What The Walking Dead Asks Us About How We View Humanity

The Walking Dead is one of the most interesting shows to ever air on television, and for so many reasons. If one can get past the gore and see the many social commentaries presented, what that viewer will experience is a psychoanalytical buffet. The post-apocalyptic world in which the characters live is one in which money has no meaning, there is no law, morality is fluid, and each day is a fight to see the next.

The definition of humanity is the entire human race or the characteristics that belong uniquely to human beings, such as kindness, mercy and sympathy.

An example of humanity is all the people in the world. An example of humanity is treating someone with kindness.

Humanity dictionary definition | humanity defined – YourDictionary

In today’s America, where racial tensions have reached their boiling point, it almost seems like an impossibility that we could ever see a society where our basic humanity would be enough to connect us.

As a woman of color, much of my life experiences is framed within the context of how others view me and how they respond to me based on those views. Forces beyond my control have always had their say in dictating my reality and I often ask myself how different would I be if I could just exist without the confinements of racism and sexism.

In the Walking Dead world, people are simply people. Everyone is starting from the same page in this new world. There is no generational wealth or hierarchy of privilege. For most there aren’t even familial ties from which to draw identity. Everyone is truly equal to everyone else, just human beings fighting for survival, redefining humanity.

Season four’s episode, “The Gove,” has a scene where Tyrese (a tall, muscular African-American male) is alone in the woods carrying baby Judith (an infant white female) and walking with the two little white girls, Lizzie and Mika, following behind.

Season four’s episode, “The Gove,”

If we were to see such a sight in the modern world, it’s doubtful to me that there would be anyone who would not stop to do a double-take. Even if for a second, as we are hardwired by our social programming to react, and I’m certain that for most it would be a moment of extreme discomfort. However, in the Walking Dead world, he’s not some big threatening black man who can’t be trusted with little white girls. He’s simply an adult looking out for some children who need him.

The Walking Dead is unique because it is a show where race, class, religion, gender, none of the things that normally separate us, matter one bit.  It’s a beautiful telling of how human beings can either band together or tear one another apart. It shows how when things fall apart we have to look within to decide what’s worth living for, and, equally, what’s worth matter dying for.

The show forces us to ask tough questions like when is killing justified, as when Carol kills the sick people in the prison to save others from the threat of infection. We have to even ask the very question of what does it mean to be alive, just as Hershel had to do when his wife and the other walkers he had in the barn took bullet after bullet and kept coming. 

However, those are just the tip of the iceberg…What does it mean to be a child? Is abortion right or wrong? Whose life has the most meaning? Is a preemptive strike ever justifiable (i.e. taking out the Governor)? The questions just don’t stop.

As the years have gone by, many have stopped watching the show. I think some have gotten overwhelmed by losing so many of the characters that they became attached to in earlier seasons. Others might just have gotten a bit too much gore than they can handle, week after week, year after year. It does lose it’s punch after a while and the jump shots definitely don’t don’t have the same punch they did in season one.

The show has gotten darker and slower as the seasons have gone by. It makes me wonder if the numbness of the show is a reflection of the numbness we would all feel living in such a world where death is all around us. Would we be able to hold on to not only our sanity but to the very essence of our humanity? Hmm

Would we truly become the walking dead?

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