Do We Love Zombies Because We Hate Our Lives?S

From TV (The Walking Dead) to movies (Warm Bodies) to video games (Plants Vs. Zombies), we're surrounded by dead-eyed, decaying undead creatures. In the early 2000s, it was clear that zombies were having a moment; that moment has lasted over a decade. And one researcher — Clemson University's Sarah Lauro — believes that zombie popularity peaks when society is unhappy.

As Meg Kinnard writes for the AP:

The zombie mob originated in 2003 in Toronto, Lauro said, and popularity escalated dramatically in the United States in 2005, alongside a rise in dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq.

"It was a way that the population was getting to exercise the fact that they felt like they hadn't been listened to by the Bush administration," Lauro said. "Nobody really wanted that war, and yet we were going to war anyway."

The mid- to late 2000s also saw an uptick in overall zombie popularity, perhaps prompted in part by the release of post-apocalyptic movies including "Dawn of the Dead" and "28 Days Later."

As of last year, Lauro said, zombie walks had been documented in 20 countries. The largest gathering drew more than 4,000 participants at the New Jersey Zombie Walk in Asbury Park, N.J., in October 2010, according to Guinness World Records.

These days, with our disposable technology and viral memes that explode and die very quickly, it's notable that the zombie keeps coming back. "We are more interested in the zombie at times when as a culture we feel disempowered," Lauro says. Maybe a crap President, technology, war, and a tough economic climate cause us to feel powerless and therefore dead inside? And then we related to other dead inside creatures? Okay. But if the economy is on the upswing and a different President's talking about hope, does it mean zombies are on the decline? Have we reached peak zombie? Is it all downhill from here? (Also, what does any of this mean for vampires?)

Researcher: Zombie fads peak when society unhappy [AP via Miami Herald]