A Depraved Mind Dec11

A Depraved Mind

Foraging for food, seeking shelter, and facing hordes of undead is just another day in the life of the group of survivors from Atlanta, Georgia, in The Walking Dead. Something else that strikes me, though, is that there are several occurrences in The Walking Dead that are reminiscent of Christianity—from the group holing up in a church in episode 2.1, to Hershel’s daily Bible study, occasions of prayer and scripture quotation, mentions of Christ, and the character of Father Gabriel. Beyond these nods to the Christian milieu of the American South, the show’s portrayal of the human condition is of particular interest to me. Namely, The Walking Dead juxtaposes hope with the brutality of a savage, amoral world. The behaviour of the people in the world of The Walking Dead evidences the depraved disposition of humanity as described in the Bible. The Walking Dead, like other apocalyptic fiction, portrays humanity as self-serving. It is this selfishness that leads to the human-on-human thievery and violence that begins full-force in Season Three. As Rick and Shane’s factions threaten to split the group after they imprison a stranger who attempted to kill them, Dale’s plea for the group to remember its humanity by not executing the young man is a moral event horizon. When Dale dies and the walker herd descends on the farm, the characters lose their home as well as their hope that the world can ever go back to the way it was. Dale was a tangible symbol of that hope. Now, other survivors may be more of a threat than the walkers themselves. Without the promises hope provides, can altruism truly exist? Congruent to The Walking Dead, Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight provides an apt ethical meditation on the implications of facing a merciless foe who...

Humanity and braaaaains Oct09

Humanity and braaaaains...

When Our Fearless Leader (my new nickname for our managing editor) announced the theme of plagues and health for this issue, I thought: “What a perfect time to write about zombies.” The more I thought about it though, the more I asked myself, what isn’t a perfect time to write about zombies? There are just so many possibilities with the undead. Part of what makes zombies such a rich subject is that they connect to fears about the darkest possibilities of humanity—humanity at its most base and inhumane, lacking compassion, reason or understanding. Zombies can represent the mindlessness of our cultural landscape and our unthinking response to that landscape. Over the past ten years—following an abundance of zombie movies, novels, comics, and video games—dozens of authors have connected the undead to topics such as philosophy, economics, and theology (the theologians especially love the scene in Matthew when the dead rise from their graves after Jesus’ resurrection). But for me, the most interesting connection to draw is still the link between the undead and disease, which has, since the 1970s, become a core aspect of the zombie mythos. Zombies are assumed to be the result of some sort of unknown (possibly engineered) and highly contagious virus. This pandemic aspect not only adds to the horror (now we’re not only at risk of being killed, possibly eaten, but also of being infected), but defining zombies as contagions creates room to explore questions about humanity and evil. Movies like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later… and shows like The Walking Dead and its recently aired prequel Fear the Walking Dead use zombie narratives to wrestle Zombies can reveal our helplessness in the face of global pandemics.with large ethical issues: if zombies are created by infection (as opposed to voodoo,...