We finally got around to watching the opening episode of this season’s The Walking Dead. Not because we were putting it off intentionally, but because this was the first chance we had without the kids around. And we’d heard that it was particularly brutal.
It was. I was really emotional when I watched it, but not in the way I expected. I thought they’d kill off a character, and that I’d be sad, but, hey, it’s The Walking Dead. You don’t expect unicorns and rainbows during this. And the only flowers are ones you don’t want to look at.
My reaction though was different. I was angry.
I was angry not at the storyline, but the show.
The writers. How could they do this? How could they kill off Abraham and Glenn? And not just kill them off, but in such a brutal, needlessly violent way? And other questions: What’s the point of the show? Why would these characters even want to continue on in a world as bleak as this? Why should I, as a viewer, continue to watch?
After Glenn died, I went into the kitchen to clean up. I sorta watched, but mostly I just grumbled.
I thought about my reaction for two days.
Why was I so upset? It’s a TV show!
And then I figured it out.
Most horror shows and movies (of which I’m a BIG fan) serve as a catharsis for the viewer. It’s a way of safely confronting your fears, living through the worst that could happen, and walking away unscathed. The characters might not walk away unscathed, but you, as the viewer do. So maybe there’s stuff in your life that’s really hard. Really challenging, but in some ways, you’ve faced the worst already and lived. You’re stronger somehow. At least emotionally.
Here was what angered me about The Walking Dead: the timing of the episode.
Think about this:
This group you’ve been with for seven years, this family, lives in a time of constant threat and uncertainty. But they work together and they survive. There’s a structure and a strong leader and an order to it, even at the darkest times.
But no longer.
In this episode, Rick is usurped by a new leader. This leader has the following qualities:
· He’s a bully.
· You can’t reason with him.
· He operates under his own rules.
· Those rules are constantly changing.
· He targets the weak.
· He targets the strong, not just to get them to submit, but to break them utterly.
· He thinks he’s a god.
· His humor is twisted and cruel.
· He governs with fear and intimidation.
· He wants you to serve him, to work for him to bring him profit.
· He has a band of threatening bad boys watching him, silently cheering him on, and there may be many, many more out there. Waiting.
Do you see? This episode played at a time when our nation is facing the threat of a Negan type leader: a dictator who has no empathy. In fact, the only feelings he seems to have is disdain for anyone who doesn’t worship him or follow his complicated, ever-changing rules.
Rick’s family in this is helpless. There is no escape. There is no catharsis for them or the viewer. All that’s left is loss, and very little will to go on.
This was why I was angry.
I was angry that the show mirrors what’s happening in our country, but instead of leaving me with a catharsis and hope, it left me with a sense of inevitability and doom.
I’m telling you, Maggie better rise up soon and be the tough mofo I know she is…because the world needs more fierce women who are ready and willing to fight back.