Vampires & Zombies: Why One is Getting Sexier & the Other Isn’t (or at Least Shouldn’t Be)

Posted: October 19, 2013 by WaterRaven in Random
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

R isn’t as gross as some zombies, but he’s definitely not looking his best in this shot.

In a previous post, WaterRaven mentioned a question posed by her friend Laura: “Why aren’t there sexy zombies?”. WaterRaven replied, “Because they’re dead, disgusting, and eat people”. Laura pointed out that vampires aren’t that far off. If one could be sexy, why not the other? Although Warm Bodies provides an example of a zombie who is not quite as stomach-churning as zombies in the past (apparently at least attractive enough to get the attention of a girl who I’m just going to assume doesn’t have a working olfactory system), I don’t think “sexy zombies” are going to become a trend. Or at least I hope they won’t.

While vampires and zombies both had to cease being human to become what they are and both sustain themselves on some part of living humans, there are a few differences I think account for why one is getting sexier while the other is still generally depicted as disgusting (and rightly so). Two main contradictions are their human deaths and how they come back. The death of the human who becomes a vampire is often depicted more as a transformation than an actual death. As vampires, they still resemble who they were before. They just have restrictions in diet and sun exposure, and have acquired some new strengths. They still continue to be individuals with personalities. I think that’s why vampires tend to be main characters.

By contrast, the death of the human who becomes a zombie tends to be depicted as an actual death. It’s accepted that when people reanimate, they’re going to bear little resemblance to the humans they were before, except in looks, and that doesn’t last long once decomposition sets in. While a vampire can be driven by some of the desires he or she had as a human, zombies are only driven by the need to feed. They don’t have a personality. So it makes sense that individual zombies are generally not the focus of the story…the survivors are.

There are also differences in how we see vampires and zombies and in what they seem to represent. Although vampires are technically part of the undead, people tend to think of them as immortal. Once they become vampires, they can only be killed in a few ways. Otherwise, they live forever without aging. Many people find this idea appealing. Humans, as a rule, don’t want to die. At the same time, part of the reason we value life is that it will end someday. Vampires represent a dream to live forever while serving as an acknowledgement that immortality isn’t natural. When we read or watch a vampire story, we get a little taste of what it would be like to live forever.

Zombies have one example of an attempt at sexy. Vampires have had more than can fit in one collage, so here are a few. (Apparently whoever made this really liked Spike.)

Zombies, by contrast, aren’t all that difficult to dispatch, and we expect to see them destroyed in a variety of ways. While some people wish they could become vampires, I’ve never heard someone say they wish they could be a zombie. In fact, a common trend in zombie stories is for characters to say, “Don’t let me turn into one of them…” [WALKING DEAD SPOILER ALERT] The only exception to this rule I’ve seen so far was a lady in The Walking Dead who didn’t want to be stopped from turning after losing her husband (and apparently her mind). I think zombies represent the overall decay of society as we know it while illustrating all the things many fear about dying. Zombie stories give us a glimpse at our fears, both of losing our way of life and losing our lives altogether, but we also get a glimmer of hope in following the stories of survivors as they shoot and slash their way through zombie hordes, at least some of them triumphing to live another day.

I think of zombies and vampires as two sides of the same coin. Either way you flip it, when we read or watch stories that include zombies or vampires, we’re wishing for life, and life as we know it, not to end. With zombies, we fight the idea of death by aligning with the survivors. We’re not attracted to what the zombie represents, so an attractive zombie is counterintuitive. With vampires, we fight the idea of death by aligning with the vampire. Even though we know it’s unnatural, the idea of living forever is attractive. As we continue to lust for the vampire’s never-ending life, they’ll continue to be portrayed as desirable.

Phoenixx Phyre is an American currently living in Germany with her husband and two rambunctious dogs. She blogs about her overseas adventures and some other random things here.


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