Meet the doctor who says watching Walking Dead is 'hurting American society'

Contributed by
Oct 24, 2013

Here's one theory that posits a zombie danger much more serious than getting bit.

Zombies may not be real, but you could easily argue that both they and the fictional apocalypse they represent have had a more profound impact on our culture than scads of actual people and potential societal pitfalls.

Dr. Manny Alvarez, writing for Fox News, thinks our obsession with zombies isn't doing us any favors, though. His thesis?

The idea of a zombie-infested world inspires fantasies of monsters possessed by an uncontrollable rage to kill, and viewers get a thrill imagining what it would be like to participate in this new world order.

So the notion here is "zombies as vehicles to violence." Which, to be fair, is not entirely without merit. And Alvarez goes after one of the most oft-perceived dangers to society -- videogames. Or, specifically, in this case, zombie videogames.

Even more disturbingly, these games create environments for young children, in which they are exposed to an imaginary world where they get to play with firearms and place themselves in dangerous situations that they find exciting.  And studies have shown that these videogames can sometimes condition people, especially young children, to be apathetic towards violence. 

Again, there's some validity here. Anyone, child or adult, spending several hours a day consuming videogames that reward violence may feel more aggressive than average. On the other hand, there are plenty of violent games that don't have zombies.

But Alvarez also takes issue with the notion that "scientists at the National Institutes of Health have spent time creating an apocalyptic how-to guide on dealing with a zombie outbreak." His frustration is twofold. We know that dead people walking around is a scientific impossibility, but Alvarez also feels that "Our brains should be less focused on imaginary zombie hordes and more focused on harnessing the tools that we need in order to enhance our lives."

Criticism of commercialized art is a little tricky, because it becomes a question of what came first -- the chicken or the egg. There's a very simple counter-argument to be made here that if people didn't want zombies and zombie-related media, then they wouldn't spend so much coin on that kind of entertainment. No money, no zombies.

And as a horror enthusiast, I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the genre often holds up a mirror to our society and informs us of the things we fear the most. Zombie narratives are often designed to force us to look at our own cultural decay. The original Dawn of the Dead does an amazing (and, I would argue, necessary) job of tackling modern issues like the use of news as entertainment over information, police brutality, racism and all-pervasive consumer culture. Those topics were relevant in the '70s when the film was released, but might be even more relevant today.

So the counterpoint is that the overwhelming popularity of zombies in popular media does not make us violent but, rather, that zombies are how we process the aggression we feel as a result of a our everyday fears.

Or maybe Alvarez is right and our zombie obsession is the cause of our cultural decay and not the other way around. Weigh in and tell us what you think.

(via Fox News)

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