Is the Walking Dead Our Modern-Day Shakespeare?
Okay, after this blog post I will impose a one year ban on myself for using Shakespeare in any blog, but I had to. Today the reading of the works of Shakespeare is no longer a requirement in most American high schools anymore and in the original Elizabethan English of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries it is too remote for most people, especially youth, to connect with. However, this playwright who died almost four hundred years ago is still considered the greatest writer in the English language by many literary scholars, movies adaptations are still made of his plays, books of his work still sell, actors still revere the dramatic challenge of his work, and he is still talked about.
There was a time in the West when there were books that everyone had read. That is no longer the case. Television and movies have replaced that collective consciousness when it comes to pop culture and that brings me to my subject.
Last week began the fifth season of AMC’s wildly popular television show The Walking Dead. And I have been a fan from its very first episode back in 2010 and especially so over the past two years. The original characters (those that have survived) have grown and evolved; and we’ve been introduced to new ones along the way in this story of human survival in a zombie apocalyptic world.
People have a right to be suspicious of manufactured media hype. I would point to a True Blood on television (I watched 30 minutes of the very first episode and never watched another one ever again) or the Amazing Spider Man II or either one of the Hunger Games in movies theaters. Every show or movie is great, amazing, and a “must-see” when the reality is that most of it is garbage. The Walking Dead is a notable, and significant, exception. The hype is real and its the fans that created the hype, not the other way around.
Top Five Reasons Why The Walking Dead Was Great Drama (*until after we meet Negan)
1. It’s Really Not About Zombies.
Zombies are the special effects, not the story. Yes, there are scores of fans obsessed with everything zombie. They love watching the many varieties of these “walkers.” They love to watch zombies be “put down.” But honestly, if that is all there was could you sustain a show for five years and have such a devoted fan base? No. The reality is, and this is what makes the show so great, is that it is not about zombies. The show is about people, the human condition, survival, loss, and the effects of a horrific event on normal, average, everyday people.
2. It’s Makes You Wonder How You’d Handle the Zombie Apocalypse.
It’s all about the human condition. The characters are real, compelling, and evolving. We see two main characters grow from people timid as mice to strong leaders (Glenn and Carol), we see strong leaders fall and doubt themselves, even go a bit crazy at times (Rick). The Walking Dead is also not about the Zombie Apocalypse. It could be the aftermath of Katrina, the Nazi bombing of London in World War Two, fighting in the trenches in World War One, any of the massive disasters from around the world or throughout history. How does the average person react to this, how do they cope, how do they go on and live a “normal” life?
3. Even the Secondary Characters Are Awesome.
When The Walking Dead first started, it had to establish its “universe” and its characters. Obviously, secondary characters could not get much play. All of that foundation has been done so now the writers can give us much more developed ancillary characters and they have done so brilliantly. Some will die. Some move on. Some become key leaders themselves, but they all are interesting. “Michonne, my that’s a really nice samurai sword!”
4. Great Stories.
It goes without saying. Every season has a main focus. Every season has a main threat. All our characters want is a place to call home. A sanctuary that can be defended from the zombies but allow them to create some semblance of hope and life in a zombie apocalyptic world. We care about that quest as much as they do. We want them to survive even though we know most won’t. We root for them to triumph over all enemies; both zombies and, their most dangerous threat, other human beings.
5. Great writing!
The stories have gotten better, especially these past two years and the series started out strong to begin with. The writers haven’t gotten full of themselves despite their increased popularity and their growing fame. When all that is out of sight and out of mind, they buckle down and continue to write damn good stories over and over again. When the writing of so many series starts to decline, they are truly getting better as they go along.
#WalkingDead #TheWalkingDead #TWD
Austin Dragon is the author of over 30 books in science fiction, fantasy, and classic horror. His works include the sci-fi detective LIQUID COOL series, the epic fantasy FABLED QUEST CHRONICLES, the international futuristic epic AFTER EDEN Series, the classic SLEEPY HOLLOW HORRORS, and new military sci-fi PLANET TAMERS series. He is a native New Yorker but has called Los Angeles, California home for more than twenty years. Words to describe him, in no particular order: U.S. Army, English teacher, one-time resident of Paris, ex-political junkie, movie buff, Fortune 500 corporate recruiter, renaissance man, futurist, and dreamer.