In Season One of TheWalking Dead, the artistic team behind the popular series explained why zombie fiction is so popular with a simple spray-painted image which read: “Dead Inside.” Why are zombies so popular? The answer is obvious: we are the walking dead. We do not need a zombie apocalypse. We are a zombie apocalypse. We are more disconnected from one another—while being more virtually connected--than ever before. We disconnect ourselves from one another through technology, over-scheduling, over-working, and the global mindset and lifestyle we claim to enjoy. We are all mindless strangers chomping our way through our world. We consume, we waste, we negotiate our world-view, and we rarely really see one another anymore. We have "othered" one another to the point of fearful suspicion. Is it any wonder we subconsciously worry we might be consumed by one another? I mean, after all, god forbid I actually speak to the girl in line in front of me at Starbucks while I consume with the best of the undead. Ever try making small talk with a stranger? Unless they are over the age of 65, they are likely to look at you--if they look up from texting--as if you have grown a third ass. They won't reply to you, but they will update their facebook status: Tryin 2 get my black eye at SBUX n a freak in sweats is asking me about the weather. Do we still have that?
In Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud proposes that the notion of civilization is a sham. We do covet our neighbor’s wife and really would like the bash them on the head and take their new Lexus. Freud has many wacky theories (penis envy, really?) but it seems entirely likely that the great zombie movement has a lot to do with discontent with and fear of the very environment we’ve created. As our financial systems collapse, many people throw social structure out the window. We’ve seen the dirty rotten tricks people (read Bernie Madoff) take just to protect their GIGANTIC, if not ill-gotten, pieces of the pie. We're all just waiting to be screwed over by the next bank--or the next anyone.
We've begun to reject social structure and disconnect ourselves from nature in every way imaginable. It’s easy to discuss how we have destroyed our natural environment, killed it with both urban or suburban sprawl, but when we think of physical decay we often link it to oral consumption: zombie bites. America, the land of the zombie-lover, is a consuming nation. We eat genetically modified foods, import coffee from third world countries (see above), and drive-thru (note we say thru not through) for pink slime burgers. Yummy. Our kids have never tasted a strawberry that’s DNA wasn’t spliced with fish; this DNA tinkering keeps it on the shelves longer. What’s for dessert, mom? Fish berry short-cake. Hooray! The food we literally consume is not as "real" as we think. We don't know where it is from. Half of the time it is garbage. Just like a zombie, we consume a lot of rotting flesh. Come to think of it, how long does meat just sit around before it reaches your plate--talk about decay. No, I'm not trying to turn you into a vegetarian, I'm just sayin'. All this consumption leaves us feeling empty. And why do zombies crave brains? I don't know about you, but most days my brain is the most weary organ in my body. It is bombarded by violent images, is taxed by information overload, and swims around in a soup of mixed up chemicals. It is the organ in our body most capable of producing art when not over-burdened by too much civilization. No wonder the zombies find it so tasty. It is that delicious candy, often just out of our reach, on the top shelf of Maslow's pyramid.
We are dead inside, and as we consume our way through our food, natural resources, and relationships with one another (just “unfriend” the mother fucker if you don’t want to deal with the relationship anymore), we begin to feel the emptiness of consumption. Thus, the zombie trend. What we are telling ourselves, at least subconsciously, is that we are becoming the thing we propose we fear: rotten flesh and all.
So why then, Melanie Karsak, have you written The Harvesting trilogy? Because it is important for us to examine why we feel this way. The Harvesting is a trilogy explores whether or not we really deserve to continue on as we are, if we are worth saving. Well, are we?