What do you know about the trope of "zombies and the impending apocalypse"?

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The zombie apocalypse is a common trope from recent decades. Fed by internet sites, horror movies, and even parodies such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the idea of the living dead rising to feed on human brains ranges from campy horror to the stuff of middle school nightmares.

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The zombie apocalypse is a common trope from recent decades. Fed by internet sites, horror movies, and even parodies such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the idea of the living dead rising to feed on human brains ranges from campy horror to the stuff of middle school nightmares.

Each generation seems to have its own source of terror, whether Godzilla-like monsters created through nuclear pollution, space aliens, werewolves and vampires, or incurable diseases, these tropes speak to a cultural fear. The use of them in horror movies and parodies is a way to seemingly contain the fear, at least momentarily. Horror has its own cathartic function, but it relies on tapping into a broad psychic terror not otherwise articulated.

What may make the zombie phase appealing now is that it does have elements of end-of-times apocalyptic dread. Around 2000, both the Y2K concerns regarding computer clocks and evangelical books about the Remnant (those who are taken up before the actual apocalypse) fostered a low-grade fear of global disaster. People stockpiled guns, water, and ramen noodles and made plans for chaos such as one sees in zombie narratives. Cormac McCarthy's The Road (2006) offers a grim view of an apocalyptic world plagued not by zombies but by cannibals. Global climate collapse is leading wealthy people to build underground dwellings to escape this apocalypse. The global financial collapse offered a case of people "feeding" on others. Space colonization is proposed for when Earth can no longer support human life. Zombies create a visceral substitute for these more abstract and technical fears.

The breakdown of society and social norms leading to people preying or feeding upon each other becomes literal in the zombie trope. In this state of panic, even the living cannot trust each other for fear of being deceived. Normal means of attacking a predator—the military, science, silver bullets—are ineffective.

Zombie apocalypse narratives thus speak to our current uneasiness about the human condition. Zombies are both the other and us, both human and not. To be a zombie is merely to have become degraded or to have lost an essential part of one's dignity (life) such that the zombie will lose all shame and common feeling for others. This fear of zombie attack seems to be based in a sense that our greatest current danger comes not from an outside invader so much as from humans who have lost their humanity and from a society that lacks the social structures to protect its citizens.

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