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Zombies take over pop-culture in Utah, Nation

SALT LAKE CITY — Zombies have yet to take over the world, but they have taken over popular culture in Utah and in the nation.

The zombie, which had its beginning in film, expanded its fame to books, T.V., magazines, comics, clothing fads, video games and card games in recent years. The Walking Dead, iZombie, Zombieland and Plant vs. Zombie are only a few of the products infiltrated by zombies.

Southern Utah University English professor Kyle Bishop and Harvard psychiatry professor Steven Schlozman, both authors of books about zombies, read from their books and discussed the infiltration of Zombies into the media in a book reading and question and answer session in Cedar City Friday.

Twenty-first Century people enjoy zombies because their characteristics have been loosely developed over the past 50 years, Kyle Bishop, author of "How Zombies Conquered Popular Culture," said. Zombies may have their roots in Haiti folklore, but Bishop said "Night of the Living Dead" in 1968 was the origin of the zombie as it is known today.

Older monsters are already defined, Bishop said. Vampires are typically about sexuality and blood-sucking, werewolves are about the struggle between humans and animals, and ghosts are about life after death, he said.

In pop culture, zombies can be dead or alive, various colors, have diverse backgrounds and varying levels of intellect, which allows them to represent anything from drug abuse to teenage angst, Bishop said.

"Monsters aren't real, so they exist to represent other things," Bishop said. "Zombies are so widely accessible because they can represent war, illegal immigration, death ... you name it."

Zombie fascination may also stem from the disconnect people feel because of the decreased personal interaction technology brings, Schlozman said.

Schlozman, author of "The Zombie Autopsies," said the zombie hype is likely a sign that 21th century folk feel like they are losing their "personhood," because of the lack of personal interaction technology promotes.

"Zombies aren't about you, and I think that character is specifically alarming because they remind us that our world wants us to think that we're not special anymore," Schlozman said. "Zombies are not after you in particular, they're just after your guts."

But although zombies dehumanize people, Bishop said he feels like they may promote a sense of community. While other monsters don't travel in packs, zombies do.

This was clear in Utah in August when 3,000 to 5,000 people dressed like zombies and wandered through the streets of Salt Lake City as part of Fear Factory and Salt Lake Comicon's Zombie Walk.

"Community values and religious culture are a factor in zombie popularity," Salt Lake City Comicon co-founder Bryan Brandenburg said. "There's a lot of end of days kind of talk going on in Utah as well as throughout the country, and I think that whole conversation leads to more zombie apocalyptic promotion."

Zombie enthusiast Brytt Blatter, 22, of Salt Lake City, said sometimes it seems as though people in the state and country want a Zombie Apocalypse to happen, but that for him zombies are a constant remind to find joy in living.

"If you let it, anything bad in life could turn you into 'the walking dead'— someone living day-to-day without a real purpose," Blatter said. "Zombie stuff reminds me to laugh and enjoy my real life."

Whatever the reason for the monster's popularity, Bishop predicts that zombies will be a part of pop culture for years to come.


Twitter: TORIAjorgensen