Zombies and Plagues and Bombs, Oh My!Print
How hyperbolic outbreak narratives have infected our worldview—from media to the government
By Stephanie Bastek
February 23, 2018
For decades, artists have been using horror to speak to our deepest societal fears, from the wilderness (werewolves) to the unknown (aliens). With zombies, that fear is infection: the outbreak of some terrible epidemic that sweeps the world, rendering us all into the drooling, flesh-eating monster next door. But as Dahlia Schweitzer shows in her new book, Going Viral, zombies are part of a much older lineage—dating back to Haitian slavery. Recently, these stories have arisen as commentary on the Ebola and AIDS epidemics, as well as terrorism, and in many cases, fact and fiction seem unfortunately to blur. Why have these outbreak narratives infected the public conversation? And how have they affected the way we see the world?
Go beyond the episode:
- Dahlia Schweitzer’s Going Viral: Zombies, Viruses, and the End of the World
- Check out this chart of the three film cycles of outbreak narratives
- Want to be comforted after all that terror? Here’s an outline of all the female scientists who save the day in these films
- Watch a how the film Pandemic (2016) blurs fact and fiction with actual news footage
- In case you had any doubts about Dawn of the Dead (1978) was about consumerism: here’s the mall scene
- And check out the whole “syllabus” for Going Viral
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Stephanie Bastek is the associate editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.