The Social Upheaval/Zombie Movie Index

Annalee Newitz, editor of the science-fiction blog i09, created a chart showing the number of zombie movies produced annually in the West (mostly the U.S. and Europe) since 1910:

INSERT DESCRIPTIONChart design by Stephanie Fox.

The chart shows several spikes in zombie-movie production that, according to Newitz, “always seem to happen eerily close to historical events involving war or social upheaval.”

Some of the “upheavals” that she correlates with production spikes (like the launch of Sputnik) seem like a bit of a stretch; and overall, more movies are being made today than at the beginning of the century — but Newitz claims that the zombie-movie spikes are significant regardless.

If she’s right, and there is a zombie-strife correlation, why would gruesome movies about the undead be popular after a war?

Eric Melin, on his movie blog Scene Stealers, suggests that zombies are popular because they serve as social mirrors, helping society come to terms with itself and its actions.

Overcoming Bias’s Eliezer Yudkowsky seems to support the “zombies are us” theory in his own zombie-movie script, where zombie researchers discover that they, in fact, are the zombies, and exclaim:

We’re the ones with the virus. … My God, it’s true.

Any other theories?

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  1. Mike Nemecek says:

    In times of troubles, don’t we all seek out some good brains to help set things right? Brains …. brains ….

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  2. science minded says:

    So I guess we are about to see a rise in the near future. Wouldn’t mind a new version/remake of that great zombie like move- “The Day The Earth Stood Still.”

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  3. Bruce - MyEmployee.Net says:

    There’s a zombie-strife correlation because zombies, deep in our subconscious, really symbolize hope. Zombies pull themselves together, rise up from the ashes – and to the occassion pretty well. They stumble, fall, then bounce back taking one step at a time. Their focus and tenacity mirrors the strength of the human spirit. It’s the very same zombieness that built America and the very same zombieness that will rebuild it.

    Thanks! Bruce

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  4. Anton says:

    Could this extend to zombie video games as well? Valve’s “Left 4 Dead” zombie game will be released tomorrow.

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  5. Steve Boyko says:

    I would like to see this expressed as a percentage of the total movies made. I have a feeling more movies are made now than in 1939.

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  6. Nosybear says:

    I wonder if the Vampire movie index wouldn’t look similar. How about the Chick Flick Movie Index? Does it go up when times are good? Or the Princess movie index?

    Personally I blame sunspots.

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  7. David says:

    Zombie movies tend to involve some kind of apocalypse, so it’s not incredibly surprising that people might have some issues they need to work out regarding the world coming to an end after war/upheaval.

    Also, they tend to be quite gory, so maybe nasty images in the media leads to nasty images on screen?

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  8. Mike says:

    wow, seriously?!? I hope this was just meant as a joke and not to be taken seriously…

    How about the Cuban Missile Crisis, the 1929 stock market crash, and all the other events that didn’t contribute to an uptick? Guess they didn’t cause any social upheaval after all…

    Not to mention that in many cases (e.g., the events of 1968) the upheavals probably happened too late in the year to contribute to the number of zombie movies attributed to them (assuming it takes at least a year to produce a movie from start to finish).

    Remember, data first, then conclusion, the other way around leads to trouble…

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