The Walking Dead is in your head


Tyler White

Beware of the Forrest.

Steven Hughes, Writer

On paper, AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead really should not be as widely viewed as it is. It’s an extremely violent and graphic program with incredibly  heavy themes and tones. The zombies – or “walkers” are made to be hyper-realistic and are killed in increasingly brutal ways. The characters are faced with the darkest facets of humanity on a daily basis, with murder and death coming center stage in every episode. One would expect the show to develop an exclusive, cult following. But no, the demographic for this show spans all ages, religious affiliations and economic classes. And despite all the incredibly horrific aspects, the show has managed to increase in popularity steadily from Season 1 to Season 5, the premiere of which drew in 17.3 million viewers, making The Walking Dead the highest rated show in cable television history.

But why? Why do so many people, from so many backgrounds all join together like this? What about this show makes so many of us tick?

Well, on the most basic level, the plot speaks to all of us as human beings. The goals of the characters are ones we all fully understand. They struggle to make lives, not to just survive, but to actually achieve a standard of living and be more than just animals. They pursue love, try to maintain their relationships and fight to protect those they care for. These drives connect to viewers because they, as human beings, have evolved to value these ideas. The primal struggle for life, love and family is intimately tied to human existence.

But beyond that, the story is specially tailored to touch audience members by confronting our modern-day concerns.

The “walkers” provide the majority of conflict in the show. They are a widely unknown, malevolent force which emerges from the dark at unexpected moments to scourge the characters, before they disappear, leaving death and suffering in their wake. This type of fear and danger is very well understood by a society familiar with the battle against terrorism, like the global community today. In this way, the show brings people together through common experience and emotion, taking advantage of the current political climate, creating the powerful  fan base this franchise is known for.

And it’s this sense of community that really makes the show special. Despite all the disagreements, differences and conflict the characters face, they manage to stay together and move on, becoming better off than they would’ve on their own. We watch it in part because this message truly speaks to an interdependent society like ours.

Ultimately The Walking Dead is appealing  because it serves as a cautionary tale about the danger facing us if we forget our need for one another, and a display of the indomitable force we can be when we don’t.