Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Walking Dead


I tend to observe metaphors in many places, even when they might not actually be there.  Its that pattern thing I spoke about in a previous entry.  We tend to see things where they aren't, sometimes they are even there when people do not intend them to be there.  I mean come on, just look at some of the music you might listen to, you might see it meaning something that was never intended by the artist, and the same can be said about television shows.

I am not a zombie flick type.  Its over played, I mean Hollywood rode that horse into the ground, but hey it sells, so they keep making them.  However, I happened across The Walking Dead at the start of the second season.  As you know they replay the previous seasons, and I caught a few minutes of one episode, and it caught my attention.  So, I found a used copy of the first season on DVD and picked it up.

Now as I sit back after the last season (season four), and await the fifth season, I feel the reason I am gravitated to the series isn't because of the plot.  I mean it is a good plot.  It certainly isn't the zombie aspect, I am not a huge fan of zombie movies as a whole.  Anyway, at this time, I guess I will get to what I think part of the metaphor, or larger message about The Walking Dead is.  I mean outside of trying to survive a zombie apocalypse or the destruction of society as a whole.  Certainly, the show is about survival, but what are they really trying to survive?  Really, they are trying to survive in a violent, uncaring society, the America of today. 

Look at the major characters.  Rick and Shane, two police officers, deputy sheriffs.  Say what you will about the power they hold because of their job, the truth is, outside of that power, they often live hand to mouth.  You have Lori and Carl, wife and son of Rick.  Yes it gives Rick an extra dimension of character, but it is also another reference to surviving within our current society.  While Shane has it rough in this new world, without a family, we see all of Rick's family problems before it goes to hell, and how things improve with someone, even if they are made more difficult.  Now there are key differences between the comic and the show, Andrea is a file clerk in the comic, I believe she was an attorney in the show.  However, in the comic she was likely someone who would have been middle class, while in the show, it might be assumed that she often encountered sexual harassment.  Dale a retired man, in the comic he was a car salesman.  Glenn in the show was a delivery driver for a pizza chain.  Daryl, a television only character is a product of an abusive childhood, with a father who was an alcoholic.  We also have Merle, Daryl's older brother, a drug user who previously served in the military.  We also have Carol, who is a housewife who was abused in both the comic and show.  Finally Abraham, a military man in the US Army.

See a trend here, all classes of people who face some type of abuse in the real world.  They are people who are often ignored by the masses, and often find themselves under attack.  Look at it from a slightly different perspective.  These people are attempting to make a way in a world which is full of threats.  The zombies, which out number them, are really a reflection of our society as a whole.  As someone who has yet to read the comic, I have never seen anyone who could be considered as affluent before the beginning of the show.  Certainly they might have been middle class people, but you do not see bankers, doctors, judges, or politicians. 

Speaking of the show, look at two of the locations they survivors used to hold out.  A prison, and a farm.  The prison holds great significance for me.  They are prisoners of this new world, the difference being they have locked themselves away for protection from society at large, rather than being locked away for the protection of society.  However, even that is not to last, it was attacked by another group of survivors.  In a way, it screams about how different segments of society seek to turn us against each other.  Another location used was a farm, idolized by many as a simple life.  But this also a telling location.  Sure things are simple at first, but as with all things, society comes knocking and the farm was overrun.  Sure it harkened back to a time when one could rise with the chickens, put in a days work, make an honest living in society.  But the fact that it was encroached by walkers (society) happens daily anymore.  Farms are lost, turned into residential housing, or commercial shopping centers, and the farmers themselves are forced into retirement, or into other fields (check out Sawyer Brown's Cafe down on the Corner). 

As for the last aspect of the shows premise, everyone is infected.  At any point, should you die, you will become a walker unless you are dispatched in the typical kill zombie way.  This is the hardest part of it, it is also the worst.  In essence, the majority of society quietly accepts what is handed to them, they refuse to fight anymore.  They are content with the status quo.  Sure they might rail against it from time to time, but they otherwise accept it.  The survivors come to the understanding that if they aren't always careful they will fall into complacency. 

Of course, this could be me putting a spin on a show where no spin exists, then again, maybe not.  Watch it for yourself, see if its just me.