Empire’s Walking Dead: The Zombie Apocalypse as Capitalist Theodicy
Brock University, Ontario
The zombie apocalypse is now such common currency that the American Center for Disease Control has enlisted it, tongue-in-cheek, in its campaigns to raise preparedness for pandemics (presumably of the non-zombie variety). What explains the rise of this once-niche horror genre to cultural prominence? Reading The Walking Dead in conjunction with the employee self-help manual Who Moved My Cheese? (WMMC?, hereafter), I argue that the zombie apocalypse genre employs an updated version of the becoming-subject under capitalism. Like the ‘little people’ of WMMC?, the zombie apocalypse hero (ZAH, hereafter) must engage in brutal sacrifices in order to survive: the ZAH must kill their recently-zombified loved-one before (it) can kill or zombify them. I argue that this killing is better seen as a double-murder, directed both against the ties of affection that thwart capital’s circulation, as well as against the bourgeois subject’s past, which capitalism constantly seeks to obliterate from memory. As with the worker-mice of WMMC?, the ZAH must forge a new identity based on flux rather than stability. The zombie apocalypse thus explains the modern subject to herself, through a mythic depiction of the internal disposition that capital demands from its increasingly deracinated workers. Without the tendrils of affection or the roots of a past, the subject is left sufficiently destabilized to be tractable to the pressures, dislocations, and anxieties of global capital.
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© borderlands ejournal 2014