For some reason, zombies are hot right now. While their undead cousins the vampires have long enjoyed popularity in print and on the screen (and a good deal of sexification, too – not that I have any complaints about that), it seemed that zombies were a little too gross, too scary, or maybe even too real a fear to have a widespread mainstream following.
That’s changed recently. Why, I’m not entirely sure, but suddenly zombies are something everyone talks about. Perhaps it’s the sense of realism involved: while unlikely, who’s to say a zombie apocalypse couldn’t actually happen? (In fact, there are scientific reasons that it could.) Geeks and non-geeks alike have zombie apocalypse plans in place, to varying degrees of seriousness. (Ask me about mine sometime.) The CDC even has tips to prepare for a zombie attack (and other emergencies too, of course). And Zombieland probably had something to do with all, too. Double tap, kids.
Whatever the reason, I’m riding the zombie bandwagon along with everyone else. And like many other zombie fans, my favorite thing in the wave of zombie popularity is AMC’s hit show, The Walking Dead. But I’ll share a secret with you: I don’t love it because of the zombies. I love it because of the living.
It Asks The Tough Questions
The Walking Dead (just like the graphic novels that inspired it) focuses on the survivors of the zombie apocalypse and their struggles to stay alive, remain sane, and find others. While this is often a key theme in zombie apocalypse stories (along with “OMG look at the gross nasty zombies eating braaaaaains!”) I have never seen it so poignantly done as in The Walking Dead.
For all our apocalypse plans to find and horde guns and other supplies, and hole up someplace we’re sure will be impenetrable, would any of us truly be emotionally prepared for the shock of the apocalypse? What if none of the people that the Facebook meme said would be on your apocalypse team survived? What if none of your friends or family survived, and your only companions in the fight to stay alive were mere acquaintances, total strangers, or even people you absolutely could not stand? Heaven forbid, but what if you were completely alone?
Could you make the hard decisions required in such a bizarre and tragic time? If someone you knew – worse, someone you loved – was bit, would you have it in you to kill them and keep them from turning into a walker? When facing a zombie who was once someone you knew, could you pull the trigger on them? There would likely come times where a sacrifice might need to be made: to leave a slow or injured member of your party behind so the rest of you (or maybe only you) could survive. Or an escape plan just might not have room for everyone, whether a vehicle was too small, a boat too overloaded, or supplies too scarce. Someone would have to make the call on who to abandon. Would it be you? Could you do it if it was?
And what about the children? Some would argue that bringing children into a world gone so horribly wrong would be a bad thing to do, and they may well be right, but yet without procreation, the human race dies off and the zombies win. The decision to have a baby would never be as important and urgent as in an apocalypse. As for the young ones already fully involved in the fight to survive, would you unselfishly make every sacrifice possible to keep them healthy and strong? Or would you find yourself wondering if it was fair to them to know nothing of life other than a constant state of fight or flight?
What about love? Would your heart turn to stone in the battle to survive, or would you still have it in you to love someone? Then again, would you want to, knowing that any day, a walker might get them?
Now that I’ve completely knocked the wind out of your sails with all these serious questions (believe me, I’m feeling more than a little depressed right now having written them down) – imagine that this was really what your life was like, what you faced, day in and day out. These decisions, these moral dilemmas, these things that would keep all but the most heartless of people up at night. That’s what The Walking Dead is about.
Zombie Apocalypse, Well Done
Like any geek, I’m passionate about the shows I love, but I promise you I’m not just being all fangirly when it comes to The Walking Dead. Every week, it’s consistently mind-blowing in the emotional issues it deals with. Thankfully there are moments of humor and small victories to keep it from being completely depressing to watch – the same things that keep the characters going, too. The acting and writing are both top notch, and the show has moved me to tears several times.
And there are zombies, too. Nasty gross zombies eating brains, and they’re truly terrifying and heartbreaking all at once. But if it wasn’t for the fact that they were the root of all the trouble in the world, they would almost take a back seat to what’s going on with the survivors. Yet their threat, the fear they induce, is always there, impossible to forget for more than a few minutes. And that’s what makes it a true horror story, and not just a gross-out fest.
In a word, it’s fabulous.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC. Don’t have cable? Season 1 is out on DVD and for streaming on Netflix, and new episodes from Season 2 are available for download at iTunes and Amazon.
If you’re not caught up on The Walking Dead, go do it. Now. You’re missing one of the best shows currently on television.
What do you think of The Walking Dead?