First off, don't get me wrong, I have loved everything zombie for decades. I vividly remember seeing Return of the Living Dead in 1985 and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. Okay, not the high point of zombie cinema but I'm not quite old enough to go further back than that, haha, though I have explored the Romero series since then.
But it's left me wondering...when you talk to people who love zombie movies, they're not exactly sad about the end of civilisation. I'm not trying to be a sadsack, it's escapism, it's fun, but when people joke about what happens if the zombie apocalypse happens tomorrow, I do sense a touch of...hope in their eyes. Am I overthinking it? Why is this do you think?
That's the basic question. This will probably be a long post but the rest is just my point of view ramblings.
I think it partly comes down to freedom, a sense of escaping the grind of the rat race.
There's pros and cons. On the one hand there's the basic freedom of being Glenn picking any old car off the street and driving around an empty city without a care in the world (except the zombies). On the other hand there's the lack of electricity or sewerage or medication. The interesting thing about this scenario versus other "strip civilisation out of man, get him back to his roots" type thoughts, is that you've still got the remnants of civilisation around. If you're a hardcore survivalist who laments that most of humankind doesn't know how to operate independantly anymore, crashing on an island fulfills that wish, Castaway fulfills that wish. Zombie films though, let you do that without having to make your own clothes, since you can scrounge them from abandoned houses...at least until all that cloth starts degrading. Also survivors in these films don't seem to have trouble finding fuel to keep driving around, so that's handy. So you can see why zombie survival is more appealing than deserted island survival, at least in the short term.
I also think it has something to do with a sense of releasing guilt-free rage.
We'll try not to do too much couch psychology here, but villains are only satisfying when they're caricatures. Blast bugs in Starship Troopers, everything's great, no one cares about bugs. Shoot Nazi henchmen in Indy films, you're still on pretty good ground...Nazis are understandably well into "villain" territory, occasionally you might get a glimpse of their lives or back stories but generally they're faceless in fiction. But the more you assign motivations, backstories, families to people, the more complicated things get. Zombies, on the other hand, are a completely guilt free yet human-shaped enemy. You can hack as many as you want and never be faced with a picture of the enemy's children in his wallet (or if you do, you at least feel like you did them a favour by putting him to rest).
It rewards the strong.
This one's a bit of a mentality thing, and linked to the one above. I think sometimes people feel like civilisation devalues certain qualities (and, if those are the qualities they have, they'll be annoyed). If you're an aggressive, "hunter-type" guy (which is in no way me, just to get that out of the way), the things you excel at tend to be the things that are automated or dead in civilisation. Meat production is automated. The army is certainly an option but, as unstable as the world is, most countries spend not much time in armed conflict. The police force is an option but arguably that requires less aggression and more people skills. Otherwise you've got...erm, a boxing career? In the zombie apocalypse on the other hand, suddenly you're back in vogue. Your combat skills and protective nature are relevant again. And the nerds are useless because there's no computers (as a legal nerd, I have a feeling zombies do not respond to subpoenas). Hunting deer was good practice anyway, and it was never very satisfying when you'd end up passing two supermarkets on the way home...
Zombies kill the annoying.
Often the best part of slasher movies is the less-than-ideal kids dying first and early, so the virginal, virtuous final girl can come out on top in the end. In the same way, zombies in movies have a tendency to reward honour and loyalty, that sort of thing. The assholes die early. Which is good for us because we usually picture ourselves as one of the survivors in the zombie apocalypse (when in all honesty I'd probably be one of those guys that falls over while running and gets surrounded, but who pictures that?).
I could go on but I don't want to hog the subject matter. The question is: why do you love the zombie apocalypse?