Submitted by John W. Pell on October 31, 2012 - 4:42pm
The great thing about zombies is that they move relatively slow, which allows the survivors of the apocalypse to discuss issues like hope, civility, and farming. AMC’s "The Walking Dead" portrays these types of conversations in their full existential-glory. Whether it is the main character Rick Grimes discussing the importance of family in the midst of crisis, or Dale, the querulous sage of the group, discussing the ever-worsening state of the survivors civility and humanity, the show provides space for audiences to question the big questions of life…the kinds of questions that only get asked once your town is invested with brain-dead carnivores.
And, while I write this with my tongue-in-cheek, I do find these moments within the show an effective means for illustrating stasis. For example, what is a more salient example of how questions of definition inform the structure of argument than watching Rick and his group redefine “safety” in order to justify their actions toward “others” outside of the group. Or what about characters wrestling with questions of conjecture—what happened? Which naturally leads to questions of quality—does humanity deserve such punishment?
The great thing about "The Walking Dead" is that all of the show’s money is spent on gruesome special effects, so there isn’t much left to hire thoughtful screenwriters. This results in belabored conversations that shun subtly and make very clear for the audience the “big life” question being discussed between characters. “Oh…. they are discussing the necessary evil that emerges when people attempt to survive catastrophic events.” Or, “I see, Rick’s sense of morality is being challenged by the epistemological ambiguity of survival at all cost.”
This type of sign posting makes it easy to see where issues of conjecture, definition, quality, or policy come into play. So, if you have a Netflix account, a stomach for zombie gore, and a course introducing students to classical rhetorical concepts then I highly recommend in taking a look at AMC’s wonderful post-apocalyptic, family drama…"Mad Men"….um, sorry, "The Walking Dead."*
*To be clear, Jon Hamm does not play a zombie in THIS AMC program.