Horror films serve as the barometer that belies what fears are lurking in our subconscious in the timeline of the zeitgeist. In the 1980’s we feared powerful women in the workforce with such fare as Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction. In the 1990’s it was post-modernity as such self-referential titles as Scream, The Sixth Sense and Blair Witch preyed on our very assumptions about the world around us. In the so-called “aughts” we began to see a lot to do with losing trust in ourselves, in our very humanity as films like Session 9 and Hostel challenged our ability to contain our inner demons, and yet we also saw the re-emergence of stories about evil forces rising from beyond the grave and suddenly we were returned to a world of Vampires, Werewolves and most of all – zombies.
What is going on here? Is this a sign that we are harkening back to simpler times, paying tribute to Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney? Or is it something else?
Maybe it is about finding some sort of life beyond death, drawing on a well of power when all typical intellectual faculties have run dry? In the age of Facebook, the complete erosion of individual privacy, and corporate infringement upon our rights, where so many of us feel powerless against the grinding gears of the post-industrial treadmill, do we see ourselves as the last man wielding a chainsaw desperately fighting to ward off endless waves of mindless, blood thirsty zombies? Do we seek to find a power to match the ungodly forces that keep them coming, without conscience, without remorse, without anything but lust for your life-force?
What is the difference between a zombie and a robot?
Robots, like zombies, have always been distinguishable from humans in that they have no soul. But robots have always been designed to take orders from us. Some see this subservience as dangerous, some even regard it as abusive, but are able to reconcile with it on moral ground that the robot has no life-force beyond the circuitry and mechanics we have granted it. Zombies on the other hand, are decidedly different in their singular drive to take everything away from us and defy any order we might want to give them. They are mindless and indefatigable.
So should we fear zombies and admire robots? The difference perhaps is in how we perceive ourselves. For you see, a nation of zombies may not think for itself, but it will pursue its desire regardless of the consequences, pushing forward towards its objective despite that fact that it will most likely have its head blown off with a double barreled sawed off shotgun. This could be seen as greed in its most unbridled form – the sort of irreconcilable obsession with attaining what it craves that those of us with some sort of conscience can not comprehend.
But what if we consider ourselves as the robot? As a robot, we are also incapable or unequivocally unwilling to question authority, but, to the benefit of that authority, we are also wont to take orders and produce the results that that authority commands in order to meet its desires.
As we continue to produce boundless measures of free content for the aggregators, be it YouTube, Twitter, Facebook or otherwise, are we in fact, taking control of the machine, or are we transforming the way we are into that of the machine in order to serve it?
Are we zombies, mindlessly trawling towards the smell of fresh blood that we must consume, in spite the effects of such pursuit on anything or anyone around us, or are we simply obedient worker bees unwaveringly and instinctively producing honey for the beekeepers who will subdue us with smoke and then make off with our bounty to line their pockets?
And ultimately, would we be more dangerous, if we were to awaken as robots and demand that we be treated each as a unique creation (possible only through the anomalies and flaws that distinguish us from one another) or as a horde of bloodthirsty zombies, crushing everything in our path until we beat down the doors where the townsfolk have boarded themselves up with that which we need to survive – their brains, in other words what they have in their heads that they are keeping from us.
As we survey the pop cultural landscape, we see a virtual glut of zombies and robots – regardless of which we might prefer to align with, is there a message here that we have written to ourselves with desperation ink and frustration fists banging on the walls of reason?
We’ll be keeping an eye out as we commemorate the events of Robot Pride Day 3014, and hoping that at some point, we will awaken to discover that it was all just a thoroughly entertaining momentary, cautionary dream.