Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Walking Dead: What's the Big Appeal?

It seems that zombies have been taking over everything these days. Not sure what triggered this contemporary craze, but initially I had to laugh a couple years ago when I heard that my brother and his wife were reading a Jane Austen book with zombies in it. Abe Lincoln and zombies? Yep.

Stephen King threw his hat in the ring with Cell, a zombie tale where people become aggressive blood-thirsty zombies by taking phone calls on their cell phones. Brad Pitt tries to save the world from zombies in the horrorific World War Z. (Here's the trailer. If you haven't seen it it's totally wild.)

How big is our fascination for the undead? On television The Walking Dead is the hottest product out there right now, even as it infuriates its fans by killing off their fave characters.

As I thought about the reasons for this zombie obsession I came across this article on The Daily Dot titled "5 Reasons Why 'The Walking Dead' Is The Biggest Show On TV.'" The five reasons, according to Nico Lang, were as follows.

1. Zombies are so in right now. 
That's fairly self-evident, as indicated by this list of zombie novels currently in print.

2. We're living in a golden age of genre television.
OK, my blog post about the current Golden Age of Television was somewhat harsh, but for those who embrace the medium it really has produced a wave of unique characters and storylines.

3. It's like nothing else on the air right now.
No kidding.

4. The show has a massive female audience.
This is not something I would know from watching the show, nor something I would conclude from the snippets I've seen. Is this rue?

5. And finally, zombies can mean whatever you want them to mean.
This last point is the one that most resonates with me. At its most fundamental level I've begun to see The Walking Dead more symbolically that literally.

"Depending on your perspective," writes Lang, "it’s about the fear of widespread disease outbreak, World War II, consumerism, the anxieties of modern work culture, Communism, the slow degradation of the earth’s natural resources leading to total collapse, the rapture, or a metaphor for teen male sexuality. The message is in the eye of the beholder." Like a Rorschach Test.

So, what's it really all about, Alfie?

We live at a time when symbols seem significantly charged with power, though maybe this has always been so. The Cross. The Flag. The Wall. Symbols are everywhere... and in this story so are the Zombies. What do the zombies symbolize? I'm proposing that they are a symbol of Political Correctness.

First off, notice how they seem to travel in packs. Notice, too, that they refuse to leave the living alone. Why can't the zombies just do their thing and allow the living to do theirs? But no, there's this relentless pursuit taking place in which the PCs, I mean Zombies, won't be satisfied till everyone is a zombie.

This is not to suggest that the line between good and evil is drawn between the living and the undead. The show (and I speak as one who has never watched it but is only hearing about it from others) features all kinds of bad people who are among the living, people with bad motives who are self-centered or worse.

Well, we all know it's just a story. Zombies don't really exist. Then again, for all I know maybe none of us really exist. We're all just a dream, or maybe a Sim in an ultra-real Sim City.

I dunno. What's your take on all this zombie fascination? 

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