This is a famous line from both The Walking Dead comics (Chapter 4: The Heart’s Desire) and TV show (Season 5 Episode 10: Them) and in both story lines (which diverge and overlap and backtrack with the comic informing but not dictating the TV show) this is a pivotal moment with Rick Grimes delivering a dose of reality to his distraught “family.” For comic book Rick, he has just had the epiphany that they must say farewell to their human lives, in essence their humanity, if they are going to survive. For TV Rick, it is a more hopeful message – that being the walking dead when they have to be can help them preserve their humanity for a time when they make it out alive — or can be human again. Of course, the real trick in The Walking Dead universe, much like our own reality, is knowing when it is safe to be alive rather than dead and understanding that moment can turn on a dime.
This message sums up the essence of the attraction of The Walking Dead, in both comic and television form, for me at least. The Walking Dead universe is a crucible where we can study humanity at its basest form without the veneer of civilization which usually hides our true selves. While this type of survival story is always about this idea, zombie stories might be the best vehicle for this exploration because there is no easy solution (even though we spend time in both comic and TV show thinking there might be) and there is no escape or protection (although, again, we think time and again there can be a safe haven somewhere, it is always an illusion if not a trap). Survival in the zombie apocalypse is just like survival in reality – we must fight every single day to both survive and retain our humanity. Although (as a rule) we don’t face getting eaten if we make the wrong choices, these choices can have a devastating impact on our lives and relationships.
If this was a different post-apocalyptic scenario (say an earthquake or tsunami) we would be able to explore issues about how we, as humans, would react when confronted with a disastrous situation that made us choose between loved ones and our own safety or cope with the loss of a beloved sibling or child, or everything we hold dear from pop tarts to our pets, but eventually the world makes some sort of adjustment to a new normal, much like life does when we suffer loss. However, in a zombie apocalypse the new normal continues to be horrific and pile loss atop loss – and to add insult to injury we are forced to continue making those horrific choices and committing those horrific acts just to stay alive. The zombie apocalypse is a metaphor for real life and the extreme consequences we must face for the choices we make.
What do you think Rick meant when he said: “We are the walking dead”? What does this line mean to you? How does The Walking Dead universe parallel our own?
Tags: #Books, #Stories, #TWD