‘The Walking Dead’: A Family Affair?

'The Walking Dead': A Family Affair?

Lisa Jenkins, News Editor, Writer

This February break, I got hooked on AMC’s The Walking Dead. For those unfamiliar with the show, it’s about a group of people trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies. Wait, wait! Stay with me. It’s actually really amazing. And my entire family agrees.

My dad, my mom, my brother, and I literally sat in front of the television for hours at a time watching this show. We couldn’t break away. Every episode seemed to end on a cliffhanger, and Netflix always helpfully suggested that we skip the credits and view the next installation.

I’ve never been one for horror films, and my mom has never watched much TV. But there’s just something about The Walking Dead that captivates us. It might be the characters, as we’re quite adamant about who we like (Dale, Glenn, and Daryl) and who we don’t like (Merle, Lori, and Andrea). A lot of it has to do with the suspense, as there’s plenty of it. My parents laughed at me every time I let out a blood-curdling scream, which occurred on a semi-frequent basis. But the show is not based solely around cheap thrills and clichéd plots. Instead, it seems to strike at the very core of a person’s being.

That may sound a bit melodramatic, and perhaps I’m just trying to justify spending all of President’s Day weekend obsessing over zombies. But the entire time, I kept thinking, “How would I feel, surrounded, literally surrounded, by these disgusting creatures? Would I be able to get out? Would I have the courage to continue on?” It’s like every nightmare I’ve ever had rolled into one. There’s no safe haven for these characters, and there’s always some new threat. Who would, or could, bear this constant bombardment? When do you give up? As Hamlet soliloquized so many years ago, “Who would fardels bear, to grunt and sweat under a weary life,” when there’s a simple way out of the chaos? (And suicide is, of course, a prevalent theme in this show.)

Not exactly the most inspiring topic, I know. But it makes you think. How would you act? Could you continue on with your family? Or would you leave them? Would you try to kill your best friend? Could you? In a confusing world where everything familiar suddenly disappears, is it possible for a group of people to retain a sense of humanity and civilization? What does it mean to be human? Are we naturally good? Or born to fend for ourselves?

And of course, the question on everyone’s mind: What would I do in a zombie invasion? I jokingly mused aloud about this, and was immediately answered by my mother with a well-thought-out plan. (I wasn’t sure if I should be alarmed by her enthusiasm, or comforted by the fact that we have a course of action if the unthinkable should happen.) It’s become a game with us, wondering what houses could withstand an onslaught, and which would provide little protection. I only hope my dad doesn’t build a bunker in the backyard.

Now, we’re not violent people. I get emails from Obama’s Organizing for Action reminding me that “gun violence can rip apart a family and a community,” and my mom groans whenever a member of the NRA comes on the news. Yet we both find ourselves screaming “Pick up the gun! The gun! It’s right there! KILL IT!” whenever we see some corpse ambling along.

There’s just something about this show that brings people together, even as individuals have their ears torn off and their intestines eaten by the undead. It might be society’s obvious fascination with the apocalypse, as movies like “I Am Legend” and “2012” always do well in the box office. But there’s just such a human aspect to this show, a constant struggle for a home and a semi-normal life. And isn’t that a battle we’re all fighting?

The Walking Dead is an excellent show in its own right, but I like it because it brings my family together on Sunday nights. The Jenkins clan is pretty close, considering there are two teenagers in the house, but it’s still unlikely that we can agree on any one thing. So having this one gory, gruesome, disgusting show that we can all rally around and talk about is really something special. Maybe we’re just weird, which is possible. But I’m glad that we’re “bonding,” especially because next year I’ll be living in another state, coming home every few months.

So I invite you to grab some popcorn, grab a seat, and turn on The Walking Dead. But consider bringing your family along, too.