“Simply put, there’s a vast ocean of shit you people don’t know shit about. Rick knows every fine grain of said shit… and then some.”
– Abraham Ford, The Walking Dead
AMC’s The Walking Dead is one of my favorite television series, slated to return in October 2017 for its eighth season and whopping 100th episode. I adore the show not for its graphic depictions of gore and violence, but instead for its thoughtful illustrations of the sociology, psychology, and politics of the zombie apocalypse. In fact, I love The Walking Dead so much that I dedicated this entire past summer to creating a video essay for it, arguing that we’re already living in the apocalypse by discussing issues of power, sanity, philosophy, community, and strength in the context of AMC’s highest-rated series. Aptly, you can find Parts 1 through 4 on this blog, and right now I’m working on Part 5 and a “definitive edition” to celebrate the show’s 100th episode milestone, quite a remarkable feat.
As much as I commend The Walking Dead, I will not overlook its flaws. Many of the characters are just plain weak and uninteresting (i.e.: Daryl Dixon), with a few exceptions such as Carol, The Governor, Gareth, Morgan, King Ezekiel, and Negan. In addition, the show’s writing is at times shaky and questionable, with the more recent seasons characterized by four great episodes, four good episodes, and another eight episodes of pure filler content—you can thank the Screen Junkies at YouTube for that observation.
One thing that I will never criticize The Walking Dead for, however, is giving me my first TRUE role model to look up to: Sheriff Rick Grimes.
Rick Grimes has seen it all. He’s transformed from a small town cop to the leader of The New World, calloused, exacting, and most of all, uncompromisingly tenacious. But Rick’s lived a hard life the past couple of years: he’s killed his best friend, grieved over a wife who died in childbirth, lost places he called home, faced betrayals and double-crossings, and witnessed two of his closest friends get brutally beaten to death by a sociopath with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire. Rick has even done things that he’s not so proud of, killing people in cold blood in the interest of safeguarding his group. Whereas other characters might have been rendered permanently insane from such experiences, Rick has always come out on the other side, and more vigilant than before the world went to Hell.
Given Rick Grimes’s attributes, it’s no wonder he’s my role model, but this notion that “fictional characters are ineligible to be role models” is a myth. For a fictional character to even exist in the first place, then obviously he, she, or it has to come from somebody’s mind. In other words, somebody, usually a professional writer, has to imbue within a character the values, morals, beliefs, and personality traits that justify said character’s behaviors and underlying motivations. Some characters can even reflect the writers who wrote them. For instance, Rocky Balboa’s identity crisis in Rocky II (1979) is said to reflect Sylvester Stallone’s own struggles in dealing with fame and finding a voice (Schmidt, 2017). As such, you can imagine why audiences grieve over the death of a beloved character in a television show or movie franchise—their identities might become so inextricably tied to the character that’s just passed away, that they feel “chipped away” in their untimely absence.
I’ve struggled to come to terms with character deaths on a couple of occasions. Fear the Walking Dead (2015) is a classic example. Travis Manawa, a school teacher and my favorite character, was set up for an interesting arc at the end of Season 2, (*SPOILER*) brutally beating the hell out of two men responsible for inadvertently causing his son Chris’s death. However, the actor who played Travis, Cliff Curtis, was cast as the main villain in the upcoming Avatar sequels prior to the principal photography of Season 3, so the writers had to write his character out of the show by abruptly killing him off in episode 302 (“The New Frontier”). Since then, I’ve grown increasingly disinterested with the direction of Season 3, having found it difficult to identify and emphasize with the new lead character, Madison.
I was under the impression that Travis Manawa would be the Rick Grimes of Fear, not Madison, Travis’s girlfriend. And I have nothing against Madison because she’s a woman. Rather, she’s bland, boring, dull, and generally not a suitable replacement for Travis. Rick Grimes will always be my #1.
But why might I hold Rick in such a high esteem? In short, he’s experienced so much pain and loss in a short period of time, yet repeatedly come out stronger as a result. I figured, then, that perhaps I could follow suit, for one day, I will lose someone or something very dear to me—just as Rick lost his wife and the Prison. But that won’t be enough to stop me, because even when my life is shattered into a million pieces, I’ll somehow put them all back together again.
I don’t want to be weak. I want to be strong like Rick Grimes. And if you’ve been paying attention, that’s really what this blog is about.
Rockall-Schmidt, G. [George Rockall-Schmidt]. (2017, August 19). How The Rocky Films Changed Over Time. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKTmkLvESI4