Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Real Pandemic: Zombie Movies

Chip Gagnon linked this piece that asserts that Zombie movie frequency follows big, depressing events like war and economic shocks.

The post then recommends that we be the judge of whether this is correlation or causation. Such an invitation I cannot resist.

The post does recognize the data limits pre-1980 and also that there are more movies being produced today, so that might flatten things some what. It is clear that Zombie stuff is a fad today, as my previous posts can certainly attest. So, there is a recent trend, but is it one that responds to events like wars and economic shocks?
  1. First, one has to evaluate the categories. The dependent variable of frequency of zombie movie includes mummy movies, which is a very questionable decision. Sure, both are undead, but mummies tend not to create the same sense of panic/hysteria/apocalypse since mummy-ism is not contagious. What separates Zombies from Mummies is how much it is like a pandemic--that it spreads quickly. Vampires and Werewolves also spread their illness via biting, but the former are quite selective in their prey and the latter are only active for a short time each month. Zack is unique, relatively. I don't know how frequent mummy movies are so I am not sure how much this affects the trends.
  2. Second, continuing on categories, the definition of an event seems pretty broad--depression, prague spring, Sputnik, AIDS Epidemic, Global Recession, Iraq. The problem is that one can easily find such events when the trend line is low--the advent of nuclear weapons and the Korean ware are accompanied by very low levels of Z-movies. Why are the mid-1970's a low point in Z-movies? So shortly after a major crisis (Arab-Israeli war with superpower involvement), Watergate, Cambodia? Why low in the mid 1990's after Bosnia, Rwanda?
  3. The more obvious trend is a fairly steady increase in the average level of Z-movies and then followed by a big ump the past eight years or so. One could then suggest that Zombie movies increase when Saidemans move to Canada. But that would be overly narcisistic to think that Z movies revolve around me. A more powerful stat would be percentage of movies made each year that are Z movies and compare that to Horror movies. It could be the proliferation of movies in general or the rise of DVDs as sources of income for Holywood might be the cause.
  4. Still, one could argue that 9/11 might have had a big impact as the spike really follows that event more than anything else.
  5. Other interesting things to note: 1956 seemed to be the last year that was Z-free and 1975 was the last year that the number dipped below three.
  6. What this chart does demonstrate quite clearly is that Zombies have been hot for the past several years. If I had the cash, would I invest in the production of the movie of World War Z? Probably--if this were a graph of the profits. That is what we really need--not the trend in movies made, but in the box office.


Chip said...

hmm I like the Saideman move theory... But I'm not sure what the causal mechanism would be there...

Steve Saideman said...

Well, it might have something to do with reversing polarity. You see, in my first two jobs (UVM, TTU), there would be a person who started the same year but would be a lightning rod or magnet du merde. All the bad stuff would happen to the other guy. Then I moved north of border and voila, now I am attracting bad luck/poop. One stolen car, two stolen computers, got locked into my bathroom the first week in our Canadian house (long story), two twisted ankles, one semi-blown knee, twice terminated by the McGill bureaucracy (they failed to process my renewed work permits--twice), plus other assorted adventures.

So, this reversal of my personal polarity might have caused a greater fear of death and the living dead.

Will require more theorizing.