I used to go hard for TheWalking Dead. I joined the party in early Season 2 after binge watching all of Season 1 on a rainy weekend. I was obsessed. Not only did I buy Season 1 almost immediately, I demanded everyone I know and love watch it too. It was that good. Sure. It was a show about the zombie apocalypse, but as any true die hard fan will tell you, it was about so much more. The characters were human and complex. They were struggling to maintain some semblance of morality while the whole world plunged off the deep end. Along with the rest of the world, I laughed every time Carl got lost, cried when zombie Sophia wandered out of the barn, secretly rooted for Shane, and suffered PTSD after Hershel lost his leg… and head. Each week was an event. Texts sent. Tweets shared. Merriment abound. Then, a dumpster in Season 6 ruined it all.
Here is my take on how AMC ruined America’s number one cable show (in 5 simple steps):
In another live edition of Hard NOC Life recorded exclusively from the NOC Reading Lounge at CTRL+ALT — the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s pop-up culture lab in the former Pear River Mart location in SoHo — writer Amy Chu stops by to talk about angry Asians, adding diversity to the world of Poison Ivy, and being a woman of color in the comics industry.
This essay contains spoilers for both the television series and the comic book.
I don’t have cable. So I usually have to wait until the day after to watch The Walking Dead. As luck would have it, I’m in a cheap hotel with complementary AMC with my daughter when the episode “Thank You” airs. Six years old, my daughter is in the bath and complains about the sound from my television show — the two things that she fears the most, while awake and in her nightmares, are racists and zombies. Our compromise is that I turn the sound down and the captions on. And then I watch one of my favorite characters in pop culture get deluged in zombie claws, teeth, blood and guts.
Years ago, before the TV show existed, a fellow Asian American comic nerd suggested I check out this series called The Walking Dead. I read through the first trade paperbacks and have kept reading, (admittedly begrudgingly the last couple of years) ever since. I was impressed that there was an Asian American male character, Glenn Rhee, a pizza delivery driver and weed dealer who seemed like a good hearted, normal kid.
When the show rolled around, I wasn’t feeling it at first, but I did like the actor they selected for Glenn, Steve Yeun. Of course, anyone paying attention to the show knows by now that Glenn is a fan favorite regardless of race and that the actor, Steve Yeun, is considered a hottie. Those of us Asian Americans on pop culture watch, of course, also appreciate the added layers: Asian American men are seldom portrayed as likeable, desirable guys in Western pop culture.
After much effort to create a live-action version of Chew — understandably hampered by the story’s routine use of cannibalism as a central plot device — producers have decided to go in a different direction and create an animated feature instead (that is expected to go straight to home release). This, I think, is a good decision: the book has a very specific tone and atypical humour that I think would not translate very well through a live-action script.
The Walking Dead, AMC’s smash-hit zombie apocalypse action-drama, owes much of its success to the general interest in and support for gore-infested violence by American audiences. This season’s premiere raked in 16.1 million viewers, and devoured more 18-49 year old view attention than this season’s N.F.L. games. Thanks to Jenn Reappropriate’s conference commitments, I watched and live-tweeted “Infected!”, last-night’s episode , and my perspective and mild spoilers follow.
Robert Kirkman’s dystopia appealed as a comic because, during most of its run, the narrative focus highlighted human survivors. Rick’s post-traumatic insanity, Sophia’s alternate mental universe, Carl’s sociopathic nihilism, and even Michonne’s clumsy sexuality all fell within what reader would recognize as human responses to the unreasonable events presented by The Walking Dead. One of the most useful moments in the comic happens somewhere in the Prison, when Rick, in a frenzied monologue, explains the nature of the new world no meek can inherit.
In honour of The Walking Dead‘s upcoming season 4 premiere this Sunday on AMC, I am re-posting this post, which originally appeared on Reappropriate in February 2013.
Spoiler alert: I’m going to be talking about the events of Walking Dead up until Season 3, Episode 10. If you haven’t watched yet and don’t want the plot spoiled, don’t read on.
Hours after his reunion with long-lost brother Merle, Daryl has chosen his brother over his new family of survivors. After escaping from Woodbury with a banished Merle, Rick and Glenn are unwilling to bring him back to the prison; Daryl decides to strike out into the woods with his brother rather than abandon him to the wilderness. Blood, after all, is thicker than water, right?
But, it turns out, that after a year on the road with Rick and the gang, Daryl now shares less in common with his brother Merle than he thought.