Why Walking Dead Doesn’t Understand Human Nature

walking deadThere’s nothing wrong with a little entertainment. We all need to burn some steam every now and then and take a break from the stresses of our lives, and nothing helps us escape the modern world quite like a show about the apocalypse. With that said, you are what you eat, and that includes the media. The books we read, the movies we watch, and the shows we enjoy, all inform our world view in subtle ways, and there’s no avoiding it.

So we should ask ourselves what we’re “consuming” when we watch The Walking Dead. What kind of world is this show pushing on our minds?

I would argue that it’s not only a twisted, cynical world, it’s an inaccurate one. And I’m not talking about the zombies. Believe it or not, The Walking Dead is not a show about zombies. They’re merely a minor plot device. It’s really about people and how they deal with adversity. If anything, the title of the show is not referring to the undead, but to the survivors themselves.

But for a show depicting ordinary people struggling to cope with extraordinary circumstances, it sure gets everything wrong about human nature. Specifically when it comes to how humans can and should organize themselves. The biggest mistakes this show makes, is failing to portray just how good people are at working together, and completely underestimating our ability and desire to rebuild civilization.

If they tried to portray that, then the last few seasons would have these characters raising crops, rebuilding roads, and discussing who in the group would be the best candidate to teach their kids algebra.

Seriously, the show is almost nihilistic in that regard. It’s almost like nobody in this show’s universe is interested in building a functional society. In our world, history tells us that that’s all we’ve been trying to do for tens of thousands of years. We work together way more often than we fight each other, because it’s beneficial. While there have been brutal and chaotic periods in history, we never linger there for long.

We always go right back to building a civilization because it gives us the best chance for survival. In fact, we’re so excellent at building societies that our planet is littered with them. We’ve reached the point where the only thing on Earth that is capable of making us extinct, is ourselves. Has any other species ever pulled that off? And we did it because setting aside our differences and working together to shape the world in our image, is just who we are and what we do (almost) every day. It’s second nature.

But not in The Walking Dead it isn’t. If you don’t believe me, stop and think about every society the main characters have ever come across. (spoilers)

When the characters run into Woodbury, they find a society that is ruled by a psychotic despot who is hell bent on killing and looting any large groups of survivors they come across. He does this while absorbing smaller groups, and concealing the true nature of his community to outsiders, and his own people.

Then they discover Terminus, which advertises itself as a refuge, but in reality is a trap designed to lure in wayward survivors so that they can butcher and cannibalize them.

Most recently, the characters arrive in the Alexandria Safe Zone, whose inhabitants could be best described as naive. Carol is quoted as saying “these people are children” and Michonne even suggested that they could have deposed their government and let Rick run the show. By themselves, I suppose these societies are possible, but the fact that they can’t find a single decent settlement, suggests to the viewers that building a moral and functional society is impossible when the chips are down.

Alexandria also reminds me of another problem I have with the show. They correctly portray these communities as “the bad guys” but they fail to recognize Rick’s own tyrannical tendencies. At the end of season two Rick is famously quoted as saying…

And they happily oblige. They practically hoisted that role upon him, and waited for him to say it out loud. Then he spends the next couple of seasons losing his mind and making terrible decisions. He eventually steps back from his dictatorial role, but the audience has no illusions as to who’s really in charge. There’s even a brief period of time where his group is run by a council, but the show never really explores that angle. That community is killed off by disease, and then it’s back to business as usual.

The Walking Dead basically says that society isn’t worth fighting for, because it will always turn into either a tyrannical nightmare or a parade of wishy washy idiots, though it tends to lean more towards the former.

Think of what that implies. They’re saying that tyranny and banditry will be the only successful models of human organization when the lights go out, and the only way the good guys will win, is by stooping to their level. That only the strong and ruthless will survive to lead their flock. That nice guys finish last.

But is that really what we’ve seen in the real world? Hasn’t history shown that freedom and cooperation are almost always more successful? And don’t tell me that this situation is special because zombies are involved. They are literally walking corpses. They can be easily dispatched by a flock of hungry seagulls, much less intelligent humans with guns. They would be a minor annoyance throughout the rebuilding of civilization. If anything, history has shown that even the most bloodthirsty humans will work together if there is a common enemy, and no enemy fits that role better than a zombie. In the real world, the zombie apocalypse wouldn’t last a month before millions of armed humans snuffed them out worldwide.

But that’s not the story people want to hear. They don’t want to watch a show about people banding together to quickly dispatch a pathetic horde of shambling dumbasses, and then rebuilding a decent and free society. They want to see Rick take control and save the day, because the American public is still very attached to the notion that we need tyranny to survive a scary world. If we didn’t, then this show would have never been such a big hit.

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published May 5th, 2015
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  • Gordon Shumway

    I agree 100% with Joshua’s analysis of “The Walking Dead”, which is a “meme” fine-crafted by TPTB to create a sense of helplessness in the general population, in the face of what THEY have planned for all of US “useless eaters”. All one has to do to spot similar subterfuges is note the TOTAL ABSENCE of any kind of religion, unless it be one dominated by a murderous patriarchal cult figure, as was so loved by the creators of “Star Gate SG1”, “Star Trek”, et al. In fact, what is coming is prophesied in great detail in the Bible, as well as how the actual Messiah of that Bible tells us EXACTLY how to escape it, the “open door, which no man can shut”. Details at TorahKingdomLiving dt cm..

    • englishvinal

      More programmed religious liquid mind ooze…..

      I wish all these “true believers” who have been brainwashed into self loathing.. by these religious sorcerers.. also known as “ministers”, “priests”, “rabbis”, and cult programmers, would do themselves a favor and research the “history of religions” going back to antiquity……
      …. and make some kind of assessment for themselves….
      and STOP trying to infect everybody else with their mind cancer of lies and fear!

      • Gordon Shumway

        Dear “englishvinal” – Yours is an experiential “argument from silence”. You are saying, “I have never experienced God, so therefore nether has anyone else”. Good news, dude! Until age 47, neither had I. But, one day after surrendering to the Lordship of “Jesus Christ” (the name by which I knew him back then), knowing nothing of such encounters nor seeking one, I was literally knocked off the sofa in my living room, onto my knees, arms overhead in supplication, tears streaming down my face, gasping for air, and only aware that I was in the presence of an unseen entity of immense power and majesty, though invisible. My emotion was one of transcendental awe, gratitude, and joy inexpressible. This persisted for over ½ hour, and finally eased off. It wasn’t until much later that my wife was able to explain to me what had happened to me. This was in 1987, and was the most REAL thing that has ever happened to me. I pray that, like I had to, you will come to the end of your SELF and seek the ONLY way to everlasting life there is, through the Lord Yeshua Messiah, THE Son of God, (but NOT “God the Son”) Details on request from TorahKingdomLiving dt cm.

  • William Burke

    Nonsense. If you got that from the show, you watched one episode. I wonder which one, though?

  • mensa141

    It is different in their minds because in the past when we did have extremely hard times with ‘takers’ (aka – progressives, liberals) dying off or killed quite quickly. Then more practical individuals would work together to rebuild civilization. What you are watching in Walking Dead is a liberal’s view of an apocalypse. Therefor a distorted view of reality.

  • fishnbees

    First let me say I was not a fan at first, neither was my wife. Just another zombie show/movie. However, after some discussions with co-workers gave it a try. While the zombie scenario may not be realistic, the situation and the reactions, i believe are completely realistic. For example, there was an entire season of rebuilding. including crops, animals, etc. The season was really not overly interesting because life was becoming normal again. The wicked or evil element of people put an end to that. Every time the group has started to rebuild, something evil or wicked has caused it to fail. In my opinion this show depicts both sides of what the end could look like. People trying to rebuild and get back on track, and those that want the anarchy. Season 5 has been all about rebuilding, including having jobs and contributing to the town. Mean while outside the town, the wicked and roving evil will threaten society again. very similar to whats going on in our world now. The struggle of the main group has been very realistic given the type of world the show depicts. They have been faced with choices that have changed them all and they have depicted the results of those choices well.

    I do agree with Gordon, there is a total absence of religion, and would have preferred if the one pastor they have in the show wouldn’t be portrayed as such a wicked person. I do think that while this may not have been a religious group, there would be some that their faith would help them cope. However, this is tv and we all know how well they tend to depict Christians.

    All in all, not a show for everyone, but I do believe it accurately depicts people at their best and worst.

    I am interested to see how the spin off show will be. The one trailer i have seen you hear a radio announcer saying “there is quite an epidemic out there, make sure you get your flu shot”… to me seems like some sort of foreshadowing for what we may see with vaccinations in the US.. or maybe just playing off the ebola fear…. either way could be interesting.

    • William Burke

      Father Gabriel a “wicked person”? He is a very conflicted person, at odds with his past and his cowardice demons, but by the end of season six, he is taking patrols and guarding the children and doing his part, just like everyone else.

      If you are going to comment in detail, it helps to actually keep up with the evolution of the characters.

  • Just the facts

    I disagree with the part of mankind taking care of the zombie hordes maybe in small areas with out using nukes it maybe possible but major cities would fall apart if we can’t handle riots with normal thugs & punks in our zombie fantasy its best to bug out to a safe rural location remember good old Hershel tried to see life and a zombie as half whole.

    • William Burke

      Speaking of “falling apart”, that’s what time is doing to the zombies. They are literally falling apart in slow motion. The contagion has slowed down the process of decay to a snail’s pace, but it’s happening nonetheless.

      If the survivors can hang on long enough, they could live in a zombie-free world. Or could they? Dr. Jenner told Rick that everyone was infected with the organism – obviously a recent development at the time, because people didn’t turn into zombies until recently.

  • englishvinal

    There is a lot to be learned from watching “The Walking Dead”… and those of us who are able to “see” .. will soon recognize that this country IS the land of the walking dead right now.
    The mindless, brain dead, programmed citizenry.. who will tear your heart out if you are “not one of them”… (if you do not agree with the governmentally programmed meme.. and OBEY), and who will do everything they can to turn you into one of them.

    They no longer have human compassion, generosity, or loyalties… they only eternally EAT, consume, and kill… they will never grow or become better… they will stay as they are for eternity.

    Those of us who are still truly a product of nature, and have natural compassion, love and responsibility for our young….. are in the miniority, and are literally fighting to survive against the continual ravages of the government-trained zombies.

    The “show” is much more than the zombies see it as………… the zombies are incapable of understanding that the theme is about THEM. —- and the few warm blooded humans remaining.

  • Jasper

    “There’s nothing wrong with a little entertainment.” Yes, but how about getting it spending time with your wife and/or kids. How about getting out in nature, conversing with friends. Who needs TV? What a waste of time and in the end, it’s really not entertainment at all, but destruction of mind and time. These shows all have an agenda, preparing us for something coming that is even worse than what they portray.

  • itzclint

    I recently started watching walking dead and I find it to be closer to how I believe a major collapse would be like. It will devolve very quickly into survival of the meanest. Look at Katrina, the guys who took over that hotel, how quickly did that happen? The walking dead chronological timeframe is very short. I just started on season 6, and judging by the size of Judith I would guess the plague is about 3 years old. So 3 years in a rebuild civilization scenario is not even noticeable. I honestly think more people would become like the residents of terminus. If groceries were shut down, how quickly would wild animals and even dogs and cats be decimated by hungry humanity? Look at easter island for that scenario. That island was stripped bare by its inhabitants. Walking dead may not be perfect but if anything its not brutal enough in its depiction of what a collapse would be short term. Society would eventually rebuild, but it would be decades later.

  • Stephen Henderson

    In season 2, Hershel took strangers onto his property and even saved Carl. In season 4, Rick was willing to let the governor and his people into the prison, even after the atrocities the governor had committed in season 3. Season 4 also shows the prison lets random people in the walls, they have crops, animals, and a council of people make up the rules. Also, disease doesnt end the council, The Governor does. After the governor destroys the prison, yes, Rick is lost and reasonably so. Three times he’s had his home and way of life destroyed (start of apocalypse, the farm, the prison). After being on the road with little food, water, and terrible shelter, they meet Aaron who welcomes them to Alexandria. While the Alexandrians are skeptical of the outsiders at first, they all come together when the walkers invade the settlement. It’s the moment you said never happens. They put aside their differences to fight off the common enemy and take back their town together.
    “If anything, history has shown that even the most bloodthirsty humans will work together if there is a common enemy” This is the moment Rick realizes he can work with the Alexandrians instead of having to rule them and together they can build a life together. Stop surviving and start living.
    After this, the Alexandrians meet the Hilltop community and begin trading. Unfortunately, they meet batshit crazy Negan and war erupts. (Now going off the comics cause this is where we’ve left off in the show) But this war is ended when Rick shows Negan the hell that is being created and the wasted resources, including humans. Negan sees the error of his ways, but has his throat slit by Rick and is then imprisoned. After this it fast forwards in time but there are several communities that are engaged in trade, roads are maintained and kept free of walkers, and Rick is no longer the sole leader of everyone. Read the books and be patient. With how dependent people are on modern living and the government, I can imagine the world would get pretty nasty before it got better, as the Walking Dead has accurately portrayed.

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