I don’t blame anyone for watching The Walking Dead. I enjoyed the story of the first season, because the tragedy of Police Officer Rick Grimes getting shot was so realistic. The friendship between him and partner Shane Walsh felt authentic. The suspense of hoping Rick would find Lori and Carl was gripping. And of course the emotional confusion that followed when he finally found them was interesting and even relateable.
I hung on for a few seasons, but when the loving father-figure of Hershel died, I was officially over it. As I knew it would, the show has grown continually more and more barbaric, culminating (so far) in the traumatic premier of Season 7, The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be, which aired last night. I wonder if any viewers will sue AMC to cover their therapy bills?
As a writer, I enjoyed Breaking Bad from an academic standpoint. Watching an average upstanding chemistry teacher devolve into a ruthless drug lord was fascinating. In a very real sense, Walter White’s character never changed. That’s the genius of the show. He didn’t become evil. He always was evil. He just lost his motivation to behave himself. Cancer, financial hardship, and a dysfunctional marriage chipped away at his capacity to feel positive emotions.
Rick Grimes’ character was interesting for a while for a similar reason. Rick is good. It’s who he is. Yes, he can be ruthless, but when he rips the arteries out of someone’s neck with his teeth it’s the neck of a murderer or a pedophile, and totally a self-defense scenario. I’m pretty sure even Obama would have recommended a gun in that instance though, because that was uber gross.
My beef with The Walking Dead is that it’s too frelling depressing. Don’t get me wrong, I love dark shows. Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil are three of my favorite shows of all time. But they have one ingredient the Walking Dead lacks: hope. While they may kill a favorite character or two, those characters typically don’t get eaten alive or brained in slow harrowing intervals.
We can also say with reasonable certainty that Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Claire Temple, and Trish Walker will star in their show’s final episodes with all their limbs and eyeballs still attached. Plus, there’s always the chance that characters like Sara Lance will be resurrected in the ancient lair of an evil super-ninja.
The Walking Dead, like Game Of Thrones, is a dystopian cesspool. Everything that can go wrong will go terribly wrong, the depravity of mankind has no limits, and your favorite character will die or suffer grotesquely and then die. Also there’s a baby girl character, and I refuse to be around when she gets killed.
Basically, it’s Hell. The characters survive because … I’m honestly not sure why … and in the end they’re all either going to get their heads pulverized or turn into zombies and eat their own families. Seriously, those are the two options.
I suppose it’s remotely possible that Rick will eventually find a way to hole himself up in an army base on an island and live out the remainder of his days in isolation while battling PTSD, but that’s hardly “happily ever after.” Maybe he’ll learn to grow potatoes in his own poop like Matt Damon. Even if they find a cure for the zombie virus, they’ll still have to deal with the non-zombie psychopaths, many of whom are cannibals and rapists.
Come to think of it, it’s a lot like a TV version of The Road. If Rick dies in the end and Carl hangs out with his corps for three days before wandering off with another family, it will be a total rip off.
This is why I can’t watch The Walking Dead anymore, or Game of Thrones, or any of these entropic dystopian freak shows. Real life is depressing enough without combining Lord of the Flies with 1984 and investing $5,000,000 into fake blood, guts, and rotting body parts. Seriously, this show could single-handedly drive up the price of Red #40 by generating a scarcity.
Also, I don’t feel clean after watching. I feel depressed, anxious, and can’t get the images of violence out of my head. I recently read an article in which the journalist actually compared the show to torture porn, and I have to agree. There is no spiritual or emotional benefit to The Walking Dead anymore. It doesn’t leave me (or I suspect most viewers) feeling enthusiastic, encouraged, creatively inspired, or morally contemplative.
At least if you’re watching The Flash, Supergirl, or Luke Cage, you’re observing characters who learn from their mistakes, solve problems constructively, and aspire to make the world a better place. In the universe of The Walking Dead, you can’t. It’s going to be hellish regardless of the moral endurance of the main characters.
Barry Allen copes with the loss of his parents and fights the temptation to take revenge or allow his anger to consume him. He also feels guilty for tragedies that are for the most part out of his control, giving his pious character a complexity that’s just as fascinating as any antihero.
Jessica Jones is an alcoholic with a reckless sex life, yet despite all her flaws she has the courage to stand up to one of the most fascinating super villains in the comic world. She also admits her faults and engages in an upward struggle to overcome them. Well, some of them.
Luke Cage has a past that’s complicated to say the least, but he fights prejudice and crime with a righteous anger that is particularly inspiring given the racial tension currently besetting our nation.
In short, if a show leaves me feeling depressed, anxious, disturbed, and mentally contaminated, I will not watch it anymore. I don’t fault people who do, but I don’t enjoy being inundated with imaginations of plausible depravity. Yes, chopping of someone’s leg, barbecuing it, and making them watch you eat it may seem far fetched, but these crimes actually do happen in the non-comic universe to real human victims. People are sick and that’s no fiction.
I know some viewers watch the show because it makes the real news seem less depressing. But you know, when it takes a hellish fantasy to make our own world look bright and moral by comparison, something is seriously wrong with society.
But we knew that, right? It’s called sin. And it’s the oldest story ever written. Thankfully, in our story, there is redemption and the promise of a happy ending.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” — Philippians 4:8