Originally posted by BRussell
I think you're on to something here. But you're saying that people identify with the zombies? I find that hard to believe. We must identify with the small group of surviving normal humans in the movies. But who are the zombies? A big, conformist society threatening our freedom?
I think the zombies make for the perfect guilt free "blow-away-the-bad-guys" experience.
It's been noted that shifting currents in global politics and increased multi-cultural sensitivities make it hard to have stable "super bad guys" (as opposed to just really bad individuals that do really bad things).
Communists and their surrogates are out, ethnicities are out, drug dealers were pressed into service there for a while but there's the problem of constantly relying on super violent black and latino characters.
You can't really just haul off and have a plot hinge on the maniacal evil doings of say, Sri Lanka, or the Mormons, or Pakistani immigrants.
"Terrorists", of course, are the obvious modern choice, but then you get this kind of vague fudging around who and what and where, as befits risk adverse studio systems that don't really want to get into a whole polarizing geo-political discussion around some mindless summer explosion movie.
In other words, in this age of globalization and shared information it's much harder to craft an implacably evil "other" that lets audiences of the hook for worrying about motivation or consequences.
But zombies, well, you can kill those guys all day long
without having to give it a second thought. You can kill child zombies. You can kill grandma zombies. You can hurt zombies in ways that would make an audience wonder about the sanity of the hero, were such a hurt put upon a mere thug.
You can mow down huge, indiscriminate mobs of zombies.
And here's the real closer: you can kill what are, for all intents and purposes, innocent zombies
Your geo-political villains are necessarily comprised of elites. Masterminds, para-military squads, etc. If the hero just started slaughtering everybody on the street who so much as knew the name of the mastermind, the audience would loose empathy.
But zombies, although recently your friends and neighbors, are fair game. That kid down the hall in 27B? Gonna have to put both barrels of a shotgun in his face. That lady that walks her dog past your favorite coffee shop? Sorry, must chop you up with this ax.
So zombie movies provide, in addition to an enemy that need not be understood or compromised with, the added little kick of just a straight up killing spree.
And, at the end of the day, doesn't it seem like that's what we sorta long for? To set aside any sense of having to figure things out, in the face of our grievances, and of having to worry about "proportionate responses" or "justice" or "blow back", and just go ape-shit crazy and kill everything in sight, secure in the knowledge that no-one could ever blame us?