Zombie Archetype

Learn all about the zombie archetype, including definition, characteristics, examples and how it relates to the Creator archetype.

What is the Zombie Archetype?

The Zombie archetype is at an all time high in modern culture, with sources saying that over half the total output of films about zombies ever made having been created within the last decade alone.

The archetypal zombie seen in film and literature is a dead, reanimated but dis-spirited body which roams across the landscape creating misery and infecting the living wherever it goes.

So, what is it about the modern age which makes this archetype increasingly relevant and captivating?

Zombie Archetype Characteristics & Traits

  • The archetypal Zombie represents the disempowerment and loss of our own will which many humans truly fear and which perhaps seem to be an increasing threat in modern society.
  • Zombies can appear effective metaphors for many of the darkest fears which prevail in current society, such as global pandemics (the COVID-19 pandemic being a prime example of this), chemical and biological weapons, the dark web and the dangers of technology, economic collapse, political corruption, extremist ideology and terrorism.
  • As a representation of these themes zombies play on all of humanities deepest fears and so the archetype in it’s literary and filmic form appeals as a result.
  • Links have also been drawn between the zombie archetype and the terror attacks of 11th September 2001, with images of dust-covered and terrified individuals fleeing the Twin Towers of New York having seeming parallels with the ‘zombie’ of film and television.
  • These events caused psychological scarring for both the individuals involved and those watching around the world, bringing home to people to dangers that they could face on a day to day basis in their lives from unimagined sources.
  • This in turn made the archetypal zombie more appealing and real to those in their imaginations.

Zombie Archetype Examples

An example of the Zombie archetype in modern culture is American TV series The Walking Dead.

The series features a large cast who play survivors of a zombie apocalypse. The survivors have to try to stay alive under threat of attacks from zombies, whom they have colloquially termed “walkers”.

However, the survivors also face conflict from other communities of survivors, each having developed their own form of society with their own individual laws and morals. This leads to hostility and conflict between the human communities as well as the need to defend themselves from the ever-present threat of the zombies.

The series has met with critical success, strong viewing figures for much of it’s run and has resulted in the commissioning of a spin-off series and set of films.

Further Reading

Further reading on the zombie archetype includes:

  • The Walking Dead: The Archetype of the Zombie in the Modern Epoch – by Tony McKenna
  • The Mammoth Book of Zombies: 20th Anniversary Edition – by Stephen Jones
  • The Zombie Archetype: Living in a Viral Culture – by Lee Weiser
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