Horror legend, Stephen King, famously observed that zombies are popular in worry-free times, and vampires are popular in times of hardship.  We don’t know about vampires, but his assessment of zombies is dead wrong.

The modern zombie was born in 1968 with George Romero’s classic, Night of the Living DeadAt the time the United States was bogged down in a wildly unpopular war in Vietnam, and social unrest was common.  Romero’s Dawn of the Dead came out ten years later, at the beginning of the Reagan-era recession.

“Zombies are the new vampire.”

Today we live in constant fear of terrorist attacks, environmental disaster, and economic meltdown.  In these uncertain times, zombies have never been more popular.

In fact, since the global crisis of the past several years began the declaration that zombies are the new vampire has been made by Time Magazine (April, 2009), Newsweek (October, 2009), and The Hollywood Reporter (September 2010) to name a few.

Things just seem to keep getting worse, and zombies just keep getting hotter.  Sorry, Stephen!

But is there more to this trend than meets the gouged-out eye? Horror maestro Stephen King once theorized that zombie movies reflect mindless consumerism, making them more popular in boom economic times. Meanwhile, vampire flicks tend to rise when the markets go down like the sun. (More recently, financial columnist Bruce Watson put some meat on that idea, suggesting the US market is not bear versus bull, it’s zombie versus vamp.)


  1. Zombies are gaining popularity, especially after what pop culture has turned vampires into. Vamps and zombies at least have a few things in common, they don’t sparkle (at least until Stephenie Meyer writes a book about them) , they are not our friends, and they fucking eat you.

  2. would anyone believe the guy who’s movie drinking game you could die from?

  3. Zombies are awesome while vampires suck (pun!). There’s no comparison.

  4. Since now vampires are sparkly high school kids who can go out in day light and don’t kill people, somebody neede to take up the slack!!
    Bring back the real blood thirsty vamps! The ones that rip people to shreds and waste most of the blood, so the zombies can have some one to bowl with!!

  5. Un-dead wrong Stephen. Zombies are more often than not a commentary on social conformity and consumer capitalism. I have always argued that in times of Conservative backlash, the Zombie movie thrives for it satisfies the latent fears of both constituencies: The Left sees Conservatives as mindless and malignant followers and the Right fears the Apocalyptic causes of whatever brought about the Zombies (i.e. Godless Liberal policies).
    In the 90’s under Clinton we went through a bubble of expansion and wealth and prosperity and no zombies. But look at us now. A Palin Presidency -with all that it implies and stirs up on all sides of the social/political spectrum- becomes less and less a joke and more and more a possibility every day. To quote a once famous ad campaign, You’ve come a long way, Zombie.

  6. zombies are and always will be popular they are the ultimate undead cuz they are not portrayed as pretty boys they are zombies flesh eating with some human memory as to what was done when they were actually alive although when they see a human they think food the ultimate live meal anyway zombies are it there is nothing more terrifying then the undead

  7. I don’t believe “the times” bears any relevance on what’s popular. Both zombies and vampires are at a high and economically have never been worse.

    • Only ‘Twilight’ vampires are what’s popular. Other than that, and the satires about it, I only know of one or two vampire films that have come out (and not gone straight to DVD) the past 5 years. Unlike Zombies, which the popularity of which has never been higher. Even in the early Romero days, we’ve never seen a Zombie boom like we have the past 5-8years. Just go look at the list of Zombie related games to come out the past 8 years. As many have come out since 2002 as had come out between 1979 and 2001. How many vampire games? A small handful at best.

      (and the twilight movies aren’t real Vampire flicks – they are crappy tweenage lovestories that just happen to have fake vampires in them)

    • As a cultural studies student I want to inform you that it has been “theorized” that times of uncertainty produce different cultural phenomena. Including and not limited to music (there is a corelation between democrats in power and the success of dance music), movies, books, comics and other things related to media.
      However, these are corelations and not necessarily proven.

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