The Walking Dead: Armchair zombie superheroes

Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead - AMC
Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead - AMC /

After watching The Walking Dead for 6 seasons many of us think we know exactly how a zombie apocalypse would be and just what it would take to survive. We think we know what it takes to be Rick Grimes.

I’ve heard it over and over, “It’s the zombie apocalypse, you …” The end of that sentence ranges from ideas like kill or be killed or have to get over things faster and move on to you can’t be compassionate or weak anymore.

It’s as if somehow miraculously you will be able to shut off your natural responses to loss and fear because it’s the zombie apocalypse. People are especially hard on kids.

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In our current world, the same people would be crushed (rightly so) if they had to put the needle in their suffering pet to put them down when the time comes, nevermind crushing a walker skull with a knife or a screwdriver.

The same parents worry if their kids are out on bicycles or keep them within holding hand distance at the mall, but are now somehow expected to prepare their 10 year olds not to be scared of a walker herd that could eat them.

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We blame rather than feel for the scaredy cats in the apocalypse.  We want to see them dead instead of wanting to protect them. People in this world scream and run from spiders and snakes. Yet somehow we’re supposed to automatically enjoy snake jerky.

Snow storms knock out power for a day and we’re ready to sue ComEd. But in the apocalypse we don’t think we’d be frustrated or bored or sad or act out in any way. We’d just suck it all up and become warriors because it’s the zombie apocalypse, that’s what you have to do.

I thought the allure of the superhero was to protect the weak. To help those who can’t help themselves. To do what the ordinary person can’t be expected to do. So if we want superheroes, we need ordinary people for those superheroes to protect.

Killing walkers isn’t the only thing needed to survive in the zombie world, it’s just the most glamourous. Tyreese was made fun of for taking care of Judith, but tears were shed when Rick and Carl were reunited with baby Judy. Rick couldn’t do what he does if somebody didn’t watch her.

Some people need to build and cook and clean and plan and plant. The people of Hilltop might not be fighters, but they are growing food that we’re fighting to get. Contribute doesn’t just mean kill.

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We shouldn’t get mad at the ordinary people for being ordinary. They are the reason the superheroes do what they do. When the ordinary people are able to rise above and do extraordinary things, that should be a celebrated event, not an expectation.

The Walking Dead is a great and fearless show because it shows the harsh realities of the ordinary people in their ordinariness as well as in their superhero moments.