The Walking Dead, Our New Obsession

Emily and I don’t watch that much television.  Without any sort of cable tv or antennae, we limit ourselves to whatever is available on Netflix as well as a few shows on Hulu (The Office and 30 Rock).  Last spring when we were looking for something to watch on Netflix I noticed The Walking Dead.  I had heard seen a few people mention it on Facebook, so we gave it a try.

We’re addicted.  We watched the first season in a couple weeks and have been watching an episode as often as we can since season two was put on Netflix (as often as we can =  after Junia is in bed and when neither of us is working that night).  With season three just starting, we are almost finished with season two and hopefully we’ll be able to get in with the new episodes somehow.

What I find so compelling about this show is that it tackles big (huge…tremendous) questions of morality.  In a post-zombie apocalypse world, what sort of morality ought the remaining humans have?  When you are part of the small remaining segment of humanity, constantly on the lookout for zombies who will relentlessly attack you, what exactly are the rules?

Do weak people still matter?  Is there still such a thing as justice?  Or is it simply “might makes right”?

On one side is Shane, a former cop.  As a cop, his job was to keep the peace, to help those in need, to defend those who could not defend themselves.  But we have seen him turn into the symbol of the new morality: kill any threats to the group without question, leave behind or sacrifice any who slow us down and get in the way.

On the other side is Dale.  Dale speaks for traditional morality, the sort of morality that most adhered to in the pre-apocalyptic world.  When the group has a human prisoner, and everyone wants the prisoner eliminated in the name of their own safety, Dale speaks for fairness and even forgiveness.  He calls on the group to not lose its humanity.

As the characters have their philosophical discussions on what sort of morality goes in the new world, I can’t help but wonder what I would do?  Are the morals and ethics I hold to just a product of my culture or religion?  In a different situation, would I jettison them for something that works better?

I have often heard some say that a person’s character is truly discovered when tough times hit.  It is easy to believe certain things or live a certain way when times are good, but when life falls apart it is revealed what you really think. It makes me wonder if a character like Shane, even though he was a police officer, always had the “survival of the fittest” attitude in the depths of his heart and mind.

Perhaps I should not be surprised that there is already a Walking Dead and Philosophy book.  Before I began writing this, I did a brief search to see what else has been written on this topic and found this article to say much of what I was already thinking: The Post-Apocalyptic Morality of the Walking Dead.

And for the record, we still have two episodes left in season two.  So if you read this, don’t comment and give anything away!

What do you think: if you’re a Walking Dead fan, what does it say about morality and ethics?  How might you live differently in a post-zombie apocalypse world?

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