I Ran with a Zombie

Last week Slate ran this piece on the recent appearance of fast-moving zombies in movies. Not until the end does the author consider what the two different portayals might represent:

George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, more than any other creature feature, hammered home the slow zombie’s metaphorical possibilities. In the first Dawn, scores of shopping-mall-bound corpses ride escalators in an endless loop and wobble listlessly to Muzak. This new Dawn, though one of the best scare movies of the last few years, is far more concerned with zombie style than zombie substance: While Snyder’s zombies may be mindless, they’re less a consumerist mob than a bunch of high-strung car chasers.

Indeed, the slow zombie represents the loss of humanity through the loss of the drive to acheive and to better oneself, reduced to shuffling among the crowd with an occasional swipe at living flesh whenever it comes into arms’ reach. The slow zombie is a person who surrounds himself with the comfortable, material satisfaction of what he has and never thinks about what he might become. But the fast zombie is a loss of humanity at the other end of the spectrum: the hypercompetitive, single-minded dash driven by the basest of instincts. If the slow zombies are the lines at Wal-mart on a Saturday afternoon, the fast are the ones rushing in the door at 8 am, trampling each other to get the $20 DVD player. And so as society becomes more efficient and profit-driven, productivity rising while employment remains stagnant, the fast zombie becomes the metaphor of the day.