‘The Walking Dead’ in relation to biopolitics

Words by Mahira Rehman

The Walking Dead is definitely one of the top shows out in the world that bring about philosophical questions like ‘How do we survive in a world without government? Who is the greatest enemy? If there are no more animals do I have to become vegetarian? (I thought long and hard about that joke) 

The good old Zombie is a fascinating paradoxical creature that is both humane yet inhumane. Perhaps it comes down to the fact that Zombies are just empty vessels of the human body, in other words, the familiar and their rabid hunger for flesh/brains threatens this understanding of the familiar and becomes itself the otherness. Zombies have this ability to draw out the most inner darkest instincts that we tend to have. For those who have watched The Walking Dead, Rick serves a prime example of good-town-cop who wants to save anyone he encounters with, to becoming a scary, no-one-will-stop-me dictator. (#spoilers for those who haven’t watched season 5 – Rick goes cray-cray) https://youtu.be/slRA4E3BJR0

For those of you who are watching the show out of pure entertainment, here’s a little enlightening theory of why you are so drawn to it. Perhaps The Walking Dead handles pretty serious issues regarding the transgression of human nature. (spoiler) Remember when Rick goes out of his way to save Carol’s daughter to then monologuing about how we should “kill them (them being the Wolves who attacked Alexandria), we’ll survive – I’ll show you how… how many do I have to kill to save your lives, but I’m not gonna do that, you’re gonna change.” This notion of becoming emotionally and physically tougher and assuming the role of the warrior alludes to, French Philosopher, Michael Foucault’s theory of ‘biopolitics’ which is defined as:

The notion of self-care… to show how behavioural and health norms become intertwined as part of the individual’s responsibility in society.

There are many complexities that are associated with Biopolitics when pinpointing the theory – but let’s have a look at this definition in relation to the show. It’s obvious that the zombies pose a threat to our bodies, but so do the humans as they fight for resources and land as Rick heavily points out (throughout season 5). With the help of the person in charge (a.k.a Rick) the ‘political’ leader assumes the role in saving people by taking drastic measures for the greater good of humanity. In the world of ‘The Walking Dead’, you must be cold, strategic, and valiant when faced with difficult situations. The show practically merges seemingly two contrasting concepts together: “Kill or be killed”. It becomes a moment of Us vs. Them. Just look at the contrast between the people of Alexandria and Rick’s people when Pete ‘accidentally’ slits Reg’s throat. The people of Alexandria are practically in shock, whereas Rick’s people seem to have no reaction at all due to being completely exposed to the innermost violent and disturbing situations that are beyond imagining.

Though it is worth mentioning how recent seasons have plummeted the show’s ratings, maybe it solely comes down to the repetitive nature the show has undertaken. We no longer get that excitement of the unknown, it has now come down to the same old story of: Community is functioning at its peak – another community wants to take over- battle happens – Rick wins. Are the audience members too overly exposed of understanding the drastic actions humanity will take to survive?



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