The Source of Our Fears Essay

Submitted By kyra_Odayashi
Words: 2492
Pages: 10

The Source of Our Fears The specifics of the zombie epidemic vary throughout its culture, from voodoo spells that ensnare the mind to scientific discoveries that hurtle out of control. There is no one universal type of zombie. Yet whether or not the epidemic results from the bite of a rage-infected monkey, one element always remains constant: humankind. Humankind exists at the source of every disease and spell. Humankind must fight through the results of their own actions. Why? Why is it that the zombie epidemic is so important when it happens to humans instead of another species? Why does everything come back to humankind? It comes down to one word: fear. Fear dominates the zombie culture. Various texts, movies, and games play on humankind’s fear of zombies. Some like Scott Swendson believe that this fear comes from the unrelenting violent nature of the zombie (Wiesen, “An Infectious Trend”). Yet while many consumers might believe that this fear focuses around the death and violence presented across various mediums, the authors and screenwriters in the zombie culture are doing much more than that. They utilize what Karl Albrecht calls the five basic fears that form the bases from which all other fears stem: loss of autonomy, mutilation, ego-death, separation, and extinction (The Only Five). Authors and screenwriters portray the five basic fears through the various aspects of the zombie epidemic to just to draw in consumers by emphasizing the effects of these fears on humankind. The earliest films in the zombie culture capitalized on the voodoo zombie and our fear for a loss of autonomy. A loss of control is the crux of this particular fear and plays a strong role in the origins of the zombie culture. The origins of the modern day zombie stem from the Haitian voodoo zombie, a person controlled by another through magic or the removal of the soul. Victor Halperin’s film White Zombie was one of Hollywood’s earliest portrayals of zombies and closely followed the concept of the standard voodoo zombie (The Truth Behind Zombies). In Halperin’s film, zombies were created by a witch doctor and made to be slaves. These zombies were not reanimated corpses; they were living people under the influence of a potion. The zombies have no control over their actions and they answer to their master, the witch doctor Murder Legendre. The voodoo zombies of White Zombie frighten because they illustrate that loss of autonomy. They present a situation where one can still be alive but be controlled by another, such as when Murder Legendre orders the zombified Madeleine to kill her husband Neil and she is powerless to resist his command. The importance of the loss of control in the zombie culture is illustrated through the peculiar case of Clairvius Narcisse. In April of 1962, Narcisse was admitted into a Haitian hospital and was pronounced dead several days later. Eighteen years later, in 1980, a man claiming to be Narcisse appeared, claiming have escaped from the bokor (Haitian voodoo sorcerer) that had turned him into a zombie (The Truth). Astoundingly, the man was Clairvius Narcisse. It was later determined that his zombification was a result of hypnotism, cultural beliefs, and a concoction containing hallucinogenic drugs (Schwarz, “Clairvius Narcisse”). Under this combination, Narcisse remained in a zombie-like state under the control of the bokor. It was only after the bokor died that Narcisse regained control of his own actions. Even though the modern zombie differs from the traditional voodoo zombie, it is not exempt from this fear. Loss of autonomy extends beyond the control of the body to encompass the control of our environment or circumstances. Many modern zombie epidemics rise from situations in which a virus or contaminant, sometimes man-made, spirals out of control and modern medicine and technology is incapable of solving the problem. An example can be seen in Stephen King’s short story “Home