Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Walking Dead - A Double Meaning?

I have had a ritual for the past two years.  Every Sunday night for a month and a half period, I would tune into a channel called AMC to watch a show called The Walking Dead.  This show is about a group of survivors living through a zombie apocalypse and all the trouble that this brings into the world.  It was a big hit for AMC and I have been sure to watch each episode the night it aired.  That is how invested I am in some of the characters.  Before I get into anything here, I should go to the beginning.

The Walking Dead is based upon a monthly comic book of the same name.  The comic began in 2003.  It was written by Robert Kirkman and is still written by Robert Kirkman.  The plot is essentially the same as the television show in a vague sense.  The specifics differ.  Anyway, come 2010, Frank Darabont teamed up with Robert Kirkman to bring the comic book to television and AMC allowed them to make the show.  That is where we are now.  The television show is on the air.

What I really want to focus on, however, is the title of the show and comic.  The Walking Dead.  This title has the basic meaning of the zombies, or as called in the series, walkers.  The walkers are dead humans who then come back to life for a reason that nobody is quite so sure of.  All that is truly known is that the walkers have a craving for flesh.  As our survivors make their way from one location to another, or stay in a location, these walking dead are always a potential threat to their livelihood.  These threats range from the infection caused by any sort of physical trauma to things like infecting a water source.

This is of course how most people perceive the title because, clearly, on a basic level the title does mean that there are dead bodies walking about.  That is the same as any zombie lore that is around.  The dead rise and roam the Earth.  In the slow zombie mythology, the dead walk.  Hence, The Walking Dead.  Simple as that.  But there is another way that the title can be interpreted and this other way seems much more interesting to me.  What if the walking dead are really the survivors themselves?

A person could die at any given time.  You do not know when or how you will die until it happens.  You could be diagnosed with cancer but die being hit by an ambulance on the way out of the hospital.  Nobody knows.  The survivors in The Walking Dead are even worse off.  Not only do they know that they will die, they know that it will likely be sooner than later, and they know it will most likely be in a violent manner.  They are the walking dead.  They roam amongst the walkers trying to find a safe haven but they never can and never will.

Morale is a tough thing to keep within a world where there is little hope.  People become depressed.  Some people even become suicidal. You can see an example of this in the first season finale of The Walking Dead television series.  As the morale of the group lowers, the people do seem much less enthusiastic to their surroundings.  This only goes to further how they can just as easily be perceived as the title characters of The Walking Dead.

There is one final thing that I think can help to back up that the survivors are the actual walking dead of the series.  Most zombie fiction focuses on how people try to survive zombie attacks.  The Walking Dead shows some focus upon that aspect of the outbreak.  The big difference is that The Walking Dead also spends a lot of time delving into the emotional state of the characters, how the characters are forced to change due to the situation, and how the characters deal with each other and the threats that humans bring within a time like this.  The walkers become a plot device.  The relationships between the people are what really matters, and the strain that brings them to the brink of death.  The people are so close to death that they may as well be dead.  They are the walking dead.

It is an interesting thought that the title, The Walking Dead, can be used to describe both the humans and the walkers.  You get to make the choice.  The choice is yours and only yours to make.  I just hope that you will look at both sides of the argument and decide for yourself.  Look deeper into it.  Find some stuff that I did not see.  It is all about what you think.


  1. crawling the net in search of the meaning of David Bowie's new single title, I crash into your review: thanks because I think I had the clue.
    Miriam (from Italy)

  2. YES YES YES. I was just sitting here thinking that as I finished up season 1, and I decided to google search it and found your review. I'm glad I'm not the only person who sees it this way.


  4. More like the "die on the inside more and more" like Rick becoming insane, the Governor, some of the survivors becoming violent and aggresive. Just the aftermath of such an catastrophic event.

  5. Dear god i'm glad i'm not the only one here. I've been putting off watching the show till more episodes were available on Netflix and they finally added season 3 so I started walking.

    But the whole time I was thinking of what they yell in prison. "DEAD MAN WALKING" cuz all the survivors are like prisoners to the disease and i think its the perfect title as it is double entendre.

    1. I believe that Robert Kirkman or one of his underlings (I forget the guy's name) might have written about it in the back of one of the comic issues. Check that out.

  6. lol I meant watching, not walking. Guess Freud was right. (freudian slip)

  7. actually this is specified in the comics with rick giving a speech to the group after getting into a fight with another member of the group.