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!

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!

Should The Walking Dead Have Toned down the Violence?

Disclaimer: This article is entirely opinionated, and will contain multiple spoilers from the Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead. If you have not seen Season 7, Episode 1 of The Walking Dead yet, do not read this.

The extremely gruesome Season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead set the Internet ablaze. Many long-time viewers withdrew their investment from the show, complaining that it went too far and perhaps crossed a point of no return. Following these complaints, the producers went on to tone down the violence for the rest of the season.

In a statement made by Gale Ann Hurd, he says,  “We were able to look at the feedback on the level of violence. We did tone it down for episodes we were still filming for later on in the season …  This is not a show that is torture porn, [we want to make sure] we don’t cross that line.”

First off, here’s how I feel about the episode. I loved “The Day Will Come When You Went Be” so much that I ranked as #2 in my Top 5 all-time favorite episodes in the series. I commended the three minute teaser of Rick pledging his allegiance to kill Negan, with Negan responding by dragging Rick into the R.V. to go on a road trip. Almost the entire Internet forgot the fact that directors like to play around with their T.V. shows’ timelines, and that they are fully entitled to do so. Are we going to pretend like this is a new trend? Plenty of episodes throughout the series have opened with flash-forwards. The most notable example that I can think of is Season 4, episode 16 (“A”), where the first minute shows a battered Rick covered in somebody else’s blood. Fifteen minutes later, Rick gets into an altercation with the Claimers and rips out a chunk of their leader’s neck with his teeth, leaving us right where the episode began. So no, flash-forwarding definitely isn’t a new trend.

While violent, Season 7, Episode 1 served a purpose in driving the show forward. It established the character of Negan as a ruthless, cruel, sadistic, depraved, sometimes comical, unrelenting authoritarian leader who uses violent coercion tactics to bend people to his will. That’s precisely who Negan is. The scene where Rick almost cut his son’s arm off was intent on getting him as well as the audience to obey Negan unconditionally. Despite that Rick didn’t actually chop Carl’s arm off, the sequence demonstrated that in an apocalyptic context, it’s people like Negan who resort to extreme measures in the name of survival.

When it was finally revealed that, indeed, Abraham took the beating, I wasn’t all that surprised, yet I also hated to see him check out. The only complaint I have here is that Abe’s death, well, wasn’t as violent as I expected. It would have been nice to see Lucille convert his head into nothing but ground-up meat, but alas this is television and you can only get so violent before you create serious psychological problems for your viewers.

But Negan’s second victim really struck some emotional chords, and this is where things became controversial. Daryl, in a fit of blind rage, got up and punched Negan in the jaw, who then exacted further punishment on the group by turning around and striking a clean blow to Glenn. Here, what disturbed the audience so deeply was not Daryl’s blatant stupidity in trying to fight back, but the uncompromising reductive and degrading nature of Glenn’s termination. Glenn, one of the few remaining moralistic members of the group and a character that has been present in the show since the first episode, was reduced to nothing but another piece of meat, with his skull caved in and his left eye popping out. That’s messed up–really messed up. I was amazed at how AMC was allowed to get away with displaying such morbidity, yet at the same time, the ultra-violence didn’t bother me because I understand that this is supposed to be a horror show.

I’m infuriated that the producers toned down the violence. This is a show where people get torn apart and eaten while they’re still alive. It’s proven itself to be a lot more graphic in the past. Why should a few complaints ruin it for the rest of us? I’ve tried explaining that the reason Glenn’s death was especially traumatizing was because he had been in the show for so long. To watch him struggle to utter his last few words to Maggie with his left eye popping out of his skull was, and should be, scarring, but it shouldn’t necessitate a scaling back in one of the most fundamental elements of the show: the violence.

Am I just desensitized to gore and carnage at this point? Most likely. Either way, I’m looking forward to the second half of Season 7. I’m always excited for what Negan will do and say next.