Shows like The Walking Dead are more important than ever

Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, Avi Nash as Siddiq, Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter, Nadine Marissa as Nabila - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 15 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Seth Gilliam as Father Gabriel Stokes, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, Avi Nash as Siddiq, Josh McDermitt as Dr. Eugene Porter, Nadine Marissa as Nabila - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 15 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

It’s not a coincidence that shows like The Walking Dead are resonating so strongly with millions of people these days.

The Walking Dead. The Handmaid’s Tale. Game Of Thrones. Killing Eve. Sharp Objects. It’s not a coincidence that some of the most popular shows in the last couple of year have also been the darkest. In the past shows like The Walking Dead would have stayed within a relatively small niche appealing to only fans of genre shows. But these shows have resonated with millions of people and continue to grow.

The Walking Dead is the most in-demand show in the world. Why? Of course the amazing performances, fantastic writing and directing play a role in the popularity. But more than that people are turning to shows like The Walking Dead to feel safe, as ironic that sounds.

The world is a pretty terrifying place at the moment. Climate change has led to massive natural disasters becoming normal. Hate-fueled violence is on the rise. The institutions we’ve been taught to trust are in shambles. The dystopia feels very close, as if it’s already creeping into the edges of our cultural consciousness. And that’s a really uncomfortable place.

So we do what humans have done for thousands of years to feel safe. We turn to stories. We turn to stories of survival, and stories that remind us of what humanity is and how it can save us. Only instead of sitting around a fire listening to a wise person tell the stories we’re gathered around our TVs, phones, and tablets looking for reassurance that it’s possible to endure disasters beyond imagining and come out the other side. In the past, it was fairy tales and folklore that provided that. Today, it’s shows like The Walking Dead.

Humanity Is Worth Fighting For

One enduring theme of The Walking Dead which has really been brought to the forefront in 9B is that humanity is worth fighting for. Throughout the previous seasons, Rick fought and inspired the others to fight, to hang onto their humanity in a world of horrors that seemed to have no room for the characteristics of humanity like empathy, compassion, and looking out for others.

In season 9B the survivors who have been fighting for all these years to build communities and form a new society where groups of people worked together to survive instead of preying on each other had some challenges but came together again to fight the Whisperers, who think that humanity is a joke and a relic of a long dead world.

The Whisperers ideas of elevating their animalistic natures instead of their human natures and living as animals do puts on display the natural progression of ideas that are starting to become more prevalent in the world today. Sure, the Whisperers take them to the extreme, but isolationism and dehumanizing people are cultural problems that are only getting worse. It’s not hard to make the leap mentally from those practices to the Whisperers’ practices.

A war that is clearly coming between the communities and the Whisperers is going to be a war between humanity and inhumanity, which is culturally very significant right now. People are looking to shows like The Walking Dead to see that humanity can win, and that the values of humanity are worth fighting for. They’re looking for reassurance that staying true to what makes us human is enough to beat back the darkness and chaos of a fallen society.

We Can Be Heroes

Shows like TWD also renew our faith in the ability of ordinary people to do extraordinary things. They remind us that we’re not powerless in the face of darkness, and hate, and greed. As Siddiq said in “The Calm Before” the people who died were more than brave, because they were fighting for each other even though some of them were strangers to each other. We need the reminder that we can all be brave even in the most dire of circumstances and that we have the choice to actively defend humanity with our actions.

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Whether the threat is walkers, or Whisperers, or natural disasters or the crumbling of the ideals that our society is built on we all can choose to fight the threat for the good of those around us and that’s comforting. So people will continue to flock to shows like The Walking Dead for reassurance, for direction, and for the reminder that we really do survive together.