Friday, April 19, 2013

Analyzing the modern obsession with the undead

By Alyssa Fountain, Columnist

When we were little, we were all scared of the monsters under the bed.

Now, we do everything we can to reach out to the monsters of our childhood.
Modern day culture astounds me in various ways.  I have found myself enjoying watching a show revolving around the undead, a trend I have noticed a lot.

My guilty pleasure is “Being Human,” a British TV show with British humor in all its glory about a ghost, a vampire and a werewolf who get an apartment together.
There is so much to love about this kind of show — drama, interpersonal relations, culture. We can study their culture through a lens of our own.
These shows are great. I think the obsession has gone a bit far, though, to the point where we now have little girls playing with dolls representing the undead. Walk into any Target and you will find Bratzillas and monster dolls.
I wonder what it is in our nature that encourages us to be so obsessed with the undead and these slightly disturbing fantasies. I wonder why it is that we are entranced by watching a vampire tear out someone’s neck.
I believe we enjoy watching the undead because it presents a more raw representation of humanity. We are able to examine our humanity through watching others struggle with their lack of humanity.
However, I think there is a point where we find the undead more human than we are.
They certainly struggle with the “Big Enough Questions,” and through them we are able to ponder what it means for us to be who we are.
We question who we are, and who we have been made into. These questions plague our minds, and by watching the undead suffer through pain, it almost gives voice to our pain. It’s like if we can see them struggle, our struggle becomes more manageable.
In the end I think that’s what draws us to this trend … we want to feel alive and it seems like the dead feel more alive than we do.
Television shows like “Being Human” or “The Walking Dead” allow us to feel a rush of adrenaline as a zombie attacks someone, or as a vampire struggles to maintain a conscience.
The undead have become the new superheroes. We romanticize the “bad guys” and start thinking they can define our humanity.
We, as humans, need something to believe in. This is what our obsession with the undead has evolved into. We need to believe that there is something in the world more powerful than our daily trivialities.
We need to hold on to the concept that we will reach a new point in our lives where we will not be so absorbed by our essays and tests that we can deal with real questions.
These television shows certainly provide great avenues for our human questions to be answered. Next time you hop on Hulu or Netflix, just consider what this fix on the undead is doing to your mind.
Recognize it is an escape, an enjoyable escape, but an escape nonetheless. It is a way for us to distance ourselves from the real questions that are disturbing us. Let us remember how magical it is to be human.