Reviewing Metaphoric Features of Zombies – Zombies as Consumerism

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The emergence of many genres bearing on to in the popular culture has made the existing times to be referred to as ‘golden generation of zombies’ with the genres being well worth over $5 billion in the US economy. Zombies are walking dead our bodies with the term having emerged from Haitian folklore and Voodoo. The age of zombie can be noted in addition in the fact that there are zombie politics, infrastructure and among others. The time period is mainly used as a metaphor in the modern world. Metaphorically zombies have been used by way of scholars to represent a range of factors ranging from dysfunctional financial structures to divisive political institutions. The popularity of the walking lifeless to be used as symbolism in the American popular arts is reflected in the works of many intellectuals and scholars to describe the issues that are prevalent in the society.

The walking dead consumerism is reflected in the mindless consumption patterns. Individuals perpetuate zombie consumerism when they buy goods and services when they buy without putting any thoughts and perhaps motivated by lust and other factors. The present research is an analysis of the use of zombies as metaphors in the society while focusing on how the subject relates to consumerism. The paper analyzes the book Dawn of the Dead by Romero & Sparrow (1978) in bid to establish the metaphorical use of the walking dead and how the zombies can be used to symbolize consumerism

Metaphoric Features of Zombies

The pop culture is increasingly using zombies as metaphors to symbolize various aspects of societal life and since the popular art defines the prevailing circumstances in politics it can be seen that the elements can be applied to present various views. The social significance of zombies can be observed to emerge in their applications to represent apocalyptic fears that ravage most people. In an analysis of the Dawn of the Dead, William (2010) refers to the use of zombies as a triumph of a social metaphor. It can thus be observed that the walking dead presents a significant metaphorical value. Dawn of the Dead is a novel that was used in making a film of the same name written and directed by George Romero in 1978. The story depicts an apocalyptic situation in which a handful of survivors find refuge in a mall by barricading themselves. However, it doesn’t take long before they are confronted by a reality of zombie invasion of their space.

The main feature of the metaphoric walking dead can be observed in the mindlessness in which the walking dead carry themselves. The lack of a sense of direction also accompanies the symbolism in which people are consumed by their obsession for various elements in life. The zombie apocalypse or invasion is noted to symbolize various effects of emergencies that may befall humanity at any time. The emergencies may occur in economic, political and social aspects of life. The impact of national debt, for instance, can be so disastrous to the public that it the zombies have been used to paint the picture of possibilities in the upcoming dangers. It can further be noted that the zombies have the ability to retain some of their living memories and can use tools in their primitive state (William, 2010) as well as the ability to copy some actions of their former lives.

The walking dead can be seen to present a tortured and spasmodic jerks as well as rigor-mortise twists that people cannot avoid noticing. At the same time, the highly unfashionable state of decomposition of the zombies creates an element of uncoordinated impulses that are associated with various elements of emergency in the modern life. The lack of life and aimless grunting has been argued to parallel the various people who are rudderless without any sense of direction. As a metaphor, the term for the walking dead has been used to describe a group of workers in a corporate setting. Corporate zombie is a term that closely relates to zombie consumerism. The corporate zombies entail the group who are physically present in the workplace but their minds are far from other places. It is thus noted that the business zombies continue to produce redundant stuff in the marketplace due so as to create an excess supply of goods and services. The depiction of the corporate zombie is applied to relate to the money illusion in which individuals have the tendency to get richer or poorer without being influenced by the effects of inflation or deflation. People, therefore, make most business decisions without considering the impact of their actions.

In the Dawn of the Dead, the metaphorical representation of the zombies comes out in the fact that individuality is based on the various goods and services that were previously consumed by the zombies. The author further demonstrates that even the living share some identity with the walking dead. On the first appearance of the zombies, a police officer is seen to be highly fascinated by them that he fails to fire in any of them (Bailey, 2013). A woman is even depicted to run into the arms of a zombie like she would into the arms of her lover. Such illustrations indicate that there could be no distinction between the living and the walking dead. It can further be noted that the just like the societal problems and distractions, zombies are made by the living human

Zombies as Consumerism

As consumerism zombies are used to painting a picture of paltry freedom in the choice of goods and services to purchase or to consume. People are known to differentiate themselves from others through the goods they consumption believing in the transformative power of commodities. It can be noted that consumption to be a collective experience as individuals buy similar items while participating in the same mode of subjectivity. Consumerism entails alienation of individuals. Romero (1978) creates characters that are forced into a literal isolation. The characters can be observed to be passive and reactive. The lonely crowd is not only represented by the legion of zombies but also in the surviving humans who are quickly being dispersed. The mall can be observed to exemplify the autonomy that is associated with non-life or the walking dead. The consumer culture can be described to lead to a pseudo-freedom in which is engendered in the dissatisfaction and alienation and thus leading to inexpressible malaise and resentment. To paint a picture of mindless consumption, Romero (1978) writes of lifeless bodies pressed up against glass doors and windows struggling to enter the shops so as to resume their earthly duties of consumption. The addiction to consumerism can, therefore, be observed to go beyond death. In the zombie economy, the zombies can be used to represent the societal aspects in which the humans are brainwashed by the capitalistic desire to consume.

William (2010) reports that as consumerism lack intellect but are only reduced to just appetite. Even though the walking dead may have some ties to their former lives it can be noted that the zombies lack any ability to organize or plan and that their autonomy is only driven by the instincts to consume. Since all the physiological elements of the zombies have ceased to function, it can be observed that the walking dead consume not for self-sustenance but for just eat for the sake of consumption. Zombies can, therefore, be used to represent consumerism in the essence that individuals are driven by the desire to acquire goods and services not for sustain themselves but just for the joy of consumption.

Consumerism in the Dawn of the Dead

As a social and economic ideology consumerism encourages the acquisition of goods in ever-increasing quantities. Politically, consumerism is associated with the movements that are aimed at protecting consumer rights while in economics the term can be used to refer to the policies that promote consumption. The present paper analyzes consumerism as it relates to the social and economic order. The effects of consumerism may include the paltry freedom in which individuals are confined to the kinds of goods and services they consume. At the same time obsession with consumerism can be noted to be responsible for compulsive behaviors that influence how people make decisions on acquiring material possessions.

In the Dawn of the Dead Romero & Sparrow (1978) paint a picture of mass consumption as a bunch of surviving heroes is enjoying free food in a mall. Everything is in plenty and can easily be accessed. At the same time, thousands of walking dead are in the mall parking lot looking for ways to access the free goodies as well. It is not clear why the zombies are interested in entering the mall however one of the characters, Stephen explains that a mall is an important place in the lives of the walking corpses. The zombies are thus coming into the shopping complex driven by the memory and instincts as they used to come to the mall to shop. The shopping complex is depicted as an important cultural space in the popular culture and daily lives of individuals. The mall can thus be seen to serving two purposes. The first purpose is to feed the consumptive hunger of the dead and to act as the haven for the living. As a safe haven the mall has vast resources and adequate sheltering that is necessary for survival for the living, however, it can be noted the invasion by the zombies cannot be resisted. Harper (2002) emphasizes the importance of the mall by pointing out to the battles over the shopping complex by various groups of the characters. It can thus be noted that the battles serve as a melodramatic metaphor for the disputes regarding the value of nature and consumerism. Such disputes can be seen to have central importance to the cultural scholars and critics who are offering diverse political persuasion (Harper, 2002).

Shopping malls represent a focal point for consumerism due to the collection of goods and services that can be found in a mall. Harper (2002) reports that the onset of the malls in the 1960s was met with mass hysteria and widespread enthusiasm with the people having many expectations in what they could achieve in malls. Even though the mall hysteria has faded significantly in the recent decades it can be noted that the shopping complexes still play a significant cultural role in capitalist countries (Harper, 2002). The significance of malls can also be observed in the contrast between the structural stability and the constantly changing population making the spaces to be exciting as well as presenting attractive and exciting environments. It can be noted that the walking dead are extremely attracted to the mall. Though it may be argued that the zombies want to access the so to eat the living humans, it can be noted that the walking dead were in the mall long before the survivors landed their helicopter on top of the mall. It can thus be noted that the zombies are drawn to the place by their subconscious memory and that they were once happy in such places.

Individuals seeking to satisfy their needs look up to the shopping complexes where an opportunity to spend and consume a variety of goods and services can be accorded. It can, therefore, be observed that the setting of the Dawn of the Dead in a mall is a depiction of the societal obsession with consumerism (Bailey, 2013). The location of the story in the mall can further be related to the insatiable human desire to purchase. The fact that the remnants flee to the shopping complex for refuge emphasizes the value the society put on the consumer goods. The consumer goods can thus be noted to make individuals to feel safe and civilized as well as protection from the various external factors that are threatening survival. The Dawn of the Dead, therefore, assert that human beings are like zombies who are devoid of critical thought and will therefore relentlessly pursue malls in the hope of gaining more materials.

The relationship between consumerism and zombies is presented in the fact that the need to purchase is deeply ingrained in the people that their reanimated corpses are still driven by the same instincts and desires. According to William (2010), the metaphorical presentation of consumerism in the Dawn of the Dead entails the fact that individuals are slaves to consumerisms and are mindlessly driven into the malls for instinctual consumption. The survivors can be noted to have been brainwashed by capitalism and cannot see the shattered world around them but choose to pursue only the consumption and possession that proves to be strong and presenting a possible and ultimate destruction. William (2010) further argues that the zombies that are presented in the Dawn of the Dead are not merely used as a metaphor but also to represent pervasive consumerism as a problem that is infecting the society. The surviving humans no longer need to work since they have access to all they want leading to a new social paradigm with the survivors losing the species being that is associated with production. It is realized that labor is necessary for achieving human consciousness and self-awareness and in the process of losing the productive labor, the surviving people in the mall can be said to be losing their identities as human beings and as such regress to a primitive and animal state (William, 2010). The zombies can, therefore, be observed to represent the primitive aspect of human beings where all the people do is take blindly without any productive contribution. On entering the shopping complex, it is noted that the characters proceed to shop propelled by the internal myth and instincts. Romero & Sparrow (1978) emphasize the economic exclusivity of consumerism through the use of various shopping scenes especially in the depiction of consumer abandon in the supermarket where the characters grab whatever food or drink they desire.


The emergence of zombie in popular culture can be observed to emphasize their significance to be used metaphorically to represent various social, economic and political aspects. Metaphorically zombies have been used by scholars to represent various factors ranging from dysfunctional financial systems to divisive political institutions. As a metaphor, there are various features of the use of zombie genres. In consumerism, the zombies can be seen to lack intellect and are only reduced to just appetite. Even though the walking dead may have some ties to their former lives the research has established that the zombies lack any ability to organize or plan and that their autonomy is only driven by the instincts to consume. In the book, Dawn of the Dead Romero & Sparrow (1978) depict apocalyptic zombie invasion in which the survivors who have barricaded themselves in a mall have to defend themselves against the invading zombies.


Bailey, M. (2013). Memory, place and the mall: George Romero on consumerism. Studies in Popular Culture, 35(2), 95-110.

Harper, S. (2002). Zombies, malls, and the consumerism debate: George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Americana: The Journal of American Popular Culture, 1900 to Present, 1(2).

Romero, G., & Sparrow, S. (1978). Dawn of the dead (1st ed.)

William, K. (2010). The idle proletariat: Dawn of the Dead, consumer ideology, and the loss of productive labor. The Journal of Popular Culture, 43(2), 234-248.

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