(Andrew Calcutt is away in the sun this week – this is a guest post by Mark Beachill)
“Quick, on Radio 4. The news said there was a zombie apocalypse.”
My girlfriend has a fascination with all things zombie. Myself I’m too squeamish to watchThe Walking Dead with her. Had she misheard, imagined?
A quick search on Google News led me to the story of a traffic accident in the USA brought on when a parade(?) of people in zombie costumes mobbed a car and the driver, panicked, knocked over a passer-by.
“No! It was in the UK and it said zombie apocalypse.”
Back to Google News. It turned out the railway station announcer in Brighton had bizarrely declared a zombie apocalypse over the tannoy. This was his description of thetorrential downpour after several months’ rain fell in the space of an hour or so, floodingthe station. Even more bizarrely BBC Radio 4 picked it up for their hourly national newsbulletin.
When we get freakish weather nowadays it is not usually zombies that are invoked. More commonly the living are said to be out of control: reckless consumption brings energy use that warms the globe and increases the likelihood of “extreme weather events”.
The threat of ecological and meteorological catastrophe means consumption must be reined in, goes the argument. In less secular times the Biblical flood that put Noah on his ark – with God’s plan to cleanse past sins and start again – might have been invoked. Today it is through is our sins against Gaia through over-consumption that are said bring warning storms. So sure are the BBC, for example, that they now limit air-time for any with an alternative view or even an alternative solution.
But, weirdly enough, perhaps the zombie metaphor is not all too distant from theorthodox explanation. Contemporary zombies are a child of the 1970s, their endless hunger a metaphor for our endless consumption prompted by critiques of mindless consumerism that first emerged in the seventies. It was no coincidence that George Romero’s 1978 Dawn of the Dead, the film that re-launched the zombie, had most of its action set in a shopping mall.
The witty announcer reached for the wrong end of the world scenario and so made us laugh resonating way beyond drenched travellers. And perhaps humour is at least part ofwhat we need to negotiate the many millenarian settings that seem to crowd theimagination today and still carry on – in our “mindless” pursuit of a better life.