The Walking Dead is Not About Zombies.
The Walking Dead became my addiction for two weeks straight, and I managed to finish the entire six seasons in that time frame. No small feat for someone with a full-time job and a side hustle.
I am sure a lot of you can relate since The Walking Dead is like Disneyland- almost everyone’s heard about it or been there. And if you haven’t seen the it, I encourage you to do so.
But, why did I become so enthralled in the story to want to dedicate a good two weeks of my life to finishing it?
Here is my take. It’s not about zombies.
The Walking Dead is about the breakdown of society and about the devolution of man to his primitive state. It explores human nature, morality, law, religion, values, and human emotions.
In the show, the walking dead (let’s call them zombies) pose a threat to the living, but they are not the real antagonist. They are, without a doubt, a frightening antagonist - forcing the survivors to hide, hunt, fish, and go on “runs” to scavenge for food and medicine-all under the danger of being eaten by zombies.
And that’s supposed to be the story, but it’s not.
The real antagonist is man.
“We have a disharmony in our natures. We cannot live together without injuring each other.” ― William Golding, Lord of the Flies.
The way I see it, human nature is the disease but also the cure for the world’s problems.
When the leader of our main group, Rick and his people build a safe community to live in relative safety and harmony through the dead apocalypse, their not so idyllic way of life is soon threatened by other groups who want to take it from them. And rather than joining Rick’s community to have strength in numbers and fight a common enemy, these various groups fight for power and control over resources against one another.
In addition to exploring human nature, The Walking Dead also explores the nature and origin of human emotions, religion, and morality.
In a constant state of fear, hunger, and basic survival, the living witness the pain, death, and suffering of their loved ones, and soon grow numb to pain and fear. Concern for others who are not in their immediate group is no longer an option, but a liability. They must kill or die.
Also, questions of morality are not black and white anymore (if they ever were). For example, in an advanced culture we consider cannibalism an abomination. And part of the reason why, is because people should not eat other people. It’s a question of morality, religion, and basic human needs. We have values. We have laws. We have religion. And all of these tell us that cannibalism is wrong. But what happens when society breaks down? What happens when rules no longer apply? What happens when survival is the most basic need a person has? Then, what was wrong before becomes a necessity.
These lingering questions leaves us with more questions: what are the implications of the breakdown of society? How does it change the individual? Do we devolve into our primitive selves? What about rules, and laws, and values? Do we make our own? Is morality universal or relative?
Does belief in God die when society breaks down?
The Walking Dead questions the usefulness of religion and the existence of God in very subtle and not so subtle ways. In one scene, Gabriel, the only priest in the group, says, “God already answered our prayers. We need to fight to save ourselves.” The implication is that it’s been only us from the beginning. Our actions elicit the change that we want to see in the world. Many more scenes allude to faith in God throughout the show.There is another scene of a bloody baby car seat and the assumption is that he was eaten alive by zombies.The point is that it’s improbable that God would allow such carnage, suffering, cruelty, and pain to exist. And if he does, then what is He good for? What is the purpose of God if he would still allow such cruelty and evil to exist? And so, in the middle of all the carnage and suffering, close knit groups, such as Rick’s, turn to each other for support rather than faith in God.
Then it dawned on me.
Yes, the show is about zombies eating humans, but zombies don’t plan, or think, or love, or have fear. They just eat. The living, in turn, go through life hostile to each other, fearful, vengeful, ignorant, and stupid- so that despite our human progress and advances in science and technology, human nature has not changed in thousands of years, and it would only take an apocalyptic event to bring out the darkness in us.
We are the walking dead.