Pronouncing The Walking Dead Dead

The Walking Dead.

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I stopped watching after this season’s second episode. I haven’t seen it since. The narrative tone, the authorial position, have all changed drastically. These story lines weren’t allegories masquerading as horror, with ultimate sympathies for the human race. Instead, the viewer became subjugated to a taunting, teasing author whose narrative, like Lucille, became a weapon. Shooting Negan’s violence with the camera standing in for the viewer spoke volumes.

It seems that characters like Rick, and Glenn, or Carol and Maggie, no longer carry the voice of a struggling humanity, but that they are now the devices upon which the new authorial voice, Negan, speaks and acts against the audience. Sure, art and fiction are supposed to be catharsis, but for us.

maxresdefaultIn season six we were teased about Glenn’s fate, to many critics’ and viewer’s chagrin, only to have him survive, almost inexplicably. Glenn was almost transformed into a Mary Sue. Then, of course, only to have him brutally murdered in the next season’s premiere exactly how he dies in the book.

Such plotting didn’t serve the story, it didn’t fit any thematic purpose. In fact, there was none. Of course, senseless randomness and tragic chaos occurs in everyday life. However, TWD set itself apart by using tragedy and violence to make sense of the chaos thematically. Meaningless death had meaning for the viewer: bravery, humility, tragedy, honor, justice. This season’s premiere of TWD, however, had degenerated into the sadistic slasher genre, more closely resembling Friday the 13th sequels and B-films like The Tourist Trap: inexplicable violence committed by an uncomplicated villain against characters who were merely stand-ins for the viewer, quite literally in some takes.

The Governor was complicated; Garth was complicated. They were horrendous villains, but villains with story and theme. The first was the tragedy of one man’s struggle to maintain an illusion of a civilized life whose time had come to an end, and the sacrifices he was willing to extract from others to keep that illusion alive. Garth, the second, was the cautionary tale of what can happen to the human soul when it has been so brutalized that all humanity is destroyed.

Negan of the season premiere is simply sadism and greed. There are people like that, and no doubt our increasingly contentious and greedy culture gives rise to more of them than in better times. TWD,  however, didn’t explore this. The writers and producers leveraged Negan’s villainy at its most superficial level for the sake of violence, gore and the cheap facsimile of suspense that wasn’t too suspenseful, once we knew who’d been killed.

But hey, Fear the Walking Dead may have just become a real story.

New TWD Review: I got questions.

The main theme of which is:

What have they done with Carol & how do we get her back?

Please see my new review of last week’s TWD episode at my sister site:
http://twd-i-got-questions-lots-of-questions

New Sister Site for “The Walking Dead”

 


Graphic1.My posts about The Walking Dead now have their own sister site:

thelaundryyearstwd.wordpress.com

If you click on the second menu item above (just after “Blog Entries),
you should be directed to that new site.

 


My normal content for The Laundry Years will resume on Monday, February 15th.

Thank you!

2105 Badass Winners

I realized that this year, I also needed to invest some time in the positive.

It’s been a rough year for me personally, one in which I learned as much about myself, as I did about the world around me and the people close to me. I was surprised (and proud) of the first. The last two? Not so much in some corners, but way pleased in others.

This year, rather than emulate whatever happened to be around me, I decided to learn from those I admired. I drop-kicked the “but they’re Them, way over there, who am I to emulate them mentality” and decided to learn from my heroes.

Not all these people are from 2015. Some are from 2014. But hey, you don’t tell the Police of the Annual Lists and I won’t either. It will be our dirty little secret.


 

10. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

10378949_10152610405709916_8685229031044711164_n

Her take on the Hobby Lobby case was enough for me. But as I googled her – mostly for jpegs, I confess – I learned about her, and was amazed. The Time.com photo alone gets her into my menagerie for fishnet gloves.

See also the New York Times online article.

 

9. The Writers and Producers of The Walking Dead.

No, I will not subject my readers to more fangasms in the off-season. I’m correcting a mistake, really. I should have written about this years ago, and I didn’t. Scott, Gale, Robert and Greg, forgive me.

Hollywood women cry out for better roles for women, and grown-up women. According to Hollywood, nothing interesting happens to you after thirty. Interesting things only happen to your husband or kids. The Guardian cites recognition that television does a better job than film.  Then there are the calls for better roles, more interesting roles, for women over … say … twenty-five.

TWD falls into that category for better roles for women, and takes it up a notch. (Battlestar Gallactica demands inclusion here, too.)

Carol Pelletier starts out in the series as a mousy middle-aged, battered wife and mother. That’s where she starts. Baby, that’s not where she ends. (Check out this yourtango.com article). The character has now earned a following in the fan universe that roots for her leadership.

The writers have given her independent storylines in which she has engaged in heroism, villainism, violence, strategy, compassion and stealth. Her arc and these episodes devoted to her have employed all the elements normally given to men.

While I am in the camp that needs the writers to fess up and have her and Daryl get at “it” already, I appreciate that they have not diluted her character by putting her in the “romantic interest” position.

Other phenomenal characters: Maggie, a southern woman who is not a “belle,” but a tribute to the southern women in my own family tree. (Kudos to Lauren Cohan for getting the accent right.) Michonne, a fierce woman of color who is not diluted as “girlfriend,” and who is smart, sexy and strong. Rosita, a Latina character that does not take a side in some false dichotomy of sexy OR smart. Deanna: a great character of age. Most typical producers or writers would have cast a thirty-something. Tara Chambler, a lesbian that is not presented in stereotypical terms of “butch” or “femmy.”

So, the feminism of TWD is on the list.

 

8. Dolce & Gabbana

Yeah, like I can afford that stuff.

I tweeted a few weeks ago about their decision to form a line of fashions for Muslim women. Cynics can argue that this was a crass economic decision. I’m sure it was motivated by growing market share and an opportunity to enter into a new sphere. But the clear economic advantage of creating goods for a group has not always won the day. Think Plus-size fashions that aren’t black mumus.

So, someone was thinking inclusion, respect, and perhaps, in this age of rampant reactionary racism against arabs and anti-Muslim sentiment, fueled by a mangy old man with too much money and not enough brains …

Oops, I strayed into the Zombie Bait List again. My bad.

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What was I saying? Oh, in this ideological climate, the decision to create this collection is itself an ideological statement, make no mistake.

 

7. Muslims

Yep. Your garden variety Muslim, your faithful, obedient, disciplined follower of Islam made the list. Why? Because right now the whole world is dumping a whole ton of undeserved bullshit their way, and Muslims are no more to blame for ISIL or Al Qaeda than Christians are to blame for the Branch Davidians.

I see Muslim women in the store, the mall, the gas station and I want to say “I am so sorry for some of the jackasses running around who claim to be members of my faith/color/class. Please forgive us.”

I want to talk about how much I admire the courage, commitment and discipline it takes to wear a hijab or an abaya. I want to talk about how little I know about their faith, but what little I know tells me that their faith demands far more daily discipline and commitment than I put into mine.

And they do all this while they are reviled by a political candidate, misunderstood by the media, and as I have seen with my own eyes, feared by their communities.

Instead, I just say “hello,” or “nice day,” hoping that somehow they’ll know everything else is tucked away surreptitiously into that little salutation.

These people get up the next morning, put one foot in front of the other and do what they gotta do and keep their faith – publicly.

That alone makes you a badass.

 

6. Pope Francis

It rankles the hell out of my devout in-laws when I call their Pope “Frankie.”

I love this guy. Truly, I love this guy. I believe he is the one who will put Christ’s message back into Christian religion. I love his take on poverty, I love that he chose not to live like a King as Pope (not living in the Papal Apartments), but like a servant of Christ. I love his courage to defy old ideaologies and be a real LEADER of the people into the message of love and justice. I love his love for people.

And I firmly believe that behind the scenes, sure as God made little green apples, some of the old Establishment in the Church is not too happy about him. Others probably blocked him.

I would make this man my famous tortilla soup. I don’t even do that for my husband (and I do hear about it).

I’m just gonna say it with jpegs.

whatever popeman   download (9)pope-francis-awesome-7

 

5. Hillary Clinton

Okay, who among my reader(s) is surprised here?

The surprise is that she’s not on the list for her politics, but for her effect on me as a role model.

No matter what anyone has thrown at this woman, and Trump has managed to create some pretty big balls of shit to throw her way, she has remained poised, calm, deliberate and focused. While everyone in the GOP is snarling and biting with rhetoric (not just Trump, but Christie, too).

Where the rest of the players have confused bravado with confidence, Clinton has displayed the true confidence of being level-headed in the shit-storm – something I had to learn the hard way to do.

When asked in one news interview about Trump, she laughed light-heartedly. When that bonehead moderator started the debates before she’d returned (clearly from the bathroom), she made a little joke. She never get flustered. She never crumbles.

I’ve learned from her: how to handle my opponents, that if I’m doing the right thing I will have opponents, not to believe the B.S./P.R. my opponents throw around about me. I’ve learned that being tough means being calm, going to the back room, pulling your team together, and planning your next move.

I’ve learned that being smart and being tough are nothing to be ashamed of.

I think she has superpowers. I think the real scandal will be when we all find out she was in a scientific accident as a child and it gave her super psychological strength, because when it comes to composure, she’s Wonder Woman, SuperGirl and Carol Pelletier all wrapped into one.

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Day-um. I wanna be like that when I grow up.

 

4. German  Chancellor Angela Merkel

All it took was one thing. Even though I knew vaguely of her involvement in the Greek financial crisis, this woman was on my periphery until just one thing got her on this list.

Even after she was Time’s 2015 Person of the Year.

One thing caught my attention.

She welcomed the refugees. Merkel is quoted in the New York Times:

I am convinced that, handled properly, today’s great task, presented by the influx and the integration of so many people, is an opportunity for tomorrow

Merkel’s generosity has been so immense, that, according to Roger Cohen:

The United States would have had to admit about 4 million refugees this year to take in a similar proportion of its population. It has fallen more than 3.9 million short of that mark.

 

3. Malala Yousafzai

She is the young girl in Pakistan who spoke up about education for girls.

So the Taliban shot her. In the face. On her school bus.

What did she do?
She spoke up again. Louder. Fiercer. At the UN.

Speaking up is hard when you’ve been punished for pursuing what you have a right to, be it education or motherhood. You get punished.

A thousand experts will tell you not to speak up, as I’m sure many did with Malala. Friends and family will run when the fit hits the shan. In her case, I’d completely understand: for God’s sakes, she’d been shot. In the head. But it seems her family stood by her.

And stood she did. She didn’t back down. She never will. Check out her story in-depth at BBC online.

 

2. President Barack Obama

Gun Control. He manned up. He has taken on all this bullshit about gun control. I hope he uses that executive order and milks it for all it’s worth on this one.

Sometimes, you have to govern for the best interests of the many, not just the wishes of the many.

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, President Obama addressed opponents’ fear that they will have to register their firearms. As an aside, are these the same people clapping and cheering when Trump wants to register Muslims? Just a thought.

I suspect the NRA is fueling all these ridiculous, absurd, emotionally-driven fears about gun control.

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from unkown source; see cartoon for copyright

Do you want some kid to drive a car down the road without being tested and cleared as being safe to do so? No.

gun - evil quote

So let’s make sure that whoever owns a gun is cleared as being safe to do so, and keep the guns out of people who would pull the trigger for evil purposes. It’s called a background check.

One question to opponents: are you worried you won’t pass?

Jeesh.

 

 

 

1. France.

All of France. The whole country.

This year, France taught us what a true badass is. They suffered horrendous terrorist attacks, and what was their immediate response?

Politicize the tragedy into a ridiculous argument about the second amendment?
Seize the moment as an opportunity to transform latent rage and fear into racism?

No.

First, they responded appropriately and definitively. They let the terrorists know they were strong, they were not to be trifled with. Their responsive attack was swift, certain and clear. It was necessary to send a message on behalf of all targets of violence over this globe.

Sometimes, there just have to be consequences.

Then, they opened their hearts and their homes to the displaced.

 

French online planned interfaith gatherings, in the face of a ban on gatherings. From the Huffington Post:

By Sunday, 3,000 people had pledged to attend a multi-faith “Rally with Muslims of France for Peace and National Unity,” scheduled for the end of the week near Paris’ Grand Mosque. Another 6,000 said they were interested in going.

I swear I read that there was an online effort to open homes and hearths to people who were stranded in Paris because of the attacks.

Mercy and Strength all in the face of random, brutal attacks.

France taught us everything.

Why I write – A call to Arms

In short, writers need to make the political personal. Very personal.


Over the past week, I’ve had several encounters that have forced me to really look at my writing, especially my fiction: what I’m writing, whether I’m digging too deep, becoming too issue-oriented.

My latest fictional venture was supposed to be a piece of pulp horror, a cathartic outlet. That didn’t last long.

Recently, I got some feedback that led me to sit down and really take a look at the book, and my goals. What’s the point here? What am I trying to say? Is it fair to the reader that I’m even trying to say it? Am I being too ambitious, reaching too high?

I’ve always felt it was important that writing be about something, not just the plot, not just the thrill, but about Something, it should tell some unlabelled Truth people need to know. In a culture that wants to eschew meaning and is so easily seduced by the shiny, pretty little things out there, it’s hard to stick to your guns. At times, I’ve been discouraged, and wondered if I need to scrap that whole part of the work.

Even in this blog, I often wonder if I should scrap the commentary for more wistful pieces of uplifting anecdotes of mundane experiences. Then again, maybe when my world has that kind of thing to offer, I’ll get right on it.

That’s not to say good things don’t happen. They do. Like this week.

And having seen all the dark, ugly badness out there close enough to count Satan’s nose hairs, well, that made this week’s messages from the Universe all that more powerful.

Something other-worldly must be nagging at me to do a mission statement, too, or at least stick to the one I’ve got – however unwritten it may be. In the last week I’ve discovered two great articles on the very questions I’m asking.

Last things first.

Today I found a wonderful Huffington Post essay “The Devil in Politics: Why Fear Works and What to Do About It,” where the Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite speaks of fighting evil. Thistlehwaite doesn’t take an intellectualized stand on the existence of the Devil, reducing “Devil” to be a cultural signifier of dissenting values in an arbitrary theological order. 

DevilLovesH8Rz

For her, as for me, the Devil exists. It (both he and she) lives and speaks and walks among us. Evil has a very real face and does very real damage.

(Trust me sweetie, I had the Devil over for coffee and never even knew it. She napalmed my life and I’m still cleaning up the mess.)

According to Irenaeus, the weakness of the Devil in going after the innocent exposes how corrupt that really is. That does not mean, however, that while that is happening the innocent do not suffer. They do, and often horribly.

But we can help devilish overreaching sink itself more rapidly by constantly showing up to expose it in every venue we can and in every way we can.
~Thistlethwaite

So, being who I am, of course, as I read the article my memory was drawn to my experience this past year with corrupt authority and the cruel extremes people will go to maintaining it.

Thistlethwaite affirmed my commitment to opposition and exposure of the specific wrongs we saw and experienced, and helped me renew my commitment to embracing and touting the same in my writing.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-dr-susan-brooks-thistlethwaite/the-devil-in-politics-why_b_8793722.html

First things last.

Similarly, I came across a great article in The Guardian by Rowan Williams. I think I’ve read this three times. I am never turning my computer off again, so that the article can remain accessible in my browser … forever. Even after browsers cease to exist.

I was positively possessed by inspiration (and giddy beyond belief at the experience) when reading about the moral and ethical mandate Williams ascribes to Thomas Merton:

the difficulty of good writing is a difficulty meant to make the reader pause and rethink. It insists that the world is larger than the reader thought, and invites the reader to find new ways of speaking … Bad writing is politically poisonous; good writing is politically liberating …  
~ Rowan Williams

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/dec/12/words-on-war-a-summons-to-writers-orwell-lecture?CMP=share_btn_link

I am emboldened. My resolve is strengthened. My pen refilled.

I find a good deal of contradiction as I take these thoughts around with me. Feedback to my own work that rebels against the validation of the perceptions of characters who experience life as the Other, and seeks to have me validate as objective truth the opinions of readers who cannot know the truth of the Other.

Fear works because it leads us into temptation, the temptation to hate and despise the religious other, the immigrant other, the racial other, the sexual other. Fear is very tempting to politicians who want to acquire power because it makes people irrational, hateful, and easy to manipulate.
~ Thistlethwaite

In short, writers need to make the political personal. Very personal.

What strikes me is that even as the “ordinary person” overtly voices an aversion to meaning, we are all drawn to it – some of the most popular cultural phenomena lately have been all about the Other rebelling in a dysfunctional system of authority to prevail:

Harry Potter is an orphan, rejected by his guardians. How many of us also notice that Dumbledore doesn’t do anything about Potter until it’s time to get to school? (Why didn’t anyone think about getting him better adoptive parents? The hubs and I were available.)

Hogwarts takes him in, but in the later books/films, Voldemorte’s cohorts take over the “establishment” institutions and our Good Guys are forced underground. Even in the beginning, no one dares speaks Valdomorte’s name. So deep runs that river of institutional denial that entire plot segments are devoted to Potter’s insistence on his existence. Hogwarts is in ruins in the finale.

Katniss Everdeen learns the truth behind the old adage: “sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” The movies do an exceptional job of highlighting the designation of her and the districts as social and economic Others.

The Divergent Series explores a struggle against a society based on over-simplified stereotypes of people whereby they are forced to live out their entire lives by one personality trait, to the suppression of all others. People are divided by difference, unified only by sameness.

The Walking Dead. It’s season seven before organized authority is represented in a positive light, by Deanna. Who promptly dies. I’ve written elsewhere on themes where authority and establishment figures fail at every turn: from the CDC to Father Gabriel.

We’re eating this stuff up likes it’s ice cream.

So,  while people around me say they don’t want meaning, that there’s nothing wrong to talk about, their attraction to all these narratives of good against evil, the passionate opposition to political organizations that deny either evil or the value of a human being is undeniable.

What is my concluding statement?

Well, I’m sticking with it, folks. I’m not giving up.

And if you’re out there, and you’re fighting the good fight in your own way, too, don’t you give up either. Because Orwell, Merton and the good Reverend Thistlethwaite said so.

Mid-season finale –

I love Vox.com. If I planned on growing up one day, I’d want to write for them.

Below is a link to a review of last night’s episode.

To be honest, I’ve always been one to draw the wool over my own eyes – so in love I am with TWD that I’ve only explored looking at the themes. I come up short when it gets down to taking on a critique of the story-telling.

I need to work on that.

The author below has some problems with the story-telling in Season Six. My only disagreement is that a critic watches the show on an entirely different level: he/she is engaging in his/her profession, and brings his (the author is Todd VanDerWerff, so from here on out, it’s a “he”) A-game intellectually.

The rest of us are watching the show to “check out.” We’re looking for a “Calgon moment,” to take us away. As long as we don’t quite know what’s going to happen, and jump out of our seats a few times, hey, we’re happy.

Much as I’d love some of the great insights into story-telling structure I’ve read about – life has been a bit stressful lately. If something can get my mind off that for a while, then, hey, the story is doing the job I “paid” for it to do – whether buying a book or paying streaming/cable fees and tolerating advertising.

My whole exegesis, which I admit takes the whole TWD a bit too seriously at times, is part of my catharsis. The issues I discuss I think are important, but they are important social issues that I see around me, and have impacted my world. Freud would have much more to say on the subject, but he’s not here.

On another level, TWD is a means to an end to raise my voice o the matter. I’d be saying it anyway, but I have the show to hold up and say “Here! See? TWD says so, too!”

TWD also enjoys a good bit of relative elevation. Sci-fi and horror fans don’t get much in the way of original TV viewing, and so much of general TV is bad, so the mere gap between the average quality and TWD allows many of its shortcomings to go unnoticed.

That, and no story is perfect. Well, people say there was that whole Citizen Kane thing. But that’s not sci-fi horror, so …

One last comment on why the average viewer’s take might be more forgiving than a critic: sometimes the suspense isn’t on what happens, but the thrill ride in getting there. VanDerWerff mentions that no one was really worried about Maggie’s safety. Okay, fine. Maybe not. But it was still fun to watch her be worried about her safety.

Even if we know a character is going to be fine, we know they don’t. Their horror and doubt is worth it sometimes.

That said, even I had to notice some shortcomings last night. That says alot.

http://www.vox.com/culture/2015/11/30/9817762/the-walking-dead-episode-8-recap-finale

If Deanna was on death’s door and couldn’t move, how did she manage that final shoot-out? There is the trope of gathering one’s last bit of strength in a rally of defense, but this seemed — like Glenn’s survival — a bit implausible.

They waited too long to bring in any strategy for survival for the group walking through the zombies.

There have been some comments (as in the link) about the Zombie disguise: why don’t they do it all the time? The same we don’t abstain from bathing, the same reason we don’t just omit a few steps and pull up our pants right after doing our business in the woods: it makes for a disgusting, possibly puke-inducting day, for us and the people who share space with us.

Modern man just does not take on that drastic a change in hygiene if it doesn’t have to.

Kirkman had to answer that question on TTD last night. Well, think about it people.

Even if the Kirkman and Gimple took that tact, it would be seen and criticized as gratuitous gore, with critics saying “Oh, that’s not realistic, people wouldn’t do that if they didn’t have to.”

Still, I found parts dissatisfying: there were several clear moments of advantage when the Wolf was threatening to leave with Denise. The suspense and threat there seemed weak. Bank-robber and kidnapping scenarios abandoned that flimsy “helplessness” plot device years ago.

The conflict between Carol and Morgan seemed like simple device, too – a means to the Take-Denise-Hostage end. Philosophically it had been brewing, but there hadn’t been a history of animosity – only difference of opinion. Now they’re going at each other? In such a volatile situation? Really?

I live for those boring, expositional moments of dialogue when characters discuss – when the story goes to tell not show. A little goes a long way, I assure you, but it’s nice. That was the place for that. It didn’t happen. Moreover, the show didn’t take the position that we know the writers clearly have; it ducked committing to its own theme for lack of a way to illustrate it in plot. It sacrificed commitment to the thematic arc for a moment of cheap suspense.

C’mon Scott. I know you know better. Don’t make me take down my Gimple shrine in the basement.

When Carol said “I have to stop it,” I did feel a nice allusion back to the prison where she burned the virus carriers. It established this as her perspective on the world. Still, the fight seemed out of character even for her.

I can see where the invasion of the zombies seems like “same song, different verse.” In the forum, there was one question as to why no one noticed the steeple cracking. Well, people are just that stupid, I’m afraid. For one, I get suspicious when a storyline attributes more sense to humanity than it really possesses. I can fill this blog with tragic tales of disaster and loss of life because of a chain of events that simply adds up to a few stupid people in a row.

Rick and our gang are supposed to be better than that, and such an oversight flies in the face of the “we know more because we were out there” business.

 

 

Interesting TV Review

So this is a pretty interesting take on the way the Glenn problem was told in TWD.

http://www.ew.com/article/2015/11/24/walking-dead-heads-up-review-glenn

It’s critical of it from a story-telling perspective, and finds it a rather gimmicky. The article is a pretty interesting read of TV criticism, a cut above some of what’s out there.

The article reminds me I should have never listened to my parents, and taken more film theory classes instead.

I don’t 100% agree with all of it, but I like the way it takes social media and marketing into account as factors in the storytelling process.

For myself, I had two problems with the Glenn escape.

  1. THERE WAS A FIRE ESCAPE!! Why the hell did they not climb the friggin’ fire escape?

It was kind of like watching someone nearly drown when there was a boat nearby.

  1. Even I have to admit that the escape under the dumpster, which I speculated, was pretty implausible.

The only way that works for me is if there a theme (what the author calls “pretentious musings”) of Glenn as “resurrected” from the dead, which happens in this genre alot.

That Nagan is reputed to be a “savior” character makes that for an interesting option … will that character see some symbolism in Glenn’s “impossible” escape?

Given that the narrative generally eschews supernatural, magical plot devices, and implausible escape is pretty much their only option.

 

Can’t seem to find that line between fact and fiction …

The Walking Dead, Season 5-6:
Battered, beaten refuges from a violent, brutal, unruly world of ruthless people and harsh adversity come to the gates of a self-sustaining, affluent community of well-meaning people, seeking shelter, safety and a home.

A group of bloodthirsty savages with no sense of humanity lurk outside, posing a danger to anyone who crosses their path.

Eventually the group attacks, slaughtering innocent citizens.

Current Events: 
See above.

Line between fact and fiction:
Alexandria took the refugees in without hesitation.

Let life imitate art, for once, eh?
Take the refugees, they may have more to teach us than we have to give them.

Be Alexandria.


 

I keep saying, it’s not about them, it’s about us.

 

TWD as Epic con’t

Quick Item:

Descent to underworld requirement:
Episode when Rick is in the prison, following Lori’s deaath, and he goes into a deserted part of the prison, answers the phone and hears the dead.

Requirements:

Descent to hell: in our cultures, hell is for sinners, damned people.
In our society, we “damn” or judge people and send people to jail who’ve broken our rules.

Speaks to the dead:
Enough said.

 

Deanna, TWD and the Social Order

Update: Post-11.22.15 Episode:
Deanna may have a screw loose. It’s one thing if those plans are for survival within reinforced walls and protection. But she wants to expand? Optimistic, yes. Prudent? Not exactly at this juncture. Other things may need to be prioritized first.


 

The other day I was thinking and I had an insight. Now that I’ve recovered from that harrowing experience, I will share that insight with the rest of you.

Was into the simple solution for mankind’s many existential woes?

No.

It was about The Walking Dead.

What else did you think I would have an insight about? How long have you been reading this blog?

So, I’ve written elsewhere (or so I recall) that historically, characters representing social institutions really don’t end up being very … reliable. Or likable, or dependable, or moral.

In fact, they end up being pretty skanky, at best.

Let’s review:
Religion:
Father Gabriel  – holed himself up in the church while he let his congregation die gruesome deaths, only for them to un-die again.

Law & Order:
Lt. Dawn Lerner – Holds Beth captive, pimps her (and another patient) out. While her motivations are somewhat pitiable, she’s still not anyone that will inspire you to look on the law enforcement institution with confidence.

Medicine:
Dr. Steven Edwards – ensures job security through murder.

Science:
Dr. Edwin Jenner, CDC – became very nihilistic and blew himself up, happy to oblige anyone who wanted to ride the incineration express on his coattails.

Why have I not brought up The Governor yet? You may ask.
Well, gimme a minute.

I thought about Deanna. Deanna may not live up to my hopes and dreams, but there’s some promise here. She is the first character to represent any formal social order – she presides as the political head of her community – that seems trustworthy.

Some may argue she has committed a grievous error in underestimating the truth and reality of Rick & Co’s experiences initially. My recent premise has been that that narrative is one of morals of Season 6: listen to the people who have lived outside your walls if you want to build a stronger society. They (we) know what monsters lurk out there and we know how to fight them.

Where I find promise in Deanna is that she does just that. She listens, she heeds. She has her moment of shock and awe, and then she gets over it.  In terms of being a community administrator, I’m hoping she turns out to be every much the badass Carol is in terms of military covert ops (disguising herself as a Wolverine).

In one of the last scenes of one episode, Deanna is seen marking up crop placements on the map. Maybe I’m being naive to think she’ll actually get to execute her plan, maybe she is too. The point is, though, that she’s reacting to the reality around her, and she always has. She steps away where she recognizes that Maggie and her group are, at that point, the more able fighters during the Wolverine crisis. It’s unfortunate, and she’s weak for being that way, but she recognizes that reality. She recognizes the true nature of her son, Spencer and his faux leadership pose.

Deanna does what we all should do when working to build our society: listen to the people who’ve survived the dangers from which we need to protect ourselves. Listen to the outsiders. Respond, don’t just react.

So, I have hope, probably misguided, for our little Alexandria.


As an aside, this is where I want to stick my little head into the moral debate on Morgan’s responsibility for letting the Wolverines live, and did that lead to the attack. Well, hindsight is twenty-twenty. In that moment, Morgan was contemplating killing that seemed unnecessary in that context. He didn’t know about Alexandria, he didn’t know they were outlaws. His context told him they were dumb, mean kids and he’d given them their whuppin’ and let them go, hopefully wiser men.

And yes, we do say “whuppin'” down there.

 

Last Night’s Episode

A lot of Deus Ex Machina in last night’s episode.

And a few problems.

Abraham & the Hand of God:

Abraham got story time last night, and with that, the Hand of God that reaches down and make sure that “the table is set.” At every turn in his journey through the remnants of civilization Abraham finds bounty; he is literally the sparrow for whom God provides everything he needs. Abraham finds weapons for defense: he struggles with the monster hanging from the pole, to no avail. Then, providing the Zen moral to his experience, his moment of letting go proves to be the moment of provision. After he’s stepped away and waited, the zombie drops from the pole leaving the RPG free for the taking.

In the office, Abraham discovers a military uniform that – voila! – fits perfectly, despite the fact that Abraham is a man of no average build. His previous identity is affirmed and restored.

I firmly believe that plot devices like this are not instances of authorial indulgence or laziness, where the authors hope we stretch our suspension of disbelief to the point of breaking. Instead, I think they’re metaphors for when the authors want to point to either the metaphysical or the spiritual, without resorting to gimmicks. The suit fit, the body dropped because it shows us that God, or the Universe, or some divine force is working for Abraham.

Abraham returns to Sasha, fully embracing life and convinced that “the table is set,” which is exactly what has happened for him. And he makes it very clear that Sasha is part of that life he wants to embrace.

Daryl and … wha??

I got a problem. While I do think the triad of Gimple, Nicoterro and Kirkman are storytelling Gods, perhaps a combination that yields a composite Ovid of TV storytelling, what is up with bringing in new villians before we’re even into the exposition of the other ones?

As a viewer, I’m just speculating that the Wolverines were the exiled Alexandrians, and now we have Wade?

Okay, I know layering is a way that you keep viewers through long season breaks: you need to start one storyline so it’s a “cliffhanger” leading into the next season while you’re resolving the last one.

I know life absolutely does not neatly arrange adversities and adversaries in order, let you finish with one before introducing you to the other. I spent three years dealing with corrupt state officials, trust me I know. Verisimilitude, better known as “when it rains it pours.”

That said, c’mon, I’m a TV viewer. I realize that TWD is a commentary of life, but it is a bit of escape from the unresolvability of it, too. I need a little … traditional structure here. You already keep me hanging on with the Glenn thing … gimme something, gimme some gratification here. This is all foreplay and no …. Well, you get the point.

I couldn’t really glean anything from the Daryl and trio of ineptitude that was Tina and Whoever #1 and Whoever #2. Nothing they did made sense, the whole bit about burning the forest was unclear, especially in the context of this new Wade Gang. Was this whole storyline simply a way to get Daryl to trade up, which he did?

Was this Daryl’s Deus Ex Machine, providing him with a fuel truck after losing the bike.

Observation: the bike was a present from Aaron, a social relationship that was set up and not explored and the bike seemed to be on its last legs.

Link blast: TWD Heartthrob Alert & My Geeky Moment

There are spoiler alerts in the below link, but it’s oh so worthwhile just to read the phrase at the end:  “Schrödinger’s Glenn.”

(I am so unhappy I didn’t think of that).

https://www.yahoo.com/tv/s/walking-dead-introducing-negan-could-181000589.html

I’m not as far along in the books as the author (I have to wait for the ebooks to be available from my public library), but it’s an interesting take on how/why Glenn might be alive.

Geeky Moment:

Trivia: this is the second TWD actor to come from Supernatural’s first few seasons. The other: Lauren Cohan as Bella.

(Other trivia: two Supernatural actors were in seasons of Charmed, there are several two-step degrees of separation from Supernatural to Heroes.)

Warning: The addition of Jeffrey Dean Morgan (be still my pounding heart) may signal the end of my literary objectivity with regards to TWD and my unseemly and shameless entry into the world of girly- sighing, eyelash-fluttering, dreamy-eyed FanGirl-dom.

Rick who?

In a Nutshell

I’ve been toying with writing a long apologetic on my fascination with TWD.

Then it hit me this morning: I don’t have to. I can do this in 107 words.

In “Forget” (5.13?) Sasha lashes out at an Alexandrian who’s worried that she might not make the right comfort meal for her. Sasha’s indignant at the triviality of the concern after all the darkness, evil and devastation she’s seen and endured.

And that’s how I feel right about now about the whole Starbucks Christmas coffee cup controversy.

Really, people, is that what we’re worried about? Have you seen what’s going on out there?

And that’s what’s important about TWD.

TWD as Epic Poem: Seriously, I’m not kidding

Does The Walking Dead qualify as our generation’s Epic Tale, in the literary sense, in the newest popular medium: TV/Film?

From https://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/documents/What_is_an_Epic.pdf is a list of the requirements for an Epic Poem, which pretty much conforms to my recollection of my eleventh-grade English class:

——————————————————————————————————————

  1. It is a long narrative about a serious or worthy traditional subject.

In our current culture, the Apocalypse has been a popular subject.  The end of the world is also a fairly serious matter. In my humble opinion.

  1. Its diction is elevated in style. It employs a formal, dignified, objective tone and many figures of speech.

This one is a bit difficult to translate because the rule generally applies to written works, which TWD is obviously not. However, it would be up to more erudite film experts than I to determine if the screenwriting, directing and production qualify as an “elevated style.”

While it’s not Fellini or Bunuel, Fellini and Bunuel are not exactly accessible.

I’d argue, however, TWD does employ a “formal, dignified, objective tone,” as the quality of work has general received a good deal of praise.

  1. The narrative focused on the exploits of an epic hero or demigod who represents the cultural values of a race, nation, or religious group.

In our current culture, the Apocalypse has been a popular subject.  The end of the world is also a fairly serious matter. In my humble opinion. 

My own theory is that a few generations may look back on us and study our fascination with post-apocalyptic literature as a symptom of our cultural anxiety about the longevity of our world: our planet, or our moral existence, our dreams of a more just society.

  1. The hero’s success or failure determines the fate of an entire people or nation.

The Prison, Terminus, Alexandria, numerous times in the forest. Enough said.
Maybe not.

Deanna says: “What I wanted for this place, was that just pie in the sky?”
Rick says: “No.”

Deanna believes the success of Alexandria, the first civilization Rick’s group has encountered, rests in Rick’s hands.

  1. The action takes place in a vast setting; it covers a wide geographic area. The setting is frequently set some time in the remote past.

See above. Check.

  1. The action contains superhuman feats of strength or military prowess.

Well, after “Now,” (11/8/15), we’re all wondering how Rick got out of the R.V. He is a former sheriff (military), and he recently organized the luring of the walkers away from Alexandria.

More strictly adhering to this requirement is Rick’s leadership of the successful escape from Terminus.

  1. Gods or supernatural beings frequently take part in the action to affect the outcome. This supernatural intervention often implies two simultaneous plots.

Initially, I said this was a tough one. Then I remembered Rick’s hallucinations in the prison. Truthfully, I’d need to review that season to see how that played out.

That said, as a matter of contemporary storytelling, the horror and realism of TWD would be completely sabotaged by the use of angels or demons or other supernatural creatures. I’m not denigrating that (I write it for crying out loud), but it wouldn’t play in this story. The appeal of TWD is that it tries to adhere to the reality of human nature in telling the story. Ghosts, deities, etc., would take this story into a cheesy, gimmicky realm, undermine the darkness that’s so important.

On the other hand, all of this rests on the existence of Zombies, however scientifically explained, which are a “supernatural intervention.”

In any other regard, I think the writers rightfully employ hallucinations, dreams, nightmares, delusions to manage the story where audiences of prior centuries (or millenia) would have been equally horrified by other-worldly creatures that were taken for granted in those cultures.

  1. The poem begins with the invocation of a muse to inspire the poet–i.e., a prayer to an appropriate supernatural being. The speaker asks that this being provide him the suitable emotion, creativity, or diction to finish the poem. Often the poet states a theme or argument for the entire work–such as “arms and the man.”

I’m working on it. I’m sure somewhere in the last six seasons it’s there. Come back soon.

  1. The narrative starts in medias res, in the middle of the action. Subsequently, the earlier events leading up to the start of the poem will be recounted in the characters’ narratives or in flashbacks.

Rick wakes up in a hospital room (see 28 Days Later), with no knowledge that the world has gone to hell in a handbasket, literally. The narration actually must go back in time in several episodes to explain how Rick landed in the hospital room, how Shane and Lori got to where they are, etc.

Q.E.D. for #9.

  1. The epic contains long catalogs of heroes or important characters, focusing on highborn kings and great warriors rather than peasants and commoners.

This is the trope of our age: that great warriors can come from humble beginnings. It’s a legacy of our Judeo-Christian heritage where, in the Old and New Testaments, great leaders often come from humble or ordinary origins.

This said, Carol and Daryl are more than “great warriors,” with Carol having two prominent episodes where she arms and disguises herself as an enemy combatant.

Michonne’s first appearance is as a mysterious warri0r: face concealed, armed with a sword.

Daryl has his crossbow.

It’s interesting to note that this three warriors typically (not exclusively) restrict themselves to almost primitive weapons, in a call back to traditional epics.

  1. The epic employs extended similes (called epic similes) at appropriate spots of the story, and a traditional scene of extended description in which the hero arms himself.

Working on it. I just came up with this theory an hour ago. This is going to take some research. Fortunately, I got the time. Come on back.

  1. Often, the main protagonist undergoes a terrifying journey–sometimes a descent into the underworld–i.e., into hell or the realm of the dead.

Candidates: S1.2 “Guts:” Glenn and Rick “arm” themselves (see #11) with the guts of a dispatched walker to walk through a herd of walkers in Atlanta, which has fallen and become overrun.

Then again, Rick’s whole universe is “the realm of the dead.”

TWD: T-15 and counting …

*** Graphic Novel Spoiler Alert ***

My writer friend and I were talking about TWD last week, sharing our frustration that the “Is He is or is He ain’t my Zombie” question (viz a vis Glenn) for ninety minutes of Morgan exposition.

For both of us, it seemed a disappointing ratings trick for a show that has generally eschewed that kind of tomfoolery.

Then I started thinking about my previous post … about how the survivors “out there” are possessors of “special knowledge.” After all, if you’re all of a sudden invaded by … well … anything, you want seasoned Navy Seals in your front yard, not the Gardening Club.

Last week’s episode shows us that Morgan, too, has Special Knowledge: he has been to the edge of human understanding, jumped off the cliff, and swum around in the nasty waters of insanity, only to life to come back from it all, pretty much better than before.

He’s lost everything, including himself, turned into a killing animal, only to come back – with instruction and help – a spiritually evolved human being.

That’s it’s own kind of Badass.

If, as Michonne said late in Season Five, Rick was out there “almost too long,” and we got the idea that he was, Morgan’s history presents the notion that world views are no longer in conflict: civilized restraint of human impulses (which is necessary for a smooth-running society) versus the brutality needed to fight the world’s various adversities, the conflict we’ve seen so far. Morgan presents a third vantage point that mediates the two. Morgan has fought, he defeated all the threats, but he still maintains his humanity. Morgan has successfully mediated these two extremes, even if it is a constant renegotiation of balance.

For Carol, too, this is an important influence to have. Morgan is already “preaching the gospel” to her.

If Glenn is dead, and my friend thinks the outcome has only been withheld so Maggie can say good-bye, then this is going to seriously f*** Rick up. He is going to need someone like Morgan, who will go from protege to mentor to keep Rick spiritually – if not also physically – alive.

Maggie, having now lost her entire family, might experiment with a much-deserved emotional breakdown herself. She earned it.

Showing that Morgan has the experience and wisdom to guide them out of their spiritual apocalypses, just as Rick did the environmental one, allows the reader to believe and hope that he (Morgan) can do it.

That would make sense for the interjection of the Morgan exposition at this point in the story line. It’s my prediction – that the writers are now presenting a third “option” for existence personified by Morgan’s new philosophy.

I hope to G-d Glenn’s not dead. Yeah, Yeah, he dies in the books. So does Carol and a half a dozen others that are still around. Pish Posh. There’s a lot of characters alive in the books (I’ve finished up to Volume 8) that have long since ended their TV-bound existence, too.

I doubt it though.