This March, another season of The Walking Dead will come to a close, much to the chagrin of its devoted fan base. The show’s success in particular, and the prevalence of zombie-themed shows in general, has led me and many others to ask:
Why zombies? Why now?
Surprisingly, the reasons for zombies’ popularity are not so recent. A look back in history at apocalyptic literature reveals some of the same trends that have made zombie apocalypses so popular today.
Apocalyptic literature tended to be produced by an oppressed minority in times of political and cultural disarray. The literature offered its readers comfort from their current situation by describing the world that was to come—both on earth and in heaven. It would “unveil” the future world to its readers; hence the name “apocalypse,” which is from the Greek for “unveiling.” The literature told of a future victory in which the minority would triumph over the majority.