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The Walking Dead- What would you do to survive?
The Walking Dead- What would you do to survive?
If you have not yet jumped onto The Walking Dead fan bandwagon, turn your head because I've gotta rip into some spoilers real quick before the new shows start back up in February on AMC. I'm also going to get gross, so if you do keep reading, at least wear eye protection. Oh, and make a snack, because this is getting really long.
I was never a zombie fan, seems pretty mindless to me, but since I've started listening to Tony and Kelly and various other cohosts and guests recap Walking Dead episodes on SnarkAlec Radio I have started asking questions. I even joined the live watch on twitter for the latest ep where the Gov'na decapitates Hershel with Michonne's sword and thought that was the most ludicrous scene ever, first because I felt like people just stood around and let him do it, and second because it's really not that easy to take a person's head off that cleanly with one swipe.
Before I go on, yes, I've gotten plenty of 'it's just a show' and 'suspend the disbelief and enjoy it' and 'don't overthink things'. And I know hard core fans blow me off as a Walking Noob, so I hold no illusions about my opinions. The important thing is that being a Walking Dead fan is starting to make sense to me. Like Tony has asplained on his show, zombies represent real world crises, and people reacting to zombies represent real world social problems that people have reacting to these crises. I truly never thought of it that way before, so that's my foot in the door. Now, as a noob coming into this fresh with a marathon after months of watching fans being emotionally immersed, I'm feeling a film review post coming on. I was brutal with new Trek for awhile, too, so don't take this personally.
The key conundrum for me is the zombies themselves. Before I ever saw a single Walking Dead episode, I was asking Tony questions on one of Dylan's "Dylan Knows" shows, and now as I am marathoning I'm thinking my questions were spot on. Not even having followed the show, I can go back now and see that my questions almost looked like I might have seen a few shows. Are zombie shows THAT simplistic and redundant that questions I throw out can just fit like that? NO. I realized during this marathon that I might have an edge, namely being exposed to zombie stuff enough via Scott and my oldest daughter that I must have absorbed a few key guidelines even though I was blowing it all off. I've also been a Lexx fan for over a decade now, and anyone who knows Lexx knows that Kai is the ultimate zombie, which I'll address soon elsewhere.
Before we go on, the only zombie anything I had ever watched before was Sole Survivors on Syfy's Sliders. To this day I like making sure the house is locked before dark and turning the yard light on when Scott's not home, because the first thing I envision are those glowing eyes. Click the pic to go to a review on that episode.
The Walking Dead sort of comes up with its own explanation about how zombieism works, complete with brain scans, which was really cool. Upon death, the 'lower brain' is reactivated by the infection, but not the rest of the brain, so that gives you zombies without personalities, right? Sweet. Except you can't have reaction to noise and stumbling around toward that noise with intent without upper brain function, capiche? So really, there is no answer at all in the brain scans, it's still a mystery. I'm one of those people who has a really hard time accepting fictional 'fact' if it can't hold its own water, so I tend to fill in the blanks until they can satisfy me later with newly discovered info and whatevs. Have you guys seen Jake 2.0? I'm using that to justify my fill-in explanation for how zombieism works. Jake's nanobots can communicate instantaneously with each other and interact with software outside of Jake's body, receiving commands and sending back real time info that the software can summarize into reports on what's going on inside Jake's body. Why can't a zombie virus be like that? Like living nanobot-like cells that communicate via electro-web over the body, which can initiate action and response. Because clearly the bodies are no longer functionally capable of doing *anything* since they're melting apart to the point of being easily smashed or torn apart like a gooey dead cow carcass, right? The bodies themselves can't really hear a noise and animate themselves any more than they can digest the flesh they eat off fresh people or dogs or horses or whatever.
I know some of you accept that the body still functions on some low level, but think about it (I'm overthinking, egads), you can't even maintain proper blood flow around a body that's already decaying, and I'm willing to stand up for this since I have a family member that died of system wide sepsis and cytokine storm with actual body decay over a course of a few days, very horrific. Blood literally comes out of skin pores and orifices because the blood vessels no longer retain their integrity, and I won't go into more. (She was 20, chew on that one for awhile.) Point is, even the film makers are depicting the zombies as decaying corpses that don't even bleed when they are torn apart because the blood is already coagulated, so don't give me explanations about needing to digest food for some reason. They simply *can't*.
So there must be another explanation for what's really going on. Like all viruses, a zombie virus has an agenda. We don't know if it's an engineered bioweapon that came from space or some weird mutated germ born in a government lab, etc, so this we accept, that it's a virus of unknown origin that activates upon death. And that virus makes people into zombies. The animation part is more easily explained or accepted if you can accept the viruses working in tandem toward a goal of some kind, communicating via electromagnetic means that we have not yet identified. Even if that goal is a simplistic runaway program like the Borg, I can still live with this kind of explanation.
The next problem is energy transference to moving body parts. In a movie called Dark City, alien parasites with a collective conscious used dead host bodies and animated them via 'tuning', what they called psychokinesis. 'Mind is energy' is a saying, and I'm already going to drop this before I get into long winded physics plausibilities for energy transfer from the viruses into the zombie host bodies moving around. Point blank, I don't believe they're literally using the muscle tissue as a means to accomplish anything as much as simply just forcing matter in the body to capitulate to demands. Don't even bring up functionality with me at this point. And be patient. I know it looks like I'm disproving zombies but what I'm actually doing is finding a way that this could all actually really happen and scaring myself silly. I have to do that so I can move past it, because that's how my brain works. If I can't asplain the elephant in the room, discussing every other iota of the room is kinda silly.
As you can see, I'm taking the zombies pretty seriously. But now it's time for the story. I'm gonna get mean.
The big question throughout The Walking Dead is "What would you do to survive?" This is where show content and fan reaction have got me in knots, because one of the most important things I've learned in my own life is DON'T HESITATE. If you think something might hurt or kill you or someone you love, you DON'T put it on the back burner for awhile, like some people do with health problems and even simply just getting an insurance plan. I'm sorry, but the Gov'na making it through killing everybody off like a crazed Hitler and other characters either justifying it or hesitating until it's too late is getting me upset. You would never make it with me in a survival group if you're that much of a pansy that everyone else dies because you can't pull a trigger or even whisper a truth without fearing consequences. Live with your regret and misery and tears all you want, that's a bunch of crap.
If you know you can't personally kill your own pet *right now* to save it from nasty anguish if it gets hung up on something sharp and its insides are trailed out and its crying is tearing your heart out, you won't survive a zombie apocalypse. That's what happened in the show, didn't it, where people couldn't bring themselves to destroy their loved ones when it was crucial even after they had died and then watched parents and children turn into zombies and hurt and even eat more people. If this were a flesh eating bacteria scenario, you'd have to make the same choice- cleanse the world of your severely suffering and dead loved ones or go through that yourself, realizing you are the cause for not preventing much more harm to others after you.
I know. I'm mean. But it's important for you to picture that stuff so I can say this- I. Love. Merle.
Merle was the pivot character for me becoming fully drawn into the show. The last Merle episode where he never tells anyone his intentions or real feelings, never even says good bye to his brother knowing he's a broken man is THE episode that makes all the rest make sense for me. Merle was broken before the zombie outbreak ever happened. People break all the time from abusive childhoods and intensive jobs like the military. They survive in a broken state like a wild card, with the people around them never knowing where their loyalties might truly lie. A guy like Merle might defend and protect and then turn around and kill who he just defended. It's difficult to discover what motivates a person like that to keep surviving, but that's exactly the kind of person who can go out in a blaze of glory for all the right reasons. Are you seeing where I'm going with this? The writers were brilliant with Merle. They pulled all kinds of little strings here and there making you hate the guy, and then that glorious last scene where Daryl fell apart having to kill the zombie Merle had become was heart wrenching. See what they did? THEY MADE YOU LOVE THE SHOW.
We watch TV shows with lots of death in them. Some of us watch people kill each other almost nightly. Why? Have you ever asked yourself WHY we watch these shows? And then we develop all kinds of big feelings while we sit on our couches drinking our beverages and eating our snacks and think Wow, that was a good show! And then we reel off to bed, content and satiated, with a nagging anticipation for another thrill ahead in the next episode. I call this experience addiction. Those of us with comfortable enough lives to be able to tweet how bored we are while we watch television are severely experience deprived. We no longer have a bedroom with an old person dying slowly in a bed at home, we no longer have to skin and gut our own meat, we don't have to watch the windows for tribal warfare where wives are raped and children are taken if you don't throw down on the spot. I can't say this categorically, because some people also drag home from bloody days at work or the streets, but I'm generally saying that the reason we get hooked on TV shows with lots of death in them is because our emotions get jerked around. Emotions are the surges of chemicals racing through our bodies when we see stuff happening on our screens, even though we aren't personally involved. Emotions bring us into the story, entice us to take sides, back favorites, and debate about decisions and consequences. Emotions seal the deal on owning it. Death is a very emotional thing. The Walking Dead has certainly explored death from every conceivable angle to the point where the audience suffers when they aren't getting their weekly hit. Experience addiction.
The writing is clever on The Walking Dead. Not the greatest, but very clever. I'm finding that even though it's very predictable, like just when a problem is about to be discussed or a conflict is about to be resolved, an interruption of some kind changes everything. ~Clever~. This show is about dredging all possible scenarios and stirring the pot in order to shred the characters and remake them into new characters in a continual back and forth dialogue. Some find fortitude, some find compassion, some go berzerk, but every action and how it affects the individual and ultimately the group is thoroughly investigated. Viewers eventually get sucked into agonizing along with the characters' dreads about what if this and oh no that. Watching these people living on a constant edge of fight or flight is both exhilarating and exhausting.
Surviving a zombie apocalypse or any other crisis is about humans surviving themselves. All it takes is one person's fear, anger, or anxiety attack to wreck a situation up real bad. Humans have been surviving in groups for millennia, with mythologies of lone survivors peppering our hero stories. Discussions in several of my degree program classes were how does the individual survive group ostracizing, how do groups survive a dangerously mentally ill person, how do groups define individuals in terms of their belief systems, and on and on. You have psychological health as a group and as an individual, and what is good for one isn't always necessarily good for the other. That is exactly what I'm watching in The Walking Dead, that delicate balance continually being upset, investigated, and reestablished. And this can go on forever. As long as the writers continue to engage their audience with emotionally driven conundrums, I can't see this show ever being canceled.
One more thing. (If you're tired of reading, this isn't necessary, that's ok. I'm about to get really gross again anyway.)
One of the things I've had problems adjusting to watching The Walking Dead is the violence done to humans, even just symbolically. In this show it's quite necessary to destroy the infected brain, because nothing else stops a zombie. That part isn't really what's bothering me. What bothers me is watching heads get stomped, and you know why? Because I know what it feels like to do that. I grew up butchering and killing. I've stepped over dead bodies, stumbled over dead bodies, kicked dead bodies, fallen on dead bodies, sat on dead bodies, and taken apart dead bodies. I know what they smell like, what they feel like beneath my hands and shoes, and what they look like after a week and even a month of decay. I know that brains don't splash until they are so putrid with decay that just being that near them would make you gag and run away just to get a breath of air. When I see a character on The Walking Dead viciously stomp on a walker's head and smash it in and splash it about, I have a vivid memory of actually feeling a dead face and head and skull under my foot. I know how easy it is to get off balance if you try to stand on a head, or how easy a head moves or rolls if you bump it. It feels really heavy, too. So when they stomp heads in the show and things splash like jello, what's bothering me is I KNOW what it would take in me to stomp on another human's head, even if they were dead or a zombie. I know the force I would have to put into my leg and the jolt I would feel in my foot and the monstrously real chaos I would see with my eyes. It bothers me to see that happen on my TV set, even after all the dead bodies I grew up with. Some people reading this are shocked that anyone could do that to an animal. Well, I'm shocked that people can casually watch other people smash each other's heads in on their TV's and want more. I feel sick from seeing that, and that's not an experience addiction I want. But if something bad really ever does happen, I expect ALL you people who've been watching The Walking Dead to be ready and handle stuff and not wimp out like the squeamish wussies who couldn't kill the Gov'na. Got it? Because no matter how sick it makes me feel, I already know I could.
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