Why can’t I figure out Negan and the Saviors?

Negan and the Saviors. The Walking Dead. AMC.
Negan and the Saviors. The Walking Dead. AMC. /

Negan and the Saviors, the new stars of The Walking Dead that rolled into town last season, are a tricky bunch to figure out.

Watching things unfold this season after the name Negan was uttered a full year ago has been very interesting. We met the Saviors before we met the man himself. But once we met the man, he became a murderous and relentless presence.

Observing and interpreting behavior in the characters on The Walking Dead is something I love to do. I’m not always interested in defending it, justifying it or blessing it, but I do like to examine it. I have had a very tough time figuring out Negan and his Saviors.

There are obvious things to notice on the surface. But if I try to dig deeper, I come up short. The Saviors are likely looking for safety and protection. A sense of belonging. They may all have different reasons for being Saviors.

Some may feel they are being useful and helpful to Negan. Some may feel they need the protection from the walkers and other bad elements in the apocalypse. Many may just fear being killed and decided to join the enemy to stay safe. Some may have joined out of fear and then they grew to like the feeling of power.

There is an abused becoming the abuser cycle in action with the Saviors treating the communities the way Negan treats them. Dwight is an example of that. He hates what Negan has done to him yet when he goes out in the world, he treats Rosita the way Negan treats him.

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What I really can’t figure out is how Negan got so many people to follow him in the first place. It’s the cult following thing that happens, but his numbers are huge! The other thing I can’t figure out is what cult leaders get out of the worship. It’s something I just can’t relate to, even just intellectually.

Respect seems to be the big deal to them. But making someone kneel and having people who hate you kneel and do things for you is so obviously not real and Negan is not stupid. He knows that isn’t real respect. But he doesn’t care. So respect can’t really be what he’s after.

There’s something deeper, but I don’t know what it is. I’m wondering if it’s legacy. He talks about saving the world. They are the Saviors. Could he really think that somehow he will be responsible for keeping the human race alive to outlive the walker epidemic and then he will be worshiped by civilization after he’s gone for keeping the humans alive to rebuild?

What he’s doing now is to make that happen and everything that he does while he’s here is simply for his own entertainment? He’s not doing it for the love of his people. He knows he doesn’t love his people and they don’t love him.

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What do you think are Negan’s motives? He has to know that people don’t really respect him and that the kneeling is all show. But maybe he thinks they respect his courage? Or his power? Maybe he thinks he is like a rock star and it doesn’t matter if his fans really love him or if they love his mythic nature.