This past weekend, AMC’s The Walking Dead returned to television to finish up the second-half of its seventh season, and with a Republican in the White House, we are expecting the shows popularity to soar once again. Now, we are not saying this because it is very likely that Donald Trump is the American President who will lead us to some hellish zombie strewn wasteland, -but we aren’t not saying it either. No, what we really mean to point out is the correlation between movie/TV monsters and the party that holds in power in our government. You see, over the years some people have noticed a trend in our entertainment. When there is a Democrat sitting in the White House, vampires tend to be more popular, and when there is a Republican then zombies surge in popularity, like some sort of viral media plague. So, how does our current Tangerine-in-Chief lead us to a resurgence of zombie love? Let us explain…
28 Years Later
Now, unfortunately, the correlation is not always exact, especially in the past couple years where sustained success by AMC zombie shows and YA vampire movies have distorted the formula, but for the most part it appears that when a Republican sits in the Oval Office we get more zombie movies/TV shows, and when a Democrat sits in the Oval office we get more vampire-related media. This is not a new phenomena either. It goes all the way back to the 1960’s when Night of the Living Dead premiered during the Nixon era. There were several adaptations of Dracula during the Carter administration. Ronald Reagan gave us a Night of the Living Dead remake, a sequel, and two Return of the Living Dead movies. Bill Clinton bequeathed us Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Interview With a Vampire, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, From Dusk to Dawn, Blade, and many more. George W. Bush gave us the start of the Resident Evil series, 28 Days Later, and even Shawn of the Dead. President Obama’s term started with the release of Twilight and True Blood, and though AMC did not premiere The Walking Dead, until 2010, the comics go back to 2003 and George W. Bush.
No, as we stated before, this correlation is not one to one. After all Christopher “Saruman” Lee’s classic portrayal of Dracula happened during the Eisenhower administration, of course it was also a British movie, so it might be harder to fit it into the chart. -It is also worth noting that during the movie’s release in 1958, the Democratic party regains control of both the House and the Senate– Regardless, there have been plenty of good and bad zombie or vampire movies released in years opposite their associated political party, but this theory tends to focus on the sheer number and popularity of these mediums as they correlate with the man sitting in the White House. The real question is, why does this happen? What is it about the public psyche that embraces zombies during the days of Republicans and vampires when the country is ruled by blue states? Well, it could be a combination of a lot of things.
Interview with a Republican
The first theory is that when vampires take hold of our pop culture imagination it is because of what they represent and what we are afraid of, which correlates to why we vote. Republicans fear the concept of vampires. After all, if Dracula bites a good conservative girl on the neck then she becomes a sexual and liberated being. She does not need her father to protect her and she cannot be stopped from biting and sucking -if you know what we mean- with whomever or whatever she wants. That is very antithetical to good conservative values, which preach that everything must be prim and proper. For a political party that makes their claim on keeping everything traditional, the lifestyle of a vampire is pure terror. It is also how some Republicans may see a Democratic President, a person infecting the youth non-traditional ideas and values. Thus, the fear of vampires rise when a Democrat sits in the White House. It is a rational fear manifesting as an irrational scenario.
However, there is more to it than that. After all, Republicans share some traits with vampires too. Please excuse us if this gets a little cynical, but in the latter half of the 20th century the Republican party became the party of the rich and powerful. That can also describe vampires. Unlike zombies, which are broke shambling masses, vampires are usually portrayed as cultured and rich. They are sometimes lords or even royalty. Modern depictions, such as those in the Underworld, series show them as the aristocracy. They control things behind the scenes to ensure that their human cattle remains unaware of their machinations and remain as a steady and pliable source of nutrition. They literally suck the blood from the working class, the homeless, and the destitute.
So, perhaps the fascination of vampires in the Democratic era can also be explained by the way people vote. When the country leans toward liberalism people are more willing to embrace the progressive vampire, while also fearing the the oligarchic bent of the Republican party. This second theory basically states that instead of fearing what we voted for, the people vote against what they fear. Maybe the masses -who consume pop culture- voted for a more liberal leader because they associate Republicans with powerful blood-suckers. Our movies then reflect the fears of “what could have been.” A story about all powerful vampires lets us view our fears -through a fantastical lens- making the genre more about escapism than horror.
Night of the Living Democrat
However, we cannot let the Democrats off the hook either. Conventional wisdom about the subject says that Democrats fear zombies, because they are everything that the Republican party loves in voters: mindless -flag-waving- unquestioning masses. Zombies make the most prominent appearances in Republican eras because the progressive liberal voters most acutely fear the idea that the unreasonable and mindless have overthrown their civilization, dismantled their federal government, destroyed diversity, and returned power to small concentrated groups… of survivors. Zombies legitimately try to eat people’s brains in order to turn a thinking and feeling person into the same sort of unquestioning creature as themselves.
Yet, similair to the example of vampires, there is more going on here. After all, to claim that only one political party has the monopoly on the mindless masses would be disingenuous. The Democratic party has shifted in the latter part of the past century, and to many conservative voters it appears as if they are the party now trying to tear down the old world and disrupt the old systems. Remember George Romero made Night of the Living Dead, not only as a horror movie, but as a critique against American consumer culture -basically the idea of capitalism. So, when a Republican rules the White House and when zombies rule the airwaves, maybe we are again partaking in a sort of dissociative fantasy where we all revel in “what could have been.” Thus, those who voted for Bush or Reagan or Nixon, could just as easily fear the progressive horde coming to ruin of their traditional American way of life; and that translates into zombies.
Then again, maybe it is both theories, or neither… After all, and regardless of how you vote, or how you feel, it is important to remember that these are just monster movies. The most effective of them channels our already predisposed fears and prejudices to give us something that is a familiar reflection combined with a foreign image. Horror movies don’t work unless we can find something of ourselves in the unknown, and that is what vampires and zombies have been doing since the Kennedy era. So maybe zombies are a little red and blue, and maybe vampires are a little conservative and liberal. That just means we are all diverse people with different thoughts, opinions, and even fears.
The popularity of these two undead monsters do statistically shift along with the political opinions of the country, but whether you want to put stock in this odd correlation or not it is still worth remembering that we all have fears. We are all afraid of something, whether that be the vampires, zombies, or even the real undead, politicians. We fear monsters because we see them as stereotypes who are both the same and not the same as ourselves, in much the same way we have come to view those of opposing political view points. Thus, maybe instead of judging each other as monsters it is time that we all sit together, grab some popcorn, and remember that the world is not the horror movie we sometimes make it out to be.