You’re Doing It Wrong: Zombies
When is a zombie not a zombie? When it’s a cannibal.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: June 8th, 2012
The concept of zombies as undead cannibals originated in 1968 with George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
here’s been lots of talk of zombies lately. To hear the posters and tweeters and “legitimate” reporters tell it, the Florida face-eater, the Maryland heart and brain eater, and the Vancouver body-part eater/mailer all add up to one thing: zombie apocalypse. Of course no one really believes in the zombie apocalypse, but why is everyone calling these people zombies instead of calling them what they really are: cannibals?
It’s not as though cannibalism is any less sensational than zombie-ism. Modern instances of cannibalism, from the Donner Party to Jeffrey Dahmer to the survivors of Air Force Flight 571 that crashed into the Andes, have been written about ad nauseam (literally).
But with the seemingly unstoppable popularity of vampires, zombies, and other overused B-horror movie clichés, the temptation to call cannibals by a far trendier and more SEO-friendly name must be too much to resist.
What’s interesting about this recent spate of cannibalism is the divergence from most historical and anthropological instances of people-eating. In many ancient non-western cultures, cannibalism was practiced out of necessity or as either a symbol of triumph over one’s enemies or in some cases, out of respect. Non-tribal instances of cannibalism have usually occurred as a last resort.
But the literature on psychosis-induced cannibalism is sparse. There’s nothing in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders about it, and the documented cases of people suffering from psychosis or other mental illness resorting to cannibalism don’t seem to date back further than the 20th century.
The concept of zombies as undead cannibals originated in 1968 with George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Prior to that zombies were considered to be simply reanimated corpses, not human-eaters. Romero’s film was adapted from Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend, in which the evil creatures are more like vampires.
According to horror writer Jonathan Maberry’s blog, Romer couldn’t get the rights to I Am Legend, so he changed the characters into undead flesh-eaters called "ghouls." “What [Romero] did was to invent a new kind of monster, the living dead,” Maberry says. “We now call these monsters ‘zombies’ [but that is] an incorrect label hung on the genre by Italian film distributors.”
Considering that the very origin of the modern zombie is rooted in error, it makes sense that the misidentification of zombies continues.
But if you ever find yourself being eaten by a real live human being, be sure to remember, that person is not a zombie. That person is a cannibal.