Horror and science fiction deals often with the interaction between humans and creatures that have far too many similar characteristics for us to be comfortable. Cyborgs: Part human part robot. Zombies: Humans that lack the capacity to think. Vampires: Humans who have violent animalistic instincts in the foreground. We find the possibility of dehumanisation scary and strange, the fear carried in the difference between what we expect and what we actually see.
To diminish the fear of the horror classics - I separate out science fiction here only because there is much more respect for creatures within sci-fi - people alter the definition of the creatures within the genre. Zombies are a terrifying creation, shuffling and shambling relentless images of death. They come in two rough types, voodoo zombies that are raised by some unnatural power and disease zombies that tend to be the product of an experiment gone wrong.
Most people get zombies very confused with ‘the infected’ and outright mutants, presuming wrongly that any creature that could be considered undead can class as a zombie. The main difference between different sections of this genre is the ability to run.
A zombie is not a zombie if it can run.
However because the idea of the enemy that never gives up, the enemy that is beatable and therefore puts blame on the victim when they’re caught and killed, is too scary a thought for the popular market zombies have frequently been diluted. To sell zombies to larger amounts of people, most of whom don’t like being scared, they were turned into creatures that were much less beatable. A zombie that can run can’t be escaped, just like a zombie that’s vindictive can’t ever really be escaped. By taking away the blame of the victim, the genre becomes more of a joke and less scary even when trying to be serious. If the creatures had been defined simply as infected instead the fear would have been retained because of transmission possibility, such as in 28 days later.
Essentially what I’m getting at is that when we superpower something and we take away the ease of beating it, it no longer becomes something we have any reason to fear. When there is nothing to do to beat something there is no reason to be scared. This is what the popular horror market does. Not only does it make things seem unbeatable, it continues to raise the strength of the average human being to combat it. So we are left with a situation where something is super powered to reduce the blame of the victim and then the victim is themselves powered up so that their blameless self can be seen as a hero. It makes no sense and it is the reason for the influx of slasher horror.
If the original fear comes from the difference between what we know and what we see, there must be a point where a person becomes something other than a person. There has to be a reason, for example, why a person can get a disease and be treated in a hospital and still retain their identity but will lose that identity when they become part of ‘the infected.’ They suddenly lose their humanity and become part of the crowd but the only difference with them is that they have been infected with whatever pathogen causes their particular disease. Often in this genre of horror a person who has the specific illness being discussed will lose their mind somewhat, which would suggest that it is our recognisable mind that makes us a person.
There must be a limit to it though, a line where a person stops being a person and starts being a mindless infected. They tend not to react to the non-infected but there are plenty of people in the world who don’t react, we can’t go around calling anyone who ignores us an infected. By the same merit an infected will more often than not be violent but we do not consider murderers to not be people. The difference as always seems to be majority opinion. Where enough people consider the infected to be dangerous and wrong, they are dehumanised and taken from the ranks of an ill person to the ranks of a separate entity. The same is true of zombies. A zombie is simply an ill person who has a very specific illness that causes very specific symptoms. But when there are enough of them in a population, they are considered no longer people and their classification is changed.
A person is considered to be a person when enough people would call them a person. It is an intricate web of social acceptance. A zombie is a zombie whenever not enough people would call them a person. It seems irrelevant until you consider Israel and Palestine, or America and anyone not American. A terrorist is a terrorist whenever not enough people would call them a person.
When we put a zombie in front of a person with a gun, nobody questions the act of blowing their head off.
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