Monsters live under our beds, howl at the moon, and drink our blood. The monster I am going to be talking about wants to eat your brains. That’s right, I’m talking about zombies, walkers, biters, zeds, and mobile maggot museums. But what is it really that makes a zombie a monster; and what about them terrifies us? With the help of “Monster Culture (Seven Monster Theses)” by Jeffrey Cohen, I’ll be picking the brain of the brain eaters to find out why. Of the seven monster theses there is one that I, specifically, will be looking at. The monster’s body quite literally incorporates fear, desire, anxiety, and fantasy (Cohen) created by one’s own culture. Which is why I will be delving into monster thesis one: The Monster’s Body is a Cultural Bod (Cohen).

Not all zombies are created equal. The zombie monster changes from culture to 28-days-later-zombie2culture. Here, in Western culture, the zombie is almost always man made, starting out as a virus created in a lab that somehow escapes, like in the “Resident Evil” or “28 Days Later.” The virus goes on to infect and kill people by the hundreds, only to have become reanimated flesh eating monsters that attack the living by the thousands. A single bite or scratch is enough for a zombie to infect another person and add them to the ranks of the undead army. The origin story for our kind of zombie, and the way it spreads, speaks a lot about our culture. In Resident Evil: Apocalypse we are shown that the zombie virus was made when a scientist was trying to find a cure for his daughter’s crippling diseases through gene editing; something we are constantly doing today. Rightth now we’re looking for a cure for all type of cancers, AIDS, ebola, and a whole host of other life crippling diseases (Hu, et al. 2014). So there is always the thought of, “What if we accidentally make something that’s worse than what we’re trying to fix?” Then there is the way it’s spread. We live in a culture that is big on health hygiene. Wash your hands after you touch this or that, make sure you get all your vaccines and shots, keep a little thing of purell on you in case you touch someone or something that might be nasty. We live in a very clean and sterile society, but then, out of nowhere, comes this person who takes a bite out your leg or scratches your arm. Ewww, just rub a little purell on it, right? Wrong! You’re infected, done, finished. There isn’t enough vaccines in the world that can save your hand-washing butt now. The zombie virus spreads like stage four cancers: fast, out of control, and without discrimination for who you are. Our zombie is born from science in the form of a disease that we created and cannot cure. But that’s just our zombie. What about other culture’s zombies?

In Norse culture they have zombies called Draugr. Like Western zombies, they too are the walking dead, but have a different origin and meaning. The Draugr are reanimated corpses that are usually sinister in nature, and are frequently hostile to the Christian faith (Pettit,2017). Where as in Western culture, the zombie is created by science, the Draugr_WEBDraugr is believed to be a representation of a perverted version of the resurrection of Christ and could be seen as Satan’s army (Pettit, 2017). This is probably because the Draugr come about around the time Christianity came to countries like Iceland, who were pagans, and started converting them to Christianity.There is a story called “Christmas Eve of The Living Dead: The Satanic Draugr.” that gives a good representation of this. According to Integrate: A Faith and Learning Journal, the story takes place about 200 years after Christianity started converting the people of Iceland. The story is about a shepherd named Glamr, who was very openly opposed to the new religion. On Christmas Eve, after talking a lot of shit on the Christian faith, Glamr demanded to eat during what was supposed to be a Christmas Eve fast. After being warned not to, which he replied with more shit talking, he ate dinner. That night he was killed by a unknown creature.  When his body was found the next day, his corpse was blackened and bloated, as if he had been dead for days. Since he was so openly against the Christian faith he would not be allowed to be buried in the church cemetery. When they went to get his body to bury it somewhere else, the people were shocked to find the body was gone. The towns people looked for his body for several day before giving up until, one night, Glamr came back to the town. He ended up killing a man named Porhallr, who had taken his place as the shepherd. When Porhallr’s body was found, every bone in his body had been broken. Since he was a devout Christian, his body was buried in the church cemetery and he did not come back to life. Glamr, on the other hand, went on to kill several more of the towns people. Both the Draugr and the zombie have similar characteristics of being the dead who have come back to life to kill the living. However, one creates more more undead by spreading a virus to everyone and anyone, and the other by killing non-Christians. One is born from man, while the other from religion. There is one more zombie that I want to talk about, and that is the Voodoo zombie.

In Haiti, where Voodoo is practiced, another type of zombie is born. The Voodoo zombie did not come from science or religion, but from slavery. Its origins started in West Africa, but didn’t really surface until the nineteenth century on the small island of Haiti (Thomas, 2010). Due to imperialism and slave trade in haiti at the time, stories of people being kidnapped started going around. Voodoo practitioners would give their captured victims a zombification drug that would put them in a death like state of zombie-voodoo-dollparalysis. The victim would then be buried and, to prevent them from actually dying from suffocation, would be dug up. The last step in the ritual is to give the victim another drug the brings them out of their paralysis, but not completely. The drug leaves them in a confused, very suggestive, and almost mindless state. They were described as, “Figures that wandered the Earth, lacking figurative foundation like home or resting places and, therefore, unable to generate consciousness of a self” (Thomas, 2010). The newly zombified victim would now be under the complete control of its Voodoo master, and obey their every command. Most of the time these zombies were used for manual labor in field much like slaves, or even used to kill other people, unable to disobey or breakfree from their zombification and return to their former self.

Although The Voodoo zombie isn’t actually dead and can not turn other people into zombies, they still share many qualities as the one previously talked about.  In all cases, a person’s former self dies either from a virus, spawn of Satan, or a Voodoo ritual. They are changed into something from which they can not come back, and compelled to do things they would normally not have done. They are forced to walk the Earth as a mirrored husk of what they once were. They are all different in some ways, but they are also the same monster.  As Jeffrey Cohen said, “The monstrous body is pure culture” and “The monster signifies something other than itself” (Cohen). In a culture afraid of disease, a disease is created that turns you into a flesh eating monster. In a culture that fears religious damnation, a monster comes forth that damns the unholy. In a culture plagued with slavery, a new way to make slaves is constructed. The monster truly is what your culture fears.


Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. “Monster Culture (Seven Theses).” Monster Theory, pp. 3–25., doi:10.5749/j.ctttsq4d.4.

  • I will be using the seven monster theses to analyze the zombie and define how it is a monster. I believe this to be reliable because you said we could.

Pettit, Kent. “Christmas Eve of the Living Dead: The Satanic Draugr.” Integrite: A Faith & Learning Journal, vol. 16, no. 1, 2017, pp. 31–41.

  • This article talks about the draugr, the norse type of zombie. I will use it to show how culture shapes monster in different way. I believe it to be reliable because it is in a scholarly journal.

Thoma, Kette. “Haitian Zombie, Myth, and Modern Identity.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, vol. 12, no. 2, 2010.

  • This article talks about Haiti’s version of a zombie, the Voodoo zombie.I will use it to show how culture shapes monster in different way. I believe it to be reliable because it is in a scholarly journal.

“Resident Evil: Apocalypse.”

  • I reference this movie in my paper to show how the western culture has created its own version of the zombie.

“28 Days Later.”

  • I reference this movie in my paper to show how the western culture has created its own version of the zombie.

Hu, Wenhui, et al. “RNA-Directed Gene Editing Specifically Eradicates Latent and Prevents New HIV-1 Infection.” PNAS, National Academy of Sciences, 5 Aug. 2014,

  • This article talks about how scientist are using gene editing to eradicate HIV. I will use this to show how our culture uses science to try and create curse for life crippling diseases. This article was found on google scholar for I believe it to be reliable.