Zombie - A zombie is a fictional undead being created through the reanimation of a corpse. Zombies are most commonly found in horror and fantasy genre works. The term comes from Haitian folklore, in which a zombie is a dead body reanimated through various methods, most commonly magic. Modern depictions of the reanimation of the dead do not necessarily involve magic but often invoke science fictional methods such as carriers, radiation, mental diseases, vectors, pathogens, parasites, scientific accidents, etc. Though history can’t put it’s official stamp on the true history between tales from Ancient Greece, to Haiti, to 17th century West Africa; we are going to talk more of the deadly impact they have had on Nerd and Pop Culture.
The Impact of Zombies on Media and The Economy
Zombies may be the walking undead, but their contribution to Main Street’s economy is very much alive. In modern times, the zombie genre has evolved from a cult following to a highly popular theme.
24/7 Wall St. estimates that the today’s zombie genre economy is worth over $5 Billion Dollars!
Think way beyond zombie movie ticket sales. Think about DVD sales, video games, comic books, novels, Halloween costumes, zombie walks, merchandise, conventions and even zombie art.
Bestselling zombie genre author Max Brooks noted on his website, “I think they (zombies) reflect our very real anxieties of these crazy scary times. A zombie story gives people a fictional lens to see the real problems of the world. You can deal with societal breakdown, famine, disease, chaos in the streets, but as long as the catalyst for all of them is zombies, you can still sleep.”
Regardless of the reason, zombies are worth billions of dollars. The figure that economists have been able to piece together: $5.74 billion. In all honesty, this tab is grossly undercalculated in each category. By the time you add the money spent in total around the zombie genre, the figure is much higher.
We could do an entire season listing all the media that has been the driving force to keeping these dead bodies walking stronger than ever. However, there are things we have to talk about in our seasons. We will leave most of the genre to our friends at Johnny Has The Keys, but we are going to break down some of the reasons that Zombies have been big in our lives and why we keep coming back for more brain craving head shooting action.
The Godfather of the Dead
You cannot rightfully talk about zombies without talking about the legend and The Godfather of Zombies Mr. George Romero. By all rights, Romero never set out to be famous in his career. However, in 1968 the director of the groundbreaking "of the dead" series made history with the first installment, Night of the Living Dead.
After graduation he began shooting mostly short films and commercials. He and his friends formed Image Ten Productions in the late 1960s and they all chipped in roughly $10,000 apiece to produce what became one of the most celebrated American horror films of all time: Night of the Living Dead (1968). Shot in black-and-white on a budget of just over $100,000, Romero's vision, combined with a solid script written by him and his "Image" co-founder John A. Russo (along with what was then considered an excess of gore), enabled the film to earn back far more than what it cost; it became a cult classic by the early 1970s and was inducted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress of the United States in 1999. Romero’s follow ups to the series are as follows:
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Day of the Dead (1985)
Land of the Dead (2005)
Diary of the Dead (2007)
Survival of the Dead (2009)
Fun Fact: Romero was featured alongside Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robert Englund, Danny Trejo, and Michael Rooker in a downloadable content pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops. He was a zombie boss in the content Call of the Dead.
Sadly, Romero passed away in 2017, but his legacy and impact he left on the genre is no doubt the driving reason on the lasting love for zombies. In my very humble NERDpinion, he rightfully earned the title of The Godfather of Zombies.
Zombie Movie Honorable Mentions:
28 Later series
Dawn of the Dead (2004 Reboot by Snyder, Gunn, and Romero)
Return of the Living Dead (funny dancing opening)
Dead Alive (Peter Jackson)
Shaun of the Dead
Evil Dead was not left out on accident….they are ancient Candarian demons... Not zombies!
Airwaves of the Dead
Zombies were quickly becoming mainstream in the 70's, but perhaps the push they needed was to bring them more into the light and to a different generation. When working on the outline and talking to my parents, Mom said that she felt that her introduction to Zombies was brought to life by The King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.
She never really watched the genre until he brought them alive with Thriller. I couldn't agree more. Some would say that no MJ song took The World the way Thriller did. Just like everyone was doing The Time Warp in the 70's, the 80's had everyone leaning the Thriller dance breakdown.
Some other music videos featuring zombies include:
Scream by The Misfits
Zombies Ate Her Brain by The Creeshow
Living Dead Girl by Rob Zombie
Walk Like a Zombie by The Horrorpops
Dancing With Myself by Billy Idol
Mother by Blondie
Television of the Dead
Television has not been as big of a platform for the Dead as film, but there have been some major moments in the tube for the biters. Obviously, EVERYONE knows OF The Walking Dead, even if you haven’t watched it. However, here are a few other mentions of popular Zombie shows to mention:
Fear The Walking Dead
The Gaming Dead
Video Games may be the biggest outlet that got 90's and early 2000's kids Nerdin out on Zombies. Between Zombies Ate My Neighbors, and Resident Evil; No 90's Nerd was safe from the undead. Resident Evil may be in most people's top spot for zombie video games, but here are some other games that trained us for the impending Zombie Apocalypse.
Left 4 Dead
Call of Duty Zombies
The Last of Us
Plants VS Zombies
State Of Decay
The Walking Dead Games…..the list goes on and on. Just look up sometime how many zombie games are out there.
How The Infection Spreads
Like a bite from the infected, zombies popularity has grown exponentially in the past forty years from tv to cinema to video games and even comic books.
The zombie plague is showing no sign of slowing down and for that, Nerds are extremely happy.