I hesitate to admit to a guilty pleasure I have managed to keep secret for almost a decade. My name is Glenn, and I am a Walkaholic. I am irredeemably infected with the special juice that causes aficionados like myself to devour broadcasts of the Walking Dead, show after show, season after season. I have seen every minute of every episode of the AMC series since it first aired on Halloween night in the year of our Lord 2010, and I expect that I will continue watching until they stop making the show, or I die.
But that is not the news here, fake or otherwise. It’s my reason for watching, I believe, that sets me apart from my fellow addicts. For me, the Walking Dead is the perfect metaphor for American society and, because of the close geographic and social proximity of the United States, for my own small corner of the world—Canada. The central premise of the Walking Dead is the idea of the other, and the show revolves around the dilemma of how best to protect ourselves from their bloodthirsty intent.
In the first episodes of the show, the role of the other was played by the zombies—salivating hoards of rotting undead, fixed on the relentless, though somewhat clumsy, pursuit of uninfected human flesh. When they did manage to bite someone, they turned them into slobbering zombies like themselves, and the cycle continued spreading the mysterious zombie virus throughout the world.
The Walking Dead metaphor works on so many levels. For Millennials on the verge of adulthood, it is easy to see the zombies as members of established society sleepwalking their way through life, oblivious to the real-world wonders all around them. For Americans who fear the coming influx of people from other parts of the world, the zombies can be seen as a threat to their way of life and their deeply-rooted reluctance to embrace fundamental social change.
But it is in the more recent shows that the Walking Dead metaphor so clearly analogies the fork in the road that currently lays before the American people. In the later shows, the uninfected survivors splinter into rival tribes as they struggle to survive the inhospitable world brought on by the rise of the zombies. It is the members of rival tribes that have become the enemy—the other. The key question that the survivors face is ‘are we safer living together with the other tribes, or are we better off on our own?’ It is stunningly similar to the choices facing the citizens of Donald Trump’s America: What is the correct path forward at this key juncture in American history? Are we better to go it alone with people like ourselves who we know we can trust, or should we join forces with the other to tackle the big problems that threaten the whole world?
That’s why I have to keep watching, and I’m talking here about both the Walking Dead and the trials and tribulations of my good neighbours to the south. I have to find out what happens.