You can a lot about a culture from the monsters it embraces. Sometimes even things it might not know about itself. (And we’re talking literal monsters, like werewolves and such. While Bernie Madoff certainly counts as a monster under most definitions, say, no child outside of Palm Beach leaves their closet light on just in case he’s in there.)
In the boom times, earlier this decade, the our monster of choice was the zombie. Starting with the film 28 Days Later and continuing with Dawn of the Dead, the reverent spoof Shaun of the Dead, the excellent black and white comic The Walking Dead, and even the Resident Evil franchise of video games and movies, zombies were everywhere.
What we didn’t know at the time was that zombies really were everywhere.
In everyday life we were surrounded by zombie institutions. Banks and brokerages leveraged past the point of viability, and with portfolios of worthless assets, shuffling about their business until being told that they’d actually been dead for years.
A news media that let a war get sold to the public on provably false pretenses while producing the same millions of column inches and hours of talking heads it always had. Reading or watching it, you’d hardly know they missed anything.
A political system that turned against itself. A justice department actively trying to influence elections. A disaster agency designed to prove, at high human cost, its own inadequacy. A Congress content to argue on the margins with constitutional principles at stake. It seemed like it was still mostly doing what it always did while inside it was rotting.
Maybe the zeitgeist was trying to warn us.
If the early and mid- part of this decade belonged to the zombie, what does it mean that now the monster of the moment is the vampire? (Twilight, True Blood, The Vampire Diaries…) I’m not sure, but I suspect things are about to get mean.
(And I’d keep a close eye on one’s precious bodily fluids, just in case.)