The communities of The Walking Dead universe are as different as can be. Some are cult-like, others are not. What makes people stay with their groups?
When we first traveled to the Sanctuary in The Walking Dead “The Cell” we saw a world that was very ordered and efficient and ruled entirely by fear. As we move around to the other communities we see that they are all very different. Some are like cults while others strive to maintain normalcy. What keeps people in their groups?
Now that our world has expanded a bit, a recent article went through each community and discussed whether or not they fell into cult status. Previous examples of cults on The Walking Dead, according to the article, include the Wolves and Gareth and his buddies at Terminus. (Those who arrive certainly do not survive, thank you very much!) The Saviors are a shining example of a cult, and it looks like the Scavengers are shaping up to be a cult as well.
We have talked about Negan’s Saviors as being a cult. The hallmarks of a cult according to Dr. Janja Lalich, are a charismatic leader, a belief system, an influence system, and a control system. The Saviors certainly have those four things in spades, and it looks like the Scavengers do as well. We don’t know much about the Scavengers, but we know that Jadis keeps her people in line, and the one person who tried to challenge her was killed and made into a living suit of armor. This tells us that there is some kind of control system in place.
We don’t really need to debate the fact that the Saviors and Scavengers are cults, or at least cult-like. And we know that people who leave the Sanctuary face serious repercussions if they are ever captured. (Yes, that’s you, Dwight) It’s understandable that you don’t want to cross Negan and the Saviors, but what is it about Jadis that keeps people in line?
While Negan enjoyed the trip to Alexandria with its running water and wall to wall berber carpet, the Sanctuary really isn’t that bad. Eugene has a pretty swank apartment with some really cool 1980s and 1990s retro entertainment readily available. And pickles.
The Scavengers live in a junkyard. They’re greasy. They dress like characters from the Mad Max universe even though they aren’t in a dystopian world following societal collapse, they’re in a zombie apocalypse and they haven’t been there long enough to explain their secret language and weird social awkwardness.
So what keeps them there? Why haven’t they left? Are there punishments for anyone who abandons the junkyard?
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If basic needs such as food and shelter are being met, some people can deal with things like the threat of being thrown into a furnace or having one’s face melted off. Staying in a junkyard, when there are other options available, is strange. What keeps the Scavengers there? Why are they so loyal to Jadis?
Clearly, there is a lot left to learn about this new community.