Zombies as a metaphor: a discussion on the undead in popular culture

Zombies as a metaphor: a discussion on the undead in popular culture (photo)

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“Traveling in a fried-out combi/ On a hippie trail, head full of zombie.” – Men at Work, “Down Under”

I have, like everyone, been thinking about zombies in pop culture. Let’s face facts: we live in a golden age of zombie. What is the most successful show on GetGlue? “The Walking Dead.” Further, the 24/7 web site actually estimates that the zombie genre is worth over $5 billion to the U.S. economy.

It’s a zombie world and we are just trying to survive the slow advance of the famished hordes. There’s more. Zombie mash-ups are reinvigorating classics. Zombies, everywhere, are on the march. Zombies are even, if you believe it, taking over the economy (figuratively, of course). Things have gotten so zombie out there — and there really is no other way to describe it — that the Centers for Disease Control’s “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” blog post this past spring crashed their site.

“There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for,” read the offending blog post. “Take a zombie apocalypse for example…. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.”

Zombie as metaphor! For some reason – our national debt, perhaps? – the idea of an impending zombie apocalypse is the zeitgeist, and our popular culture just cannot seem to get enough. What is the meaning of this thusness?

With vampires, the glamour is obvious. Vamps are sexy, forever young and, quite frankly, built to withstand a robust nightlife for eternity. They are objects of both envy and geek lust. But zombies, with their spasmodic jerks and tortured, rigor-mortise twists as well as, one cannot fail to note, their hugely unfashionable state of decomposition, exude tragic unhipness. And I don’t mean that in a good way. Zombies, let’s face it, are the geeks of the monster world. If vampires are the undead, then zombies are the uncoordinated. And yet…zombie chic persists. How does one account for it?

There’s just something about zombies. Zombie determination to get at our brain matter is, well, commendable; their slow-and-steady-wins-the-race persistence is the stuff of the American dream. But let’s get serious. Just as “The Blob” was the perfect Cold War allegory, zombies specifically speak to our time. Zombies, with their deficit of life, mirror an economy of debt. Zombies, in their grunting aimlessness absent decent eating material, parallel the amount of Americans who believe we are rudderless. Decline is in the air, a sense of imperial overreach in Afghanistan (“the graveyard of empires”) and in competition with the rising nations.

If there is a relationship between the national disequilibrium post-Watergate and the popularity of “The Exorcist” in the 70s (and I believe there is), then perhaps today zombies represent indebtedness and unemployment. Our national debt and our unemployment– steady at about 9% — are not entirely unlike a metaphoric economic zombie infection. That might account as to why the zombie genre has gained such traction in the last few years, in books, in movies and on TV. Something rings true. If only the $5 billion that the zombie genre generates plug the $14 trillion hole we have dug ourselves in. That would be totally zombie.

That 70s Show Fez

Fez Fever!

Think You Know Fez? Take This Quiz!

Catch That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays from 6-11P ET/PT.

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Fez played the role of the outsider on That ’70s Show, but was quickly welcomed into the Circle. How deeply have you accepted Fez into your life? Click below to start the quiz and find out!


That 70s show

Must Scream TV

10 Spooktacular Halloween TV Episodes

Catch That '70s Show Mondays and Tuesdays 6-11P on IFC.

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A great Halloween episode is like terrific fan fiction. Our beloved characters are thrust into a spooky predicament beyond their normal scope of storylines while wearing garish outfits and fearing for their lives. The annual tradition on-screen is a reflection of the holiday’s appeal in real life: A chance to see the familiar skew towards the garish and macabre.

Fun, scary, and memorable, here are the 10 best Halloween episodes of all time.

10. That ’70s Show, “Halloween”

that 70s halloween

The siren song of an abandoned building on Halloween lures the That ’70s Show gang to their burned-out grammar school where they discover their old permanent records. Secrets and backstories are revealed, such as Jackie’s middle name, Kelso’s real age, and an act of vandalism committed by a 7-year-old Eric which followed Hyde around his entire life.

9. Freaks and Geeks, “Tricks and Treats”

freaks and geeks

freaks and geeks halloween

Expertly capturing the dilemma of kids too old to trick-or-treat but too young for drunken holiday revelry (legally, at least), Freaks and Geeks brings us back to the youthful pursuit of making the most out of Halloween. Wannabe freak Lindsay opts for petty vandalism while Sam and his geeky pals are humiliated by their costumed rounds through the neighborhood. On the plus side, Bill makes a very stately Bionic Woman.

8. Quantum Leap, “The Boogieman”

Quantum leap goat
Leaping into a horror writer’s life in 1964, Sam plays detective as the people around him start dying, Al’s not quite himself, and a goat keeps appearing. The grisly plot culminates to a legitimately unsettling climax that’s as scary as it is funny (seriously, it’s hard to describe) and we find out the neighborhood boy goes on to become somebody very familiar.

7. Cheers, “Bar Wars V: The Final Judgement”



On Halloween, the bar’s longtime rivalry with Gary’s Olde Towne Tavern is curiously called off when Gary reveals his heart can’t take it — literally. But Sam, not buying the medical diagnosis, stages an elaborate (and in reality, logistically impossible) prank involving Carla’s holographic head that may have caused Gary to kick the bucket. (There’s a humorous callback to this episode in the following season’s “Bar Wars” episode.)

6. Amazing Stories, “Mummy Daddy”

Over a decade before Wes Craven upended horror movie tropes with Scream, this episode of the tragically short-lived Steven Spielberg-produced anthology series blurs the line between myth and Hollywood when an actor playing a mummy is pursued by (and mistaken for) an actual mummy. Pure pulp fun if only for the image of a mummy riding horseback.

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Fear, Itself”

Buffy halloween
Mixing a little Scarecrow villainry into the Whedonverse, this episode has Buffy and the gang attending a Halloween frat party where a demon that feeds on fear subjects everyone to their greatest nightmares. A delightful writing exercise that exposes each character’s weaknesses and doubts, “Fear, Itself” is prime Buffy entertainment.

4. MacGyver, “Halloween Knights”

CBS Television

CBS Television/ABC

Less of an episode of television than a convergence of all things great, MacGyver is coerced into joining forces with longtime nemesis and super-assassin Murdoc when his former hitman employers kidnap his sister and threaten to execute her at a posh Halloween party. Complete with a booby-trapped funhouse and thinly veiled references to Raiders of the Lost Ark, this is hands down one of the greatest episodes from the series.

3. Roseanne, “BOO!”

Roseanne halloween

Kicking off an annual tradition of Halloween with the Conners, “BOO!” from season two of Roseanne showcases the family’s obsession with the holiday and the lengths to which they celebrate it. For a family just scraping by and the viewers who watch them, it’s a cathartic outlet and an excuse to let freak flags fly. And from the first holiday go-around, it’s instantly clear the show will do it again and again.

2. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia“Who Got Dee Pregnant?”



Narrowly edging out season eight’s stellar, McPoyle-infested “Maureen Ponderosa Wedding Massacre,” season six’s “Who Got Dee Pregnant?” represents the very best of the Paddy’s Pub crew. Dee reveals she’s pregnant and the gang engage in drunken flashbacks Rashomon-style to determine who the father could be. Featuring the sexual exploits of the always-awesome Artemis, as well as Frank dressed as the canon-busting Man-Spider, “Who Got Dee Pregnant?” is top-notch.

1. The Simpsons“Treehouse of Horror V”

Simpsons Shining

Picking your favorite child would be far easier than picking your favorite Simpsons Halloween special — though they tend to be earlier seasons, don’t they? However, “Treehouse of Horror V” from season six is simply too fantastic to be topped. Between the classic Shining parody, Homer’s time-traveling advice from his father on his wedding night, and Groundskeeper Willie constantly getting an axe in the back, you can’t find a better way to ring in October 31st than this half hour.

Missed Comedy Bang! Bang!’s Rocky Horror-tastic Halloween blowout? Watch it now.


Gigi Gets Wasted

5 Ways to Get Ready for Tonight’s Boozy Gigi Does It

Catch Gigi Does It Mondays at 10:30P ET/PT on IFC.

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On tonight’s Gigi Does It, everyone’s favorite yenta gets her drink on at a wine tasting. As the episode shows us, it is possible to have a nice drink with friends without too many tears. Here are five ways to get ready for tonight’s wine-soaked Gigi Does It before it airs at 10:30P ET/PT on IFC.

1.  Learn the proper wine tasting etiquette.

There’s nothing more fun than tasting some fine wine with friends. Just be sure to learn the spitting versus swallowing etiquette.

2. Keep the conversation light.

When chatting with friends over a nice relaxing glass of wine, it’s important to keep things light. Unless you’re Ricky and the very sight of alcohol brings up years of repressed childhood trauma.

3. Support your wasted pals.

Tonight on Gigi Does It, Gigi steps in for her drunken pal Tretchy during an important speech. Gigi truly is a Dionne Warwick song come to life.

3. Hire a makeup crew for all your party selfie needs.

Not everyone can wake up and walk out the door looking their best. So be like Gigi Does It star David Krumholtz and assemble a team of professional makeup artists to give you the attention to bald cap blending and neck fold realism that you deserve.

4. Get some “hot takes” for cocktail hour.

In today’s post-Twitter world, one doesn’t have time to hear “hot take” on the latest trends beyond 140 characters. As such, it’s important to condense your incredulous rants on everything from Trump on SNL to healthy eating into bite-sized, Andy Rooney-esque tidbits. Watch the video above to hear Gigi’s take on Trump’s “cotton candy hair” and get some talking points for your next cocktail party.

5. Crack open Gigi’s book with a nice Chardonnay.

Like most seniors, Gigi knows how little appreciation grandparents receive from their grandkids. Which is why the saucy old broad penned a children’s book reminding today’s youth to call their grandmother. Pop open a bottle of your favorite tasty beverage and give it a read.


This Week on IFC

Benders Meet a Soprano, Gigi Writes a Book and Comedy Bang! Bang! is Back!

Thursday on IFC is the place to be starting at 10P.

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After Benders big premiere last week, the guys meet an actual Soprano. That’s right, Bobby Baccalieri himself, Steve Schirripa, guest stars as a tough guy shaking down the crew. Check out a clip below, and tune in on Thursday at 10P to see if any of the Uncle Chubbys crew gets whacked.

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On the second episode of Gigi Does It, Gigi Rotblum has a plan to get her grandson to respect his elders – she’s going to write a children’s book, just like the one by Harry Potter author J.K. Simmons. Gigi Does It airs on Thursday at 10:30P. Watch a sneak peek below.

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And, finally, as a thank you for waiting patiently for the return of Comedy Bang! Bang!, check out a list of the show’s top 5 “beefs.” Does Fourvel make an appearance? Watch below, and be sure to catch the return of Comedy Bang! Bang! in its NEW TIME SLOT Thursdays at 11P.

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