Monday, March 3, 2014

The Walking Dead and Generation X: Why?
The prison fell and the survivors are now scattered throughout the world of The Walking Dead. The second half of the season began with snippets of the story, a fractured group trying to hold on to what’s left. Darryl seems to be grappling with the biggest question of them all: Why? Even during the zombie face smashing and constant running, the question is part of the show’s subtext. I’ve been asking myself the same question: Why?

If you were born between 1960 and 1980, you are one of 84 million Americans loosely labeled, “Generation X.” I was born in 1971. I grew up with MTV, a tolerance for other races and sexual orientations and a lack of faith in the establishment. All of these ideas are represented in the video for "Cult of Personality" by Living Color—a black heavy metal band singing about abuse of power. I don’t know if anyone in the band is gay, not that there’s anything wrong with that (Seinfeld; another Gen X reference). I was in college when alternative music evolved into mainstream music. I had Bleach before Nirvana was cool and I ditched The Smashing Pumpkins before they lost theirs (Siamese Dream is the last great Pumpkins record). I saw myself in Singles and I identified with the dark, self-deprecating humor of Clerks.

I turn 43 in 2014. The millions of Americans that can remember when MTV was truly music television are part of Generation X and we’re all heading into middle age. I’ll spare you the details of my hypochondria. According to a WebMD symptom search I have 1,467 diseases. I’m going through both puberty and menopause right now. I’m trying to wean myself from the nostalgic thoughts of attending Monsters of Rock in 1988 and my Facebook searches for members of the class of 1989. Something frightening and profound is happening inside of my head and it’s scarier than any monster I can create in a horror novel. I keep asking myself one question: Why?
Like Darryl, I don’t have the answer. He buries arrows in the faces of walkers and then pulls them back out again, knowing there are probably millions more out there. He’s protecting Beth and he wants to find Rick and the rest of the group, but why? What’s the end game? Would Darryl really be happy if he made it to Terminus? And then what? Does he sit on the perimeter and use his crossbow to take down zombies for the next forty years? The group struggles to find a safe haven, they get entrenched, it all goes to hell and they have to start over. Why?

Whether it takes us forty years or a zombie apocalypse, we all have to eventually grapple with that question. When you find the answer, would you let me know?


  1. Four seasons in to the Walking Dead, I find myself clued to the television nine 'clock on Sundays...A do not disturbed sign hangs high. When I first started to watch it, I asked myself, what the hell..I was never interested zombie movies, I thought they were stupid. So I asked myself why, the Walking Dead
    What the writers have done, is make characterization the thread through the plot--and if you look beyond the zombies you will see brilliant writing. The dynamics and the different ways they pull you in. It is about humanity and how every day we struggle with that fine line, zombies or no.

  2. I couldn't agree more. Yes, there are some fantastically gruesome zombie kills but that's not what is so engaging about the show. The characters are brilliantly developed and they're dealing with some of the same issues we have in the world before the "turn." Thanks for the comment!

  3. I wonder about our fascination with zombies and other undead. I wonder about the popularity of dystopian and apocalyptic themes. I think it’s all metaphoric, just a manifestation of our collective consciousness. We struggle with cultural truths and their consequences that are hard to bear witness to. I enjoy the show, but I prefer to grapple with the reality of our times. It’s far more thrilling. :^)

  4. It seems like there's a surge of interest in dystopian film/literature when times are tough so I would agree with you, Cab. I'd live in a fantasy world instead of the real world. Give me the Matrix ;)