I was having a conversation with my best friend over text about The Walking Dead. I’m a fan and he’s hesitant to try it out.
Our conversation took an interesting turn when he brought up an article we’d read on Facebook about why “Christians absolutely should not participate in Halloween.” We both agree with the points the article made concerning Halloween. Neither of us celebrate the holiday, nor do we wish to associate ourselves with it.
But my friend suggested that his hesitance to watch The Walking Dead could be similar to his aversion to Halloween. At first glance, people – mostly Christians – frown at TWD because, well, zombies, right? It’s a show the glorifies the undead, soulless shells feasting on human flesh. Seems… dark, right? Yes, but no. I’ll attempt to debunk some misconceptions about the show here.
1 – It glorifies death, destruction, anarchy, and mayhem.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Throughout the show, the “walkers” and murderous thugs are never highlighted as a “good” thing. The writers do a good job of always showing the distinction between the good guys (Rick and his group) and the bad guys (Walkers, the Wolves, Terminus, etc…).
In fact, the main characters are in a constant fight for survival in a world that’s dying.
And even beyond that, new life is glorified when we see one of the characters give birth and the entire group works to protect the newborn as they hope that she won’t have to grow up in a world run by the dead.
2 – It’s about the zombies.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Every story has its plot points.
The Introduction: Sets the scene by introducing characters and context. In the pilot episode, Rick awakes from a coma to find the world ended while he was recovering from a gunshot wound. Rick is the main character. His context is that corpses now serve as hosts to a violent parasite.
Complication: Introduces the main problem for the characters in the
story. Disoriented and confused, Rick is brought to safety by a stranger who tells him how the world works now. Throughout the series, we see our main characters come to terms in their own timing with the reality that they are at war.
Body: A series of events and smaller problems the characters have to overcome. This is generally shown episode to episode as they have to confront emotional issues while fighting to stay alive at every turn.
Climax: The pinnacle of the story in which the characters solve their main problem. This is also shown episode to episode, as well as season to season. Their main problem is the walkers. The walkers are not the story’s focus; they’re simply the force that keeps the story moving.
And then, of course, there’s the resolution, but aside from individual episode plots we’ve yet to see the whole story resolved. And hopefully we’ll get a few more seasons before that happens.
So, the point of this is to show that TWD is not about the walkers, it’s consistently about the ways in which the characters relate to and cope with the walkers (the conflict).
3 – Zombies are demonic.
Zombies have been a classic sci-fi plot point for decades. I would argue that they’re about as demonic as aliens. In TWD at least, zombies (walkers) are the result of an infectious virus (spread through bites or scratches) which kills the host body but enables the corpse to retain its motor functions. The parasite inside the host body, like all parasites, seeks to devour. This is why the walkers eat flesh. It’s not because they’re cannibals (that would imply some sense of free-will); it’s because a parasite is using the body of a dead person to do what parasites do: feed on other entities.
Zombies are not demonic; they’re purely scientific. Furthermore, in the Dark Ages, the Church thought mental illness (PTSD, Autism, etc…) was the result of demonic possession. Now, we no better, don’t we? Well, most of us anyway. 😉
If TWD was about an alien invasion, would people think it demonic? I think not. The walkers are merely the tool in which the writers use to add conflict to the characters’ story arcs.
4 – It’s violent and dark.
The characters are at war. War is never pretty. The show is in it’s sixth season and by now most of the characters that have existed since its conception have come to recognize that they’re at war and that there is darkness in the world (Walkers, the Wolves, Terminus, etc…). While they do, in many cases, commit acts that seem atrocious to us (killing living humans) this does not mean they’ve succumb to the darkness; it simply means they recognize that they’re at war and will do anything to protect themselves and those they care about. And throughout the show we see our characters wrestle with their own humanity as they struggle to keep from succumbing to the darkness.
War is bloody and violent and dark, but exists for one reason: to preserve what light remains. And that is exactly why our favorite characters in TWD do the things they do.
5 – “What fellowship can light have with darkness?”
TWD never pretends that walkers and humans can coexist. (Well, there was one character who did…. but she was crazy.) There’s always a “them or us” attitude.
6 – In a show about zombies, there can’t be any redeeming themes.
Again, the show isn’t about zombies. It’s about the characters. And I’m just going to say that I absolutely disagree with this statement. The show is full of redeeming
Amid this war against the dead, babies are born, characters get married, people fall in love, hearts are broken, bonds are formed. There are themes of forgiveness, courage, selflessness, love, hope, teamwork, family, compassion, humor, sorrow, remorse, strength, understanding, and so much more.
And that is why I watch the show. The writers do a great job of making me feel the impending danger coming from various sides (Walkers, the Wolves, Terminus, etc…). Tensions are high every episode and I feel like I’m right beside the characters, fighting with them to see at least a small part of the living world restored – even if it’s only a walled safe-zone.
In the end, I think TWD, like all stories, attempts – and succeeds – to illuminate the light and hope and new life amid a dark, violent, dying world. Of course, my duty is only to make sure people don’t avoid a potentially beautiful story based on misconceptions. So I leave whether or not you invest in this story up to your discretion.