Monday, October 15, 2012

On Zombies and Being a Man

No cable in the house, but, just on a lark, we grabbed Netflix for the free monthly subscription. We haven't had it for a while, so I figured their selection would be a bit better. It was, a bit.

So Kim got season three of Parenthood, and I got to spend my whole Saturday immersed in the land of the Walking Dead. I know it's in its 3rd season, but it will NEVER stream until it hits Netflix sometime next year, so I'm stuck with my season two, and it was awesome.

Walking Dead S2 Poster.jpg
He's not walking, so he must not be dead.

So I got to wondering, what is it about this series that gets me going? I mean, I hate hate hate the horror film genre. You know that feeling you get when you're scared? I get that, too, I just don't get that high from it that others do. I hate being frightened. So why do I like The Walking Dead?

Let's start on the face of it: Yes, it's zombie apocalypse/survival horror, but it's also politics and family and ideological. I like watching the process of rebuilding, seeing the ups and downs of gathering or rejecting people, of trying to create a life. It's fun to watch it all go to shit, in a schadenfreude kind of way.

I like the zombies as an enemy, too. They follow rules, they can be worked with. Sure, they show up unpredictably at times, that much is true, but they don't suddenly change how they're made or what they're purpose is. They don't all the sudden manifest the ability to turn to smoke or something. They're ruthless, impractical, and legion. They move. If they bump into anything living, they kill the shit out of it and eat it raw.

Rules. I like 'em.

Also, the writing's pretty damned good. I get all the feels from the cast and the lines they deliver. It's just good television, and you all know how picky I can be about the writing.

But let's go deeper. Let's examine why I thought the first season was cool but the second season actually moved me. It's pretty much the same plot; survive and build a life after the zombie apocalypse, so what's different?

I am, that's what.

And then I realize that the plot of The Walking Dead is a perfect allegory for becoming a man. It's about finding something grander, about leaving childish ideas behind. It's about growing up. But most of all, it's about fear.

The Walking Dead's not just an allegory for growing up, it's an allegory for the incredible fear that sets into a man's soul when he finds out he cares about some people just as much if not more so than for himself. It's about the fear of losing control, about the world becoming more dangerous, about outsiders not being friends I haven't met, but being dangers that I haven't neutralized.

When I leave my wife at home to go to work, I get that same fear that I feel each time Rick and Lori get separated by the events or needed actions of the show. It's about control. Shane is a perfect example of the Full Grown Boy pseudo-adulthood. He's got the brains and the brawn to be a man, but his mind and desires and views are that of the simplistic child. So he's a man-child, only caring about himself and those he views as extensions of himself (who happen to be his best friend's family) and nothing else.

Rick is trying for more. He's not just about survival, but about building something. It's not just day-to-day, because Rick is mature and a grown-ass man, and knows that if you're not building something, you're not living, just surviving.

So when I first saw The Walking Dead, season one, I thought is was cool. I was like, I'd be badass in the zombie apocalypse, because I'm trained in firearms (thanks, Dad!) and can build stuff (thanks again, Dad!). But this time, Season Two, I've got a wife and kid. So now I view things like fucking up at work as near catastrophic, because it could crush those that depend on me to bring home that bacon on a semi-monthly basis.

That fear that Rick's character feels when he looks out at the zombified world around him is the same exact fear I'm feeling when I look out at the world around me: Every man a potential violent thug, every child a potential corrupter of my unborn (can't wait for high school!).

In short, if you want to know what it's like to have a decent job, a wife, and a kid, and no savings, don't watch Parenthood (though it is pretty good in a continually uncomfortable sort of way), watch The Walking Dead.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for bringing a fresh perspective to the show. Rick is a pretty good model for a man in season 2. eventually you will see season 3 where he loses site for a bit but comes back as honorable as ever.