Humans VS Zombies: Reflections on The Walking Dead

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Let me start with this disclaimer: this is a really gruesome show and I understand if people do not want to watch it or think about it. If that is the case, I understand if you do not wish to read this article. However, having watched the show I find that it raises profound questions about humanity that are worthy of reflection. Additionally, there may be a few spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

The premise of AMC’s The Walking Dead is that something has gone terribly wrong and when people die they turn into flesh-eating zombies. As more and more zombies eat living people, more and more zombies are created and now the world is facing a zombie apocalypse.

The show hones in on an honorable sheriff named Rick Grimes. Eventually Rick finds himself leading a group of people who are attempting to survive together. The group faces many challenges of needing food, shelter, weapons, medicine, constantly having to kill attacking zombies, fight off robbers, and facing the ethical dilemma of killing loved ones who have turned. It is a fast-paced, terrifying, yet gripping show that has won the hearts of many fans and faithful viewers.

So why the zombie craze? Why is this show in particular doing so well? I think on one level there is the pure adrenaline-pumping rush of watching the ultimate game of hide and seek that ends in either life and safety or death and zombification. That is enough to intrigue a horde of fans (pun intended) and has been for years now. Yet, there is more here.

I believe one of the main reasons people keep watching is because of the ethical questions that this show raises.

In Season One we find out that Rick’s wife has begun sleeping with his best friend because she thought that Rick was dead and desired a strong man to watch over her and her son. Another woman won’t let anyone kill her sister after she has been bitten by a zombie even though her sister could turn at any moment.

In Season Two the group has been wandering on the streets for months without a safe haven and they are exhausted. They stumble upon a farm that would be self-sustaining, but the family who owns it still lives there and questions the safety of taking in more people.

In Season Three we see how the on-going apocalypse continues to twist the minds of some of the survivors. The tagline for season three was, “Fight the dead, fear the living.” Multiple times Rick and his group were faced with the terrible choice of killing living people who threatened the safety of their group. Having to continually make hard choices for the group begins to wear on Rick and even his honor is brought into question. As more and more people fail to have compassion for their fellow man, it becomes clear that it is more than just the zombies who might be called, “the walking dead.”

This has caused a stirring in many to ask the questions, “How would I respond to a zombie apocalypse? How would I treat other humans in the face of such terror? What character of the show might I be most like?” Indeed, AMC has even created two quizzes for fans to take that help determine which character they resemble (Season 1+2 QuizSeason 3 Quiz). Something about the show leaves us to search our hearts and even to wonder about humanity itself.

Thus, these initial questions draw us deeper and the heart of the matter is brought to light: would honor and compassion survive the apocalypse? When humanity is put to the test, what will be revealed as the true nature of our humanity? In the end, is this life merely about self-preservation, or is there a deeper humanity, one that holds to a deeper moral law, to an objective truth, despite the terrors of this life? What is that objective truth and how can we know it? Will there ever be real fulfillment to this longing for what’s right and true? Is there more to being human or are we all essentially zombies. Put simply: are we the walking dead? Or is there more...?

I believe that it is questions like these that make the show so intriguing and it is definitely why I, myself, am a fan.