As a media and film studies major, you become aware of how popularity for a theme grows, based on events happening in society. While themes remain universal and echo plots, sometimes something truly original does pop up that reflects society’s conflicts.
It is truly evident in The Walking Dead, which has focused on survival in a completely changed world overrun by zombies and the value in community of human relationships who work together. Other shows in the past and in the present have gone with that theme: Lost, Naked and Afraid, to name only a few.
A prime example of a zombie culture lies in the effects of technology and the way people have the tendency to use it. Students heading to their next class are glued to their phones, so they are unable to watch where they are going. It eerily shows a growing lack of consciousness. Sometimes when students bump into each other as they have often done to me, I don’t know if they even know that they have because they don’t acknowledge it. How “alive” can a person be without a certain level of awareness?
The Walking Dead also reflects a consideration of what it means to be human. In the first season, Rick Grimes spots the same zombie he had seen earlier when he first escaped from the hospital. He tells the zombie, “I’m sorry this happened to you.” The director shows a possibility of human awareness when Grimes raises the gun and the bare skeleton of the person weakly raises a hand as though to stop him. After flipping through photos that show Seth is grieving, he knows what he has to do to protect his son. Seth also hesitates to shoot his wife because he remembers the relationship he once had with her, but the person he knew her to be no longer exists.
In a society tense with growing anxiety and stress from all the busyness, one can only wonder how much that is zombifying people in its own way.
The Walking Dead first aired in the fall of 2010, back when I had gone for a communications degree with a film emphasis. Telling stories has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, but the passion strengthened after I turned ten. Somewhere along the way, you can lose your joy for the one thing you know you are supposed to do in life as you get older. I was ultimately convinced that the degree was a waste of money and it would be smarter to acquire a business degree which is what I did. It took me the next several years of working at different jobs to decide to return to school for what I wanted. Sometimes it is a challenge to still find the heart and the time to keep going with my passions for my overall plan outside of school.
So what do school studies have to do with zombies? Far too many people have fallen asleep and lost their love in life and have settled for what they feel they are supposed to do, instead of following their hearts. Ignoring your heart and instead spending energies on what drains you affects the others around you.
That’s why I believe that something about the zombies grabs our attention. It has to do with more than just survival. As a student, writing papers and studying consumes so much of your time. Other times you fail, despite your diligence in the class. Then you begin to wonder how much it is worth paying all that money or what makes you any different between you or anyone else in your major. In today’s world, your survival depends on maintaining a job and everyone is fighting for one.
Aside from the struggle between school studies and working, in the middle of the struggle, you cannot lose sight of the people who matter. Friends also play a part in furthering your growth or hindering it. For that reason, be aware of any toxic “friends” who may also be used as an analogy for zombies. If you let them, some will feed whatever they can off of you until what you have left is gone.
Sometimes following your heart does get you killed, so you have to stay on your toes to maintain the ever-challenging balance. Andrea was a character who believed in the good of everyone, even the governor who kept a secret from the town that his daughter was a zombie. When you finally think you may be able to trust someone, they let you down even when they believe what they have done is best.
Yet, you must fight in order to have a chance, just like the characters in The Walking Dead have had to do. You develop a healthy awareness of knowing what you need to do in order to adapt; the possibilities will hopefully be endless.
Because much like The Walking Dead, you do not know what will happen in the future.