Anarchism and the Walking Dead

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By Joseph Orosco
October 9, 2015
The Annares Project

Fear the Walking Dead just finished its first highly rated season on the AMC cable network. FWD is a spin-off from the wildly successful series The Walking Dead which will soon begin its sixth season. Set in the same zombie apocalypse universe as TWD, FWD takes place in Los Angeles (instead of Georgia and the South) right before the zombie virus infects the masses. Modern zombie stories are usually Lord of the Flies-style tales about the collapse of civilization and the resulting chaos. But something distinguishes FWD; instead of some kind of Hobbesian allegory of might-makes-right, FWD seems to be a story affirming left libertarian-anarchist themes (for now).

In terms of political allegories, zombie apocalypse stories are thought to fall into two categories: 1) an anti capitalist/consumerist fable with a message that rails against the massification of people into mindless horrors, or 2) right libertarian fantasy about rugged individuals fending off hordes of monsters and dealing with the weakness of fellow survivors whose displays of compassion often threaten to bring final destruction for everyone.

TWD often embodies 2). As Jason Lynch from Adweek says, the story line in TWD after six seasons goes something like this: “Rick (Andrew Lincoln) vacillates between feral and commanding; the group meets up with a new, seemingly genial band of survivors but quickly learns that all is not what it seems; a beloved character is shockingly killed off; initially timid characters become hardened by their circumstances; some people splinter off from the group and eventually return. Oh, and something really disgusting happens with a zombie.”

Daniel Drezner studies the impact of zombie apocalypse tales on political discourse and finds that the genre, with its tendency toward misanthropic and authoritarian themes, becomes very popular in times of social-political crisis such as wartime and economic recession. But what is more worrisome is that such themes will reinforce fascist ideas about the need for strong leaders in the face of crisis, a willingness to use violence at all costs, and contempt for compassion, cooperation, and solidarity with those outside of the tribe.

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