When There’s No More
Room in Hell, the Dead
Will Shop the Earth:
Romero and Aristotle on
The flesh-eating zombies of George A. Romero’s Dead films turn stomachs—sometimes by twisting them right out of mangled bodies. Like vampires, they’re creatures of hunger, human beings who’ve returned from the dead to feed on the living. Yet unlike those Undead whose razor-sharp fangs complement their razor-sharp refinement, Romero’s zombies (un-)live not in some foggy Transylvania, but in an all-too-contemporary America. They have nasty table manners and are bad conversationalists. They are the mindless Undead, living corpses who’ll surround you en masse in search of a warm meal. And that hurts.
In his apocalyptic zombie masterpiece, Dawn of the Dead (1978), Romero hints that the Undead are around us, as close as the local shopping mall. Doubt it? Go and you’ll see them, shuffling down the aisles, staring vacantly into space, consuming without end. At Christmastime, you’ll find them pressed against store windows, hell-bent on hot bargains.
In depicting zombies as the ultimate consumers, Romero satirizes consumerism—the search for happiness through material acquisition. Although consumerism’s rise as an unofficial secular religion began after World War II and reached its apex in the “I shop, therefore I am” yuppie culture of the 1980s, human beings have long been acquisitive animals. Indeed, it’s striking that Romero’s sly criticisms of consumerism echo certain argu-