Video: Why We Are Already Living in the Apocalypse: A Walking Dead Video Essay – Part 5 (Strength)

Here is Part 5 of my 5 part Walking Dead video essay.

Author’s note:  I am so happy that I finished this project. After five long months of writing, recording, rerecording, editing, and rendering, I have created a 60+ minute Walking Dead video essay. No other video essay on YouTube is that long, at least not to my knowledge.

As part of a celebration for Walking Dead’s 100th episode milestone, I will be releasing a Definitive Edition of the video essay on October 22nd, the day of the Season 8 premiere.

Can We Look Up to Fictional Role Models?

“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.

 

Reference

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

Video: Why We Are Already Living in the Apocalypse: A Walking Dead Video Essay – Part 4 (Community)

Here is Part 4 of my 5 part Walking Dead video essay. Stick around for Part 5!

Are We Living in the Golden Age of Television?

Are we in the midst of an era when television is in its prime? Can it soar higher than it is now, or is it as good as it’s ever going to be? These are two questions that circulated through my mind after finishing the critically acclaimed first season of HBO’s Westworld (2016), a television show based on the 1973 movie of the same name. Westworld is about a fictional, western-themed amusement park where attendees (or “guests”) pay large sums of money to fulfill their darkest desires. In essence, the guests are permitted to murder or have sexual intercourse with the park’s “hosts,” human-like androids that occupy the park, while the “programmers” write the scripts for the hosts and control all of their behaviors.

Westworld is renowned for its thought-provoking examination of the relationship that mankind has with its own technology, and of key themes that include fate, free will, life, death, God, reincarnation, and the nature of human consciousness. I could spend hours—literally days—talking about these things, but keeping within the scope of this article, I will save that for another time.

I didn’t think Westworld could live up to the standards I’ve set for other shows that I hold such a high opinion of, but Season 1, Episode 10 (“The Bicameral Mind”) proved me wrong. In this 95 minute finale, the writers managed to deliver an unbelievably satisfying payoff to the preceding 9 hours I spent with the show, addressing almost every single inquiry into the world, characters, and narrative direction. Even better, almost every scene had its own “Shyamalanism,” a term I coined that describes how the revelation of a plot twist incentivizes an audience to re-watch a television show or movie to spot out the Easter eggs they didn’t notice the first time around. I won’t spoil anything here, but let’s just say that much like M. Night Shyamalan’s best movies, there are certain story bits in Westworld that you would easily overlook upon first watch, but would blow your mind upon a second or third watch. That is the mark of brilliant storytelling, because to truly deliver a satisfying payoff to any great piece of media, you have to display things in plain sight and subvert attention from them until they become relevant to the twists that you want to reveal.

I bring up Westworld because it’s one television show out of the dozens of high-grade shows that have come out in the past two decades. Between 1999 and today, we’ve gotten amazing shows such as The Sopranos, The Wire, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Dexter, Prison Break, The Walking Dead, Black Mirror, Orange is the New Black, Narcos, Sherlock, Stranger Things, and my personal all-time favorite, Breaking Bad, which I consider to be the Mona Lisa of Television for its complex layered writing and exemplary character development. Let’s not forget the spin-off to Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, another show commonly considered to be golden entertainment.

So are we living in a golden age of television? As a matter of fact, we are. Don’t believe me? There is already a Wikipedia article aptly titled “Golden Age of Television (2000s–present).” Apparently, there was a golden age of T.V. in the 1950s as well, but the 2000s golden age is being dubbed the “New,” “Second,” or “Third Golden Age of Television” because of transformations in the way that we consume media. In addition, the critically acclaimed aforementioned shows have (each in their own right) changed the language of episodic filmography, effectively revolutionizing how stories are told on the small screen. After all, television is a language, and every good show has helped us see it as one.

But if film is a language and every language evolves with time, then what has modern television done to evolve the way in which it is being communicated? There is a long list of examples, but here is a condensed version: Breaking Bad was the first show to take a seemingly innocent and virtuous character, and transform him into a cold, calculating, and ruthless one. Dexter was the first show to make its audience root for, and empathize with, a serial killer. The Walking Dead was the first show to combine realistic human dramas with a zombie apocalypse. Game of Thrones was the first show to depict adult themes in a fantasy setting and regularly kill its lead characters. Stranger Things was the first show to successfully emulate ‘80s media. And finally, Orange is the New Black was the first show to make its side characters more interesting than the main character.

It might seem overly reductive to say that these shows were the “first of their kind,” and while that is true to a certain extent, they were unarguably the first of their kind in the modern era of television. That’s why we’re living in the New Golden Age of Television.

However, golden ages by definition don’t last forever, so when will we see television start to drop in overall quality? It’s hard to say, as it could be in another 10, 20, 40, or even 100 years. Nobody knows for certain, but what is certain is that if our beloved T.V. shows can continue raising the bar, they’ll never get boring.

Video: Why We Are Already Living in the Apocalypse: A Walking Dead Video Essay – Part 3 (Philosophy)

Here is Part 3 of my 5 part Walking Dead video essay. Stick around for Part 4!

Video: Why We Are Already Living in the Apocalypse: A Walking Dead Video Essay – Part 2 (Sanity)

Here is Part 2 of my 5 part Walking Dead video essay. Stick around for Part 3!

Video: Why We Are Already Living in the Apocalypse: A Walking Dead Video Essay – Part 1 (Power)

Here is Part 1 of my 5 part Walking Dead video essay. Stick around for Part 2!