We pick Cassie Ozog’s brain about the walking dead
Cassie Ozog is a zombie expert.
“[Zombies] were us; they are us. They embody everything that scares us about the human body: how fragile we are, how weak we are, death itself,” says Ozog, a sociologist and zombie specialist here at the University of Regina. The familiarity of the zombie is another aspect that tends to frighten people. Not only is the zombie a monster, it is “a human body, and it used to be my neighbour, or my husband, or whoever,” Ozog says.
On Oct. 27, from 7 to 9 p.m., Ozog will be hosting a special lecture that details the history and importance of the zombie. In our current day and age, zombies are far more than rotting carcasses coming to life again. Zombies fall into the horror category not only for their frightening image, but their unnerving symbolism. They personify the thoughts of what “we’re so concerned about – that our society could completely collapse.”
“How do you live after that?” questions Ozog. With zombies “there’s always that collapse of total social order,” Ozog states. “In the last ten years we’ve had these really explosive fears globally – not just culturally, but globally. We have fears about water and food, environmental fears that the whole world is going to collapse. We started 2000 with the Y2K bug, I think that’s when we realized, ‘Oh my God, everything in our society is connected to a computer somewhere, and if that crashes, how screwed are we?’ There’s that total loss of control … we’re in this real hotbed of ideas and fears right now, and I think the zombie is something that literally embodies our fear of death and destruction so well, again, because it is us but in a different way.”
This reflective element is evident in director Danny Boyle’s 2002 horror film 28 Days Later. One of the generals says, “This is what I’ve seen in the four weeks since infection – people killing people. Which is much of what I saw in the four weeks before infection and the four weeks before that and before that as far back as I care to remember – people killing people – which in my mind, puts us in a state of normality right now.”
So where did this undead, bloodthirsty, brain-eating, flesh-hungry monster come from? Most sources would say that it originated from Voodoo and Caribbean folklore. Some stories involve Voodoo witch doctors taking over the part of one’s spirit that controls their body, or rubbing chemical potions onto the skin of an individual to slow down their bodily functions to the point where an individual was barely alive and could be easily controlled and manipulated to do the bidding of another.
Whatever the case may be, the zombie first dug its way through to western culture with the publication of William Seabrook’s The Magic Island in 1929. From there it staggered onto the big screen with the 1932 production of White Zombie. This paved the way for future films, such as Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and 28 Days Later, and to worm its morbid image into our brains.
“There are always peaks and valleys [with zombies],” explains Ozog. “Since [The Magic Island] you’ve kind of had zombies appear and disappear. They were big in the thirties and forties, the fifties they kind of died out, and came back in the sixties of course. They’ve always been with us, but they seem to pop at these times when there’s something going on.”
“What’s interesting is that they’re back on our radar again. We’ve always been scared of them, but we go through phases of it. It seems right now that it’s growing, but we always will change. One of the fascinating things about film is that it always seems to reflect where we’re at. I think it’s not letting up right now, but eventually I think it will … it will go back down, and something else will happen, and it will go back up.”
With all of the fears that our society has today it’s easy to see why zombies have worked their way back into pop culture. “We’re going to watch these movies that are completely reflective of what could happen when the oil runs out … maybe there won’t be zombies running around, but there are going to be food wars if things aren’t organized. It’s like we’re going and looking at these things that could happen to us, but it’s a safe way to address it.”
The upcoming lecture will be held at the Lifelong Learning Centre, in Room GA 106 on College Avenue and Scarth Street. Seating is limited, so register ahead of time by calling (306) 777-1620. Admission is free for everyone dressed up as one of the walking dead.