Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Post about the Walking Dead

So, yes, I am still watching the show. I am aware that it has some race issues ( T Dog? Really?) class issues ( the rednecks are racist, and criminal, the bourgeois are at least rationalized as having trauma to explain away their sins) and gender issues ( Women are weak, or butch, and no real gay characters) but I still watch it. You wanna know why? Because of a filter I have for it. Like all decent genre fiction is serves best as an analogy. No, it's not about zombies- zombies don't exist, hence they're called "Walkers". No, it's not about disease because "we're all infected". It's about the atrocities of total war. Think about Rwanda, think about The American slaughter of Native Americans, think about southeast Asia, think about Central America, and so on. How often did these things break down on ethnic, or class lines? How much rape and chattelling of women goes on in them?
So, let's say that you agree with me, that it's about how people behave in those circumstances, so, then, what? Well, here's the trickier part- America, especially white America hasn't had to deal with that- not directly, and not in a very long time. However, what did we do in Iraq, and Afghanistan? How much did we dehumanize not only the opponents, but our own citizens? I watch the Walking Dead because I have friends who have come back from that, and I see them struggle, and The Walking Dead is a much safer way to talk about the aftermath of horrifying conditions because it's about "zombies"- you see? I can talk to a dude who lost his mind for a few minutes because an improvised explosive shot his friends' leg into my friends face about how traumatized Rick and Carl are, and I know he sometimes isn't talking about them. I can talk with another friend who had half a lung removed from parachuting into Fallujah, but all he wanted for years was to get signed up and go back about what a badass Michonne is, even though I'll never fully understand my friend, we can communicate through that cipher. Starting to see the point?
But, it's not just veterans. I think we, as Americans, understand, on some really deep level, that somewhere along the line, we crossed over, and we're the bad guys. Maybe not all bad, and maybe not all the time, but we've given the ok for some pretty bad stuff to be done in our name- The Walking Dead is a way to start processing that.
So, while I have no doubt that the Artists creating this show have some bad actions- I think Kirkman is demonstrably a sexist, for example. And I'm sure that both Darabont and Mazzara partially are out because no one is ready to abandon character development to the sociopathic levels that fanboys seem to want- a major, major part of why, even though I enjoyed Zombieland, it made me feel a little sick afterwards was how much it focused on being a "badass" and how cool it was to kill- so I know that sociopathic urge fuels a good percentage of our zombie stories- but it's that stubborn return to humanity, even if it's all dialogue, no action that makes me think that The Walking Dead has redeeming qualities.
For example, I literally have lost friends over this opinion- but I think the last episode was part and parcel of what the show absolutely must do- I'm not going to spoil it, but let's just say that a major character has to kill another, much more vulnerable character, because that character seems to present a greater danger. Some of my friends have concentrated on that killing, and other elements like that, and believe that the show is endorsing these actions- I'm arguing that the real core of the show is in the words of another character who responds to this transgression, and others like it by saying that he forgives, but cannot forget- that we can accept that we have been a party to evil, to things that should never have happened,  but we must not accept it in any kind of warmth- it's evil, and we have to be haunted by it. That's something I think needs to be said.

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