The Zombieologist

Plan for the best, prepare for the undead

by Ashley Rankin

Street Wear Oct 17WHO: Cassie Ozog, Zombie Master. WHO ELSE: Zombie Bree Cannon and zombie Sandra Provick. SHIRT: Zombie Research Society. QUOTE: “Walk softly and carry a big sword.” SECRET WEAPON: Lip gloss? “I’m trying to decide if saying something about lip gloss in the apocalypse would be terribly unfeminist or seriously Tank Girl-esque,” says Cassie.

This is Cassie Ozog’s second Street Wear but how can we not interview this zombie enthusiast for Scary Dog? The author of Fear Rises from the Dead: A Sociological Analysis of Contemporary Zombie Films as Mirrors of Social Fears has been reading and researching all things gruesome since she could, well, read. She’s absorbed more zombie culture than I knew existed, and managed to turn her passion into the aforementioned master’s thesis. Her favourite picks for getting your scare on? The Walking Dead comic series and a three-way tie between the movies Day of the Dead, 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead. Which is good to know, because those are the only ones I’ve ever seen, so I must be more prepared for the rise of the undead than I’d thought.

Just in case our readers are not so confident, Cassie has been kind enough to share some of her expert advice, free of charge.

What inspired you to become a Zombie Master?

I wouldn’t call myself a master! I’d say enthusiast. My degree says Master, but a degree ain’t gonna keep you safe when the hordes start banging at your door.

I’ve found the concept of zombies and the apocalypse and the collapse of society equal parts fascinating and terrifying for a long time, and loved reading about all of it. I got the opportunity to do a presentation on zombies in popular culture for my undergrad degree and the obsession never really went away. I actually started my graduate degree with a completely different idea, but this one kept, well, gnawing at my brain. I couldn’t not write about it.

Perhaps there was a fear aspect that led to your fascination with the undead? A morbid curiosity of sorts?

Absolutely. I have an annoying habit of researching, in detail, things that terrify me, and this was no different. I’ve always had a soft spot for the creepy stuff in life.

It’s obvious you’re not alone — the whole world seems to be infected with the zombie bug. The Walking Dead is (arguably) one of the best shows on TV, as well as a top comic. Do you follow it? If so, how accurate are its zombies?

I do watch it! I like how not every zombie story is the same; the universes are different, the rules might shift in some ways, and each storyteller has something unique they want to say using zombies as the source of the story. I think the creators of The Walking Dead do a really great job of honouring the original source material of the comic, pretty well-known zombie “rules”, and also exploring humanity in some really gritty ways.

Interest in vampires and werewolves is waning, and there has been a spike in zombie action over the past couple of years. Even the popular vampire series True Blood has succumbed to zombie fever. To what do you attribute the rising zombie trend?

This contemporary popularity in zombies has been on the rise since the new millennium, so it’s been building for a while. But zombies have had surges of popularity many times in popular culture history, particularly in times of social unrest. Going into the new millennium, and since, there has been much fear of catastrophic changes to our society, from terrorism and pandemic diseases, to devastating natural disasters both in North America and globally, to challenges to our systems of order like the financial crash in the United States. Zombies, and the total collapse of social order they bring with them, generate the same destruction that these real terrors do, and so they become a sort of safe way to explore the fear we face in society every day. They allow us to escape into stories, experience the terror, and then safely go back to our normal lives.

Zombie fanatics seem convinced that a zombie attack is imminent and they’re hatching survival plans. Some even attend zombie boot camps. What’s your best advice to survive such an ordeal?

I actually lectured at a zombie survival camp at Lake Monahan this summer! Educate yourself! Learn about extreme survival methods. Work out, start running, learn how to defend yourself and your survival team. Look at real-life examples of pandemics, natural disasters and collapsing societies. What went wrong, and how did those lucky enough to survive make it? As the old saying goes, those who do not learn their history are doomed to repeat it!

In your expert opinion, will we ever have a zombie epidemic?

Hope for the best, plan for the worst! ;) Happy Halloween, everybody.

2013-10-17

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