You can hardly go anywhere these days without someone asking, “What did you think of the latest episode of ‘The Walking Dead?’”
I hear that all the time from co-workers and friends, who congregate like Monday morning quarterbacks after broadcasts of the show on Sunday nights. They compare notes and make observations about the shocking events that have unfolded each and every week and kept the audience riveted as did the cliffhanger movie serials of old.
For those who might lack access to the show, “The Walking Dead” — based on a popular comic book series — details the aftermath of a virus outbreak in modern-day America which leads to a so-called zombie apocalypse. People who have recently died suddenly come back to life as animated corpses, or “walkers,” hence the show’s title, and roam in groups in search of human flesh to consume.
Anyone who is bitten also becomes a walker, and much of the show’s content deals with a group of people who have banded together and sought refuge from the zombies who are decomposing as time goes on but remain active. As the walkers proliferate and take over Earth, the remaining humans are forced to ward off attacks constantly, by either shooting them in the head with bullets or arrows or bashing in their skulls.
Nowhere is safe — including city streets or even the most-remote areas of the countryside.
This idea is not new, of course, as zombies have long been part of the folklore in places such as Haiti where voodoo is practiced. “The Walking Dead” has its roots in the granddaddy of all zombie movies, “The Night of the Living Dead,” a low-budget, black-and-white horror film that emerged in the late 1960s and remains powerful after all these years.
Since debuting in 2010, “The Walking Dead” television show has captured the interest of Americans as few other TV programs have. Nowadays, with so many choices on cable and satellite systems, it is indeed rare for viewers to be so universally obsessed with a particular series.
But along with its entertainment value, the emergence of “The Walking Dead” has prompted a question among its legions of fans about whether the world is headed toward an actual zombie apocalypse.
In one of the more bizarre discussions, a New York man shot his girlfriend in the back with a rifle Monday after a heated argument over “The Walking Dead,” which led one news organization to refer to the shooter as “The Walking Dumb.”
Yet the question remains about the likelihood of such a crisis.
Personally, I don’t think it’s possible that zombies will ever take over Earth. But what if “The Walking Dead” is an allegory of what’s to come. An allegory is defined as a play, poem or some other creative work in which the apparent meaning of the characters or events is used to symbolize a deeper moral or spiritual message.
Without knowing the intentions of the originators of “The Walking Dead,” I would venture to say that it is a perfect allegory for the type of civilization envisioned by futurists who predict a major catastrophe as the world’s resources are stressed.
As time goes on, not only is this to be accompanied by a shortage of energy supplies such as oil, but also basic necessities such as food and water. Fertile land will become scarcer as Earth grows more barren due to centuries of damaging environmental practices including pollution and overuse.
Wars will be fought over food, water or oil and those few countries lucky enough to have them continually will be forced to fight off attacks from invaders trying to seize those assets, not unlike the scenario of “The Walking Dead.”
In the future, just as zombies scour the countryside seeking human flesh, gangs are expected to roam in search of food and water with the same starved fervor.
Even among those who still practice some semblance of law and order there will be strife, according to futurists, which matches another element of “The Walking Dead.”
While much of the conflict on the show surrounds the dwindling number of humans battling the walkers and overwhelming odds, there are also sub-plots that include different groups of survivors who have established their own strongholds. Paranoia runs rampant among these factions who fear attacks from other “normal” people to capture their guns or supplies.
That is another scenario envisioned by the futurists, who foresee battles over threats that are both real and imagined.
If there is a lesson to be learned from “The Walking Dead,” it’s that mankind is headed for a disaster of one kind or another if some of our habits don’t change.
The only way this can be avoided, I believe, is to treat people, and the planet, better.
Tom Joyce is a staff reporter for The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 719-1924 or email@example.com.