When it comes to the subject of supernatural phenomena, producers have moved in quite a few different directions.
There are the romantic, sexualized vampires that seem more interested in finding potential mates than sucking blood, which supposedly is their natural instinct.
And there are glamorized witches and wizards from series such as Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Wizards of Waverly Place.
Whatever forms they take, paranormal creatures recently have been portrayed as desirable, alluring or comedic — the film Zombieland made zombies into a joke and Warm Bodies portrayed a zombie as loving and expressing human characteristics (which is much different than the archetypal Dawn of the Dead-type of zombie situation).
However, the much-acclaimed The Walking Dead, which ended its third season on Sunday, is bringing the true, original blood-and-gore of zombies back to reality.
Fortunately for AMC, the show is not all blood, guts and gore. In a seemingly impossible situation, it seems AMC has brought deep meaning into the goriest of the supernatural.
Fans seem to rave about how each episode leaves them longing for more. How can a show called The Walking Dead — a title that conjures images of zombies ripping flesh off of screaming victims — keep viewers on the edge of their sofas? The drama and personal stories amid the zombie apocalypse though, are what make the show worth watching.
In fact, even someone who would never in a million years expect to enjoy a zombie-filled apocalyptic world (and would much prefer harmless romantic comedies) can be swept away by the story line and outrageous arc in The Walking Dead.
What is truly remarkable about this show is that, essentially, it is an outrageous hyperbole of everyday life situations. It brings up common issues such as what we, as humans, do when we are desperate in traumatic situations. Do we look out for ourselves or do we keep our compassion for our loved ones?
It brings up inherently complex issues of loyalty, loss, self-worth and regard for human life while still remaining true to the idea of waking up to a terrifying world taken over by zombies.
Essentially, is The Walking Dead meant to be a metaphor for real life?
Characters, such as the leaders Rick and Shane, are thrown into complex situations in which they must take control of their questionable motivations to try and come up with the “best” solution for the struggling group. The choices are never clear, and the answers are never obvious.
Failure is not an option. For the show’s characters, death occurs often, in tragic ways. Despite the instances of heartbreak that characters face, they move on and continue trekking through the zombie-filled forests.
In the last episode before the season finale, the returning crazy yet beloved character, Merle, finally “mans up” and attempts to help the group — unfortunately, he does not quite change his irrational ways in time to survive.
Guilt also exists. After all, why should a friend die when another friend lives?
Characters point fingers, sleep with their friends’ wives and kill their best friends in Lord of the Flies-esque situations.
This is one of the most profound paranormal television shows currently on air.
The characters deal with tragic loss, heartbreak, and issues of moving on, which are matters all individuals deal with at one point or another, whether the situation is as simple as an elder family member passing on or dealing with a catastrophic event such as 9/11.
In the article from Psychology Today, “The Moral Molasses of the Walking Dead,” Dr. Steven Schlozman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, discusses the psychology behind The Walking Dead.
According to Schlozman, The Walking Dead “keeps the outlandish authentic and real.” In the article, he states that the show uses moral questions as a means of how humans react to terror.
“You can’t watch the show without putting yourself in the characters’ shoes, and that, for my money, is key to good drama,” Schlozman writes.
Moreover, The Walking Dead goes beyond other zombie-centric works where the main point is to watch zombies brutally taken down by heroic champions. Instead, it presents morally complicated choices that make the viewer stop and think about what he or she would do in the situation (no matter how outrageous it is).
Perhaps there is something authentic about the outrageous. Using the hyperbolic situation of a zombie invasion can show humanity’s deep tendencies more than a realistic, nonsupernatural show.
The Walking Dead shows humanity at its lowest — in desperation, searching for a way out of the most traumatic of situations. That alone sheds a new light on television (and specifically, the “dreamy” vampires that do not even drink human blood).
The one issue with The Walking Dead, however, is that sometimes it seems to go on and on, with no way out and no clear imminent ending. After all, it’s not like Superman can fly in and save the day by ridding the world of the “biters.”
Inevitably, it seems there is no way out of “zombieland.” But perhaps there, lies the true metaphor to reality.
As zombies cannot be simply eradicated from the earth, people cannot simply escape from their problems. Instead, they must fight to live good, honorable lives – — and take out as many zombies as they can along the way.
Mollie Berg is a freshman majoring in communication. Her column “Mollie Tunes In” runs Mondays.