Walking Dead and Sociology

I got into reading the Walking Dead comics a couple of years back. I had, however, gotten through several of the volumes before I saw the underlying theme of the book. The underlying theme isn’t immediately apparent though. After all, the books are about zombies. Aren’t they?

No, they’re not. They’re not about the zombies or about fear or the horror or the apocalypse or about the survival. It is about the survivors. The people left behind. It’s commentary about the role society plays in our current world and a prediction of what might happen if something so disastrously destructive happened that it took away the society we lived in and changed all the rules.

Even though back then I had no idea what sociology is or what it means and how important the role of society in our lives is, I did seem to get an inkling of the broader concept when I read these books. What struck me was that they didn’t even attempt to explore exactly what had happened. And what surprised me was that I was ok with it. I was fine with them not going after the cause.

The books are about people left behind who realized that there were no rules anymore. There was nothing holding them back. They could do whatever they wanted. That they had to make the rules; had to create a new form of society. What kind of society they created, how they built it back up from the ashes of the last burnt-out phoenix of a society zombies had decimated was up to them.

“To me, the best zombie movies aren’t the splatter feats of gore and violence with goofy characters and tongue in cheek antics. Good zombie movies show is how messed up we are, they make us question our station in society… and our society’s station in the world. They show us gore and violence and all that cool stuff too… But there’s always an undercurrent of social commentary and thoughtfulness.

…To me zombie movies are thought provoking, dramatic fiction, on par with any Oscar worthy garbage that’s rolled out year after year. Movies that make you question the fabric of our very society is what I like. And in GOOD zombie movies… you get that by the truckload.

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With the THE WALKING DEAD I want to explore how people deal with extreme situations and how these events CHANGE them. I’m going in for the long haul. You guys are going to get to see Rick change and mature to the point that when you look back on this book you won’t even recognize him. I hope you guys are looking forward to a sprawling epic, because that’s the idea with this one.”

We were recently studying Durkheim in Sociology class. He is known as the founder of cultural studies. Its true too. Reading the books he wrote and trying to understand his perspective and suddenly it was an ‘AHA’ moment for me when I realized that Kirkman had done what Durkheim had tried to do by writing; he was showing his perspective, his world-view of society. Obviously, he was making things up as he went but is the Walking Dead so far from the truth? What do you think will happen when society devolves into this barbaric world where there is no sanity to be found in any crevice? Aren’t we all already reduced to blood-thirsty wild animals? What place does society- this invisible glue holding us together- have in our world and how important is it? What value does it add to our lives?

I’ve always been cynical of the role society plays in our life. It is a man-made phenomena. Us humans have bumbled our way into applying some organizational rules and patterns onto our collective lives so that we all behave in a similar and expected way. No ugly surprises, nope. The rules of society haven’t been sent by God in most cases. Society gives us a way of life and so do some religions. But that is an argument I will make later.

Is society a bad thing? Do we not need it? Looking at the Walking Dead as an example of a situation where there aren’t enough humans left to form society and I think to myself, maybe we do need it. It keeps us all on one track. It gives us morals, ethics, and shuns those who don’t follow rules.

However, society is also constantly changing and transforming. These days some societies are really moving ahead faster and faster; which is great. But I think it’s imperative that we take a step back and out of the society that we currently live in and look at it from the outside and check to see the forces that are shaping the society we live in now. Is it fear that is changing our society? Or is the change being driven by something productive and positive? Are we changing into something better or are we being driven down a road by the unseen hands of other invisible entities that we don’t know are actually in control of the societies? There are so many things to think about just on one subject.

There was something I heard in the last episode of Bones that I watched. That the forefathers of the United States of America were seen as traitors in the time they were living in. Because they were rebelling against the society that was dominant around them. So what we see as evil and unforgivable in this time, do you think it will be seen as the usual in some later times?

And now for a more controversial question that just floated in my head. No offense meant but I do question these things so here goes: in the olden days even though homosexuals and transgender people existed, they were shunned and now they are celebrated. Which is great. Everyone has the right to a respectable life, which they have every right of choosing and making decisions regarding. However, in our times there are still people who are shunned. Pedophiles, perverts, murderers. Do you think our society will ever progress to a point where these people will also be respected for their conditions?

We are horrified by the very idea. But I am pretty sure, just 50 years ago people were horrified at the very idea that women would be given the right to vote, African Americans would be free from slavery and homosexuals would be able to marry each other and live freely and respectably in our society. What do you think will happen 50 years from now? What will be condoned and what will be condemned?

Do we make society? Or does society make us? What do you think?

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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