In film and on television and in books, pop culture seems saturated with splattery variants of Romero's creations. How long until the zombie gets consigned to the genre dustbin, just another trope that overstayed its welcome? Not very, I'll wager, unless someone can come up with a new twist. Perhaps it really is time for the zombie to return to its roots.

(Picture: CC 2011 by snowy-ninja)


ollwen said...

My comments about zombies has been lately that zombies will eat our brains by consuming all other genres of fiction...

If they fade from popularity, I won't miss them.

Loren Eaton said...

There are some good Romero-type zombie stories out there. 28 Days Later had some wonderful themes about family in it. But I'd like to see writers go back to this non-violent, original zombie idea. I think it would be an interesting divergence.