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DID YOU READ

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.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…