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March 2018
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Posted by Ben

We’ve come a long way from the demons and ghouls of the past.

Whether in Dracula with Béla Lugosi, or George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, it seems that movie audiences have always been attracted to these creatures of the night.  So much so that our current fascination with the undead seems to have come full circle.  Can authors and screen-writers really not think of an original scenario that involves these recently deceased (and…receased?) brain-eaters and blood-suckers?  The fact that we have books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and movies like the Twilight Series might make you think that they can’t.  But, at least, we can get some good cultural studies out of the recent phenomenon of the reanimation of these differing types of monsters in today’s pop-culture world

I, personally, think the most obvious way to view these two separate categories is to look at them through the scope of gender studies.  I’ll be focusing on the zombies on one side and vampires on the other – split into teams: boys vs. girls style.

We can clearly see how one type of undead monster differs from the other: the vampires  seem to appeal more to the female audience (as they have done for over a century), while the zombies have a much stronger following on the male side.  This may come down to the basic differences, which have been engrained into our minds, between the sexes.

First: the zombies’ appeal to the male viewer.

In any given zombie movie or book, the zombies are the clear antagonist.  Why? Because they are very single-minded and goal-oriented: all they want to do is eat your brain (thank you, Jonothan Coulton reference).  They don’t say anything (in most cases); all they do is chase, catch, and eat you.  This appeals to the “protector” nature of the male psyche; the need to protect the women and save the day, making them the hero.  By making the nature of the zombie so easily understandable, it becomes easy, then, to understand our role in relation to them.

On the other side of the undead aisle: vampires can have all sorts of motives.

The idea that they are seductive and charismatic might appeal to the archetypal female viewer’s sense of romance.  And that they depend upon your blood adds a sense of closeness and needing. What’s more romantic than living forever with some hot vampire? Or living, for a time, with some hot vampire that is totally dependent on your “life-force”?

These differences, although seemingly only gender specific, can also be viewed as a psychological study.  Who came up with these gender roles?  Are they really all that accurate?

Getting back to the topic of neo undead-literature: these gender differences are exploited heavily in the Twilight series (both the movie and book franchises) and the Pride and Prejudice and Zombies book[s].  In Twilight the vampire is portrayed as an immortal teenager, appealing to the female audience’s perceived idea of undying romance.  Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an almost insulting concept as it takes a book that is highly regarded as one of the best examples of women in literature and throws zombies into it as a means to appeal to the male audience (that’s not to say that it isn’t highly entertaining and an all-around fun read).

In the end, it just seems that these undead archetypes themselves are being used to take old concepts (romance, adventure, good vs. evil) and breathe new life into them – to bring them back from the dead.  How this might affect you may or may not stem from your own gender/psychological Persuasion (another good Jane Austen title – please don’t write a book titled Persuasion and Parasites).

Category:Blog Posts -- posted at: 7:59pm EDT