[Hug] tha police, [hug] [hug] [hug] tha police
by Alex Hern
5. The zombie genre has been a popular home to social allegory and political commentary. What are the politics of The Walking Dead – if, indeed, there are any?
Well, the first thing that struck me is the (slightly self-aware, I guess) version of racial politics Kirkman has in the first issue. Since that is probably the earliest sort of social allegory of zombie stories, it’s good that Kirkman covers it, even if he then moves on to an almost entirely white cast.
Beyond that, I don’t see the politics as allegorical in the way they normally are in zombie films. Here, I get the feeling that the zombies themselves are kind of a generic threat. They don’t really represent “class divides” or “fear of the other” or anything like that, so much as something to get those people in that situation.
Once they’re there… Well, if I’m reading deep into it, I can see the conflict between Rick and Shane as standing in for the conflict between rugged, self-reliant libertarianism, and soft, government loving communitarianism. If that is a meaningful conflict, it’s pretty clear which side we’re supposed to take. Trusting the state doesn’t do a whole lot for you in Kirkman’s world. It gets you herded into Atalanta and killed, or leaves you waiting for help which never comes.
What other politics? Well, casting a cop as the good guy, as well as helping the plot (easy access to guns! Trained in using them!) opens up certain political alleys, but it doesn’t appear Kirkman is going to go down them. There are a lot of people who take a visceral dislike to the police, and I’d imagine that someone like Morgan (a black man in Kentucky from a ‘less safe’ neighbourhood) would be a good way to introduce that issue, but Kirkman doesn’t seem to want to. I’m not sure whether Rick’s cop status will even come up again.
(And that concludes Walking Dead week. I hope you’ve been following me over at Left Foot Forward or on Twitter if you were here for the politics, and promise that more protest stuff and general leftwingery will be back on the site forthwith. Maybe.)