Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Walking Dead Revisited


In an entry from a while back, I wrote about how I see metaphors in just about everything. I also talked about the many metaphors I saw in the show, “The Walking Dead”. At this time, I think I need to clarify that entry to this blog, and update it as well. Keep in mind that The Walking Dead is a metaphorical statement about our own society. One in which the walkers are society, and Rick's group of survivors are the disenfranchised, the mentally ill, the incarcerated, the poor, the homeless, and many minorities. In the zombie apocalypse, I advise staying away from horses, and remember time is fluid. So, be warned, “Dead Inside.” In other words, there will be spoilers and opinions.

From the shows onset, we see Shane and Rick who are discussing their collective problems with the women in their lives. Rick's marriage is failing, Shane can't find the right lady. But all this is cut short because of a car chase, which results in Rick being shot, and ending up in a coma, so we the viewer have no idea what happened. We then follow Rick, as he awakens in this new cruel world, where the dead are trying to take a bite out of anything that is alive. At this point I will point out that zombie films and shows tend to start popping up during times of civil and political unrest. There have been studies about the effect. Mostly, they all share the common theme of civilization collapsing. Really that is a deep seated fear that many people have, even if they do not acknowledge it, or even realize it.

At the time of the first entry on the subject, I spoke about two of the main locations in the show, but there have been several. He first encounters an African American man, and his son, who aid Rick, give him food and shelter, where he in turn allows them a brief return to the civilized world, by allowing them to shower and change cloths in his former station, he arms them and gives them a police radio so he can stay in contact with them. He then sets out on his own to go to the CDC (the government) for help. At this time I will point out a bit of history and irony. When Rick first escapes the hospital, and sees a fleet of military helicopters, they all bear the insignia of the 7th Calvary, the same group involved in Custer's Last Stand.

When Rick first encounters a group of survivors, specifically Glenn via CB Radio, he had rode into town riding a horse. Given his law enforcement background, it struck me as him riding in to save the day, only to have walkers attack him, and kill the horse, while he manages to escape into a tank (in and of itself a type of horse). For me, this speaks of the death of rescue from this new world. People often talk about a knight in shining armor coming to the rescue, and in this instance, it was Rick, but we find out quickly that he is not that man. The knight needs to be rescued, and it is Glenn who helps him escape that situation. At this time, we are introduced to the group in Atlanta. We have Glenn a delivery man (delivery man in comics), we have Merle an ex-military racist (TV only), Andrea an attorney (file cleric in the comics), and two others. The group is comprised of three minorities, the first is Glenn who is Chinese American, the second is a Latino American man, the third is an African American man. In the comics, this starts the main metaphor of the story, these are all people who often find themselves on the fringes of society.

After some thought, and Rick assuming command of the small group, they manage to escape Atlanta, and head back to the wilderness location, where the others have stayed behind. The first order of business when they return is reuniting Rick with his wife and son, who believed him to be dead. Of course, the next order of business is totally dismantling a Dodge Charger that the group had used to escape Atlanta. At this point we have the death of the hope of rescue, and the dismantling of one artifact from society. More specifically the dismantling of the trappings and desires of society, the lust for the “newest greatest” car on the road until the next year when one newer and better is released. We then met Daryl (Merle's younger brother), and he is very similar, however he tends to be less racist, but he and his brother are both lone wolf types, who exist on the fringe of any society they are part of. We are introduced to Carol, her daughter, and abusive husband. Dale, who is retired (a car salesmen in the comic), Andrea's sister, and others. The wilderness theme of the encampment speaks to the isolation of the group from society itself. I think back to reading stories like “Call of the Wild”, and “Hatchet” where people go into the wilderness, they are often very alone, scared, and become fixated on survival. As a group, they decide to head back to Atlanta, for guns Rick left behind, and to save Merle. Merle has cut off his own hand to escape the walkers, and Glenn is captured by a group whose sole goal is to protect the elderly that had been left behind by others. The group trades the guns for Glenn, and to allow the other group to better protect the elders, many of whom don't have long to live or cannot be evacuated. At the camp, one of the members has last his mind, and has started digging graves so the group can bury its dead. With that the group heads back, arriving back in time to help save the remaining survivors that had been attacked by a large group of walkers. In the fray, the man who had been digging graves was bitten, Andrea's sister and Carol's husband were killed. Afterwards, the some of the group decides to head to the CDC, as they think they can get help, the rest of the group decides to strike off on their own (we never see or hear from them again). After the main group gets to the CDC, they find that they are locked in, Rick is given an answer he so desperately wants, but the CDC is about to fall, and there is no escape, but they managed to, because they refused to give in.

After fleeing the CDC, they are on the move, and Carol's daughter goes missing after a herd of walkers meets the group. The group was attempting to get to Fort Benning, once again trying to get help from the government. After an accident involving Carl being shot by a poacher, the small group of survivors heads to Herschel's farm, where the farmer veterinarian has become a doctor and saves Carl's life. Eventually, we learn that Herschel has walkers locked up in his barn, because he thinks he can save them. In an attempt to gather supplies, we see things go wrong, and Shane shoots one of Herschel's group so he can escape. It shows is an indication of the dog eat dog world we currently reside, and how it has gotten worse. Eventually, the secret is out, and in a cruel twist of plot, Carol's daughter is a walker, and Daryl who spent the season looking for her, is devastated, because the girl lived a similar life to his own, with an abusive father. Let's stop for a moment and talk about the farm itself. When you tell someone about a farm, their mind instantly goes to “Green Acres”, they think of a very plain and simple life of hard work. This speaks of the libertarian notion, through hard work everything will be all right, things will get better. But ultimately Dale is bitten by a walker, and is put down by a group member. The walkers in the barn were unleashed, and put down. And the farm is overrun by the walkers. Even Shane becomes a walker after he tried to kill Rick, and Carl is forced to kill walker Shane.

The majority of the disbanded group eventually reconnects with each other, and they find a prison, where they lock themselves in. Herschel, who is the voice of reason and morals in the group is bitten, and to save his life they cut off his leg. Andrea, having been separated from the group, and exhausted is saved by a mysterious stranger who has two walkers following her like pets. Eventually we find Merle is alive, and is with another group of survivors, which Andrea and her savior Michonne, briefly join. Rick, beset by the grief of losing his wife, goes insane, and refuses to allow other survivors to join the group, Herschel tells his worries of Rick's instability to Daryl, who has become the second in command of the group. The second group of survivors led by a man known as The Governor attacks the prison, and Rick's group manages to hold the fort, so to speak. Ultimately, the group cannot seem to lock itself in for protection from the world. In reality, we lock people inside prisons to protect society from those who would wrong or harm us in some way. Yet in The Walking Dead, this is the reverse. The surviving groups have walled themselves in for protection.

That brings us to the end of the third season, the group has imprisoned itself for protection from the outside world. But look at the makeup of the group from beginning to this point. We have an abused wife and her daughter, several minorities, and people who would be considered poor, or those who would be the fringes of society. They move from being in the wilderness (being alone and concerned with survival), to being on a farm (a simple life of hard work), to finally a prison (where they lock themselves away with people who are considered a danger to society). Everywhere they have been has ultimately been attacked by walkers, or other survivors. How does this fit into the premise that society is the walkers, and the survivors in Ricks group are the disenfranchised among society?

Look at the makeup of the group, most of the people there throughout the series to this point have been considered poor, the working poor, or middle class in socioeconomic terms. Outside of Andrea, Rick and Shane in the show back stories, most would not be college graduates. I did not mention Herschel, even though I believe it was specifically stated he did graduate from college, because you would be surprised how much you learn from working and living on a farm. You have Daryl and Merle who are survivalists at their core, they are the poster children for groups who want to be off the grid, who distrust society to begin with. It is also shown by Merle's reappearance in the third season that he and his brother are likely the most adept at survival, because they lack trust in everyone. We have the dismantling of the ideas and desires of society at large. We have The Governor who seeks to rebuild society with himself as the leader of it all, and the others.

As pointed out by one of our fellow contributors here, in this latest season Rick stated that “We are the walking dead.” In the metaphor that is the show, the Walking Dead are the people who have become apathetic to the struggles of those who are on the fringe of society. They are the people who are only concerned about getting more, about attacking those with less, and cutting off aid to those in need. The walking dead are libertarians and conservatives. And if we want to be honest, the Governor and his group are those people who fall into the category of people who think they have something, but never realize that they are a breath away from losing what little they have. While Rick's group is focused on survival, and building up what they do not have.

In a week or two, after the end of this current season I will revisit this notion. Lets see how everything pans out. Feel free to add your views of the show, but please try and keep it to the first three seasons of the show, because a great deal has changed.