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Dr. Candi K. Cann

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Zombies, Vampires, Martyrs & Saints

Posted: 10/25/2013 6:56 pm

Halloween is just around the corner, and lots of zombies and vampires will be trick-or-treating this year. In fact, companies like Spirit Halloween are seeing more orders for zombie and vampire costumes than ever before, especially with a special line of costumes dedicated to AMC's Walking Dead series.

With the popularity of shows like Twilight, True Blood, Walking Dead, and game applications like Monster High and Plants Vs. Zombies, it is little surprise that zombie and vampire costumes are more popular than ever before.

But more importantly, why are zombies and vampires popular? What is it behind the popular obsession with the living dead and the never-dying?

Academics specializing in post-apocalyptic literature point to various cultural aspects, claiming that zombies indicate a culture of scarcity and an obsession with the end-times when resources will be depleted and the real-world can no longer meet our needs. Is it a coincidence that real zombies emerge from Haiti--one of the poorest countries in the world, where resources are not only scarce but often absent?

Similarly, vampires are often understood as symbols of repressed sexuality. Bram Stoker's gothic classic, Dracula ignited a flurry of vampire spinoffs that are highly sexual without the sex. Critics of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series see a similar critique in the relationship between Bella and Edward; they must remain sexually pure or their sex will literally kill. Sexual purity (or lack thereof) goes hand-in-hand with the culture of scarcity critique; reproduction is not encouraged in a land of limited resources.

Zombies and Vampires are not that far removed from their religious cousins, Martyrs and Saints. Martyrs can be said to correlate to the religious undead, with narratives circulating that recount their death, haunting the living through their ever-present death.

Saints operate similarly to vampires in that they are the never-dead, living eternal religious afterlives, but stuck in time, unable to evolve and change. Both martyrs and saints literally depend on the lifeblood of the living to be remembered and acknowledged. But even more importantly, without death, there can be no zombies, vampires, martyrs or saints.

All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, used to be the evening before All Saints Day, and the remembrance of the dead; now it is mostly a celebration by and for children. In a culture obsessed with youth, our fears of death--of ceasing to exist--and our fears of being ordinary or simply not existing at all--are intensified by the ticking of time. Its scarcity--its speed--and its control propel us to reach out to the living dead and the never dying as played out through these Zombie and Vampire costumes.

What will you be this Halloween? My daughter is a baby vampire. I am going as a Zombie.

 
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