Why Are We All Obsessed with the Idea of a Zombie Apocalypse?

I have a sneaking suspicion that it might have to do with student loans.
Publish date:
September 13, 2016
television, zombies, scary movies, zombie apocalypse

Once upon a time I was a film major in college. So I can't help but notice when I see trends in entertainment, like the fact that we (as media-happy consumers) are apparently obsessed with the zombie apocalypse. More than 14 million people tuned in to the season six finale of The Walking Dead, and World War Z brought in more than $502 million worldwide, making it Brad Pitt's biggest movie success. Yes, more successful than Fight Club.

I get that there are plenty of you out there who have deep feelings about the zombie genre. I'm not going to presume to know what you're thinking. I'm also not going to pretend that I have some deep insight that delves into any sort of symbolism you'll find anywhere in a zombie movie/TV show. But, when I watch anything with walkers, eaters, etc., I sometimes see the absolute beauty in the escapism we see in the apocalypse.

Sure, there are obvious negatives: a flesh-rotting disease, constant fear of being eaten and the complete destruction of everything you hold near and dear. If it's all so bad, why are we as a culture so obsessed with it? Based on my own experiences, I have a sneaking (and slightly sarcastic) suspicion that it might just have to do with:

You never have to pay back your student loans

Student loans are the second-largest form of debt we have (that's next to mortgages). Toppling the $1 trillion mark (as a nation) plenty of us know the sharp jab inside that happens every month when the due date comes round. While running from the living dead isn't exactly a prize, a life that's student debt free certainly is. OK, so it was my own fault. I took out a mountain of loans to study film and art history as an undergrad. As you might guess, that got me a not-so-great job serving up espresso. Later on, I added grad school loans (in a totally different educational area) to the mix, making my debt something I'd consider roughing it through an apocalypse to get out from under.

No one's judging you

It's possible you're not stabbing the living dead in the head in the "just so" way. But it's pretty unlikely anyone's going to make a fuss about it. Gone are the days of shaming just about everyone for just about everything they do. No more pointing fingers and saying, "She's a bad mom because she goes to work" or "She's a bad mom because she doesn't go to work." No more caring whether someone breastfeeds in public or not, wears too much makeup, doesn't wear enough makeup, says the "right" thing, does the "right" thing, wears the "right"thing, watches their child enough, watches their child too much, goes to college, doesn't go to college or looks a certain way. I could have certainly done without the judgy looks as my then-toddler threw a Hot Wheels car at me in the middle of the mall. Hey, it happens. Toddlers aren't exactly masters of their emotions. And I'd rather come face-to-face with the undead than a self-appointed "judge of all things parenting" who doesn't have children and doesn't understand how tough being a parent can be.

You never have to see an ex again

Or, at least you won't run into him/her at the neighborhood bar every Friday night. I thought I had escaped my old high school boyfriend by — well, by not being in high school anymore. That's until I started seeing him pop up at my favorite spot. Every weekend. OK, so ducking your ex isn't exactly a major life travesty. But, wouldn't you be all in for never having to run the risk?

Social media is dead too

And back to your ex — you know all of those super-smiley pictures of your ex with his or her new guy or girl that are plastered all over the internet? The Instagram pics of them cuddling. The Facebook posts of their latest vacation (and it's to the place where you always wanted to go and he always refused to go). Along with never seeing your ex online, you never have to see (or be seen by) anyone. No embarrassing childhood photos that your mom scans and posts thinking she is privately sharing them with you, no flood of perfectly styled family pics from your friends, and no selfies — EVER!

Cleaning: Why bother?

No more scrubbing, mopping, vacuuming, or worrying if your yard's grass is 1/4 inch overgrown. So maybe my yard gets to a point where it somewhat looks like a set from The Walking Dead. I'd kind of be OK if that was the standard in yard maintenance. Heck, you don't even have to worry about cleaning yourself. Forget the fancy shampoos and your hair straightener; it's au naturel for all!

No keeping up with the Joneses

While I'd be more than happy to say that I've never felt the slightest bit jealous over a new job, new house, or new anything that a friend of mine has, that's just not true. Call it what you will, but coveting others' good fortune isn't exactly abnormal. Wishing you have what they have isn't something we enjoy, but it happens. The zombie apocalypse puts us all back on an even playing field. We all have nothing.

When it comes down to it, the appeal of a zombie apocalypse (or any other kind, for that matter) might just lie in the idea that it's a total reset. Everything about society is wiped away, and we all get to start over (provided you're a survivor). It's the do-over that none of us could ever get in real life. Even if there's no electricity and a lack of fresh water to shower, and we have to start foraging for our food, at least we all go back to having the same credit score.