Monsters In American Popular Culture

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Monsters are common symbols in American popular culture, even if they are vampires, aliens or Frankensteins. Expressing fears and anxieties through them is a long term phenomenon. However, one monster is exceptional throughout the history of American popular culture: The zombie. Starting in the early 20th century, the zombie began to develop into an constantly omnipresent monster of America’s popular culture. It is often discussed why such a monster can survive in our daily lives, even if social and political issues are regularly changing. The answer to that question is connected to the change in the zombie itself. The adaptability and flexibility of zombies made them undergo three different stages, which finally created the all-time omnipresent…show more content…
George Romero’s film The Night of the Living Dead (1968) not only brought the zombie back to western popular culture, but more essentially was a revolution in the development of the zombie. In Romero’s zombie horror film, the zombie as a monster appears for the first time as aggressive, dangerous and with the intention to eat (meaning kill) people. The plot, namely a group of people trapped in a small location and is surrounded by zombies, as well as the main topics of the film, children versus children and the un-silent minority versus the silent majority (Mulligan 359), fit in the social context of the Cold War and can inspired following films of the 1970s. The general theme of apocalypse is well reflected by Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead and his new zombies, because it “fits well with a culture that had a generation growing up under the threat of nuclear annihilation, [...] questioning their government’s policies and [their] own identities, in the turbulent 1960s” (McIntosh 9). Additional, Romero criticizes the traditional core family by letting a zombie girl kill her parents. The film was a watershed, criticizing social and political problems through a horror film and creating a new kind of popular monster, which stayed in this development stage till the beginning of the 21st…show more content…
The first stage, which is marked by the creation of zombies through South American folklore and religion, shows the original zombie as a slave, doomed to slave work even after death. The Cold War period is significant for a further development also with it the second stage, where the zombie turns into a more dangerous monster and is able to create a setting in which social and political issues can be addressed. After a collapse of the zombie genre in the 1990s, they finally return in their third development stage in the early 21st century. More aggressive and fast than ever and developed into killer machines, they represent social insecurity and political problems after 9/11, especially in connection to Bush’s War in Terror. Throughout the years, apocalypses and in so far also “zombiepocalypses” (Boyle qtd. in Froula 200) in movies are common stages as excuses for important and current socio-political issues. The zombie, as the all-time omnipresent monster of American popular culture is flexible and able to fit in common patterns and to represent these problems. According to Rikk Mulligan, “stories of the zombie apocalypse correspond to historical notes of social anxiety: nuclear weapon tests, race conflict during the fight for Civil Rights, the riots and assassinations of the 1960s, the mid-1980s and the AIDS epidemic, and

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