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Stewart McGowan's blog

The Walking Dead. A Marxist Reading

Okay, a faux Marxist reading.

I was messing around with some friends on one of my favourite political sites on a slow night. I’d been talking to Year 12 about alternative readings of texts, so when someone suggested that reading The Walking Dead in bizarre ways might be fun, I chimed in. Below, written in facebook speak, is my faux Marxist reading of The Walking Dead.

God, you all sound like the conservative twats who wouldn’t know social policy if it bit them. The zombie apocalypse as portrayed in Walking Dead is a construction designed to cater to right wing thought. Survival of the fittest over social co-operation. Why is Trump so successful? Because of the fiction of the walking dead!

The zombies are constructed as a parody of the left. They represent, for rightards, the fate of those addicted to social welfare and ‘nanny state’ handouts, a shuffling unproductive mass that cruelly pillories working people. The gay abandon with which the Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged-esque protagonists blow the crap out the Zombies is in fact a paen to the anti-Union propaganda of the nutbar libertarian right.

And don’t get me started on the denial of science inherent in the shifting ‘rules’ by which the zombies shuffle. Clearly a product placement from the denialists at Heartland.

Naturally I have only watched occasional episodes but I reckon you’d need to be brain-dead yourself not to see this as propaganda straight from the Tea Party libertarians designed to undermine Obama and all the advances of his Presidency.

If you wish to baffle a Year 12 class, feel free to borrow some of my excessive language. It led to an interesting conversation about the significance of social cohesion in TWD…

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One thought on “The Walking Dead. A Marxist Reading

  1. Greetings Stewart, thank you for your online support of Sarah’s shows. She will be performing in Newcastle later in year and is happy to share her experience from VCA, Sydney Uni Women’s review, Improvisation teams, Musical Theatre, Song/play/story writing etc.

    The Walking Dead I believe is a modern classic and is worthy of reflecting on from a wide range of perspectives. For me its brilliance is balancing the line between individual and social obligations. It’s theatrical quality is that the outcomes are unpredictable, but are predicated on the core values of each character. Each major episode tests this line of obligation and I see a range of responses, and not a more dominant right wing ideology as some U.S. columnists have written. Rick’s partner is his best friend, and long time loyal partner. Yet he sees his salvation in trying to kill Rick and take over the group, including possession of his wife and boy. Carol, in contrast, has spent her life loyal to an abusive husband, yet when he is killed, becomes the ‘mother figure’ of the group. When she is cast out after executing a murderous, deluded child, she has every reason to turn to savage individualism. She stays true to her core values and becomes a key unifying member of the group on her return. On what basis could you call it ‘Marxist, Post Capitalists or even neo Nazi???

    I could write forever on this show but one point is worth noticing. The ‘walkers’ are not all the same as some show recognition of former loved ones, even if they try eventually, to kill them. Your students could also play with the idea that the ‘walking’ trope is of course central to the ‘Journeys’ idea, that is the powerful subtext of this series. Why is it the ‘Walking’ dead? Notice the walkers act as cooperative groups, though their level of awareness is contentious. Has this virus forced all humanity to return to Hunter/gatherer status, as the potential survival of settled communities is highly doubtful. Also, everyone has the virus. Be afraid.

    Hope these quick thoughts are useful. This show deserves all the acclaim it has received. The cultural and literary intertextuality is stunning. All the best to yourself, your crime production and your students. Mark Gaul.

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