It’s the Zombie Apocalypse. Everything’s gone all Lord of the Flies only it’s Jack en masse and a billion times worse. Forget an impugned conch, smashed glasses, a piked pig head and a dead boy with spears in his gut. In this world, not only are zombies roaming the countryside chowing down on every person they bump their rotten corpses into but human beings, driven by fear and self-preservation, have equated man with monster and there is no mercy. Everyone’s a savage.
So when a group of hungry, horny paedophile-types accost you, your pals and your kid son, bind your hands and, well, get down to business; making a meal of a man’s jugular is an obvious thing (what else did God give us canines for?). In a world where the dead walk and the living walk faster, Rick Grimes did what he had to, to protect son Carl from certain death-by-psycho. And, in the words of Torrance Shipman (aka Kirsten Dunst); it was “like awesome, like wow, like totally freak me out…right on!” We cheer the carnage and beg for more. What kind of crazy-ass people are we? Which is exactly what The Walking Dead asks.
More than the visceral barbarism of Rick’s onslaught, most shocking is that we, the viewer, root for for the rampage; we revel in the brutality and stick our head all the way in hoping that we can taste a little blood too. There is no euphemism. And yet our very visceral response to a child under fire is mediated by the bonos mores of social convention. When innocence is intimidated and injustice threatens, our reaction is bound by a code of moral conduct; the thing that keeps society from tipping over into complete and utter chaos. We set up meetings, write letters, fill in forms, converse in quiet but really, launching one’s self into the throat of the articulated felon and ripping a giant gaping hole that gushes lifeblood over everything within a five-metre radius is where the mind of every person who has ever bared responsibility for a child and taken it an iota of seriously will go. And then reason takes over and the instinctual yearning for a proverbial knife in the head (or some such violence) is quashed.
Until something triggers the sequestrated unconscionable fathoms of thought that we have banished to the recesses of our mind, shamefully locked away for the sake of sanity. Something like a Zombie Apocalypse and Rick Grimes exacting a beat down. The genius thing about the horror genre is that it enables us to face that which is entirely unpalatable in the normal hum-drum of everyday life. Horror provides a safe zone – oh what diabolical irony! Through metaphor and hyperbole, the genre gives us permission to access the darkness intrinsic to our nature. Deep down, we want to hurt the people who hurt our children; to punish them for making our babies cry. It’s ugly but it’s true. What wouldn’t a parent do to protect a child? It’s an abyss of awesome that will terrify anyone who dares to get in there and confront the fallibility and corruptibility that defines that crazy condition called ‘being human’. The challenge has been set. Who’s in?