Are You What You Eat?


November 7, 2011

The old adage purports, “You are what you eat.”  As a child this statement might not have made sense, but in the world of The Walking Dead, it makes more sense than ever.  While Halloween is past, it might seem odd bringing up a television show/graphic novel series based on the current reigning horror creature, the zombie, but the zombie, particularly as portrayed in The Walking Dead seems to be making just this point about what we eat.

The Walking Dead is the brainchild of Robert Kirkman who adds to the corpus of zombie lit.  True zombies, the Caribbean voodoo monster who are reanimated dead humans, might not be exactly what is portrayed, and hence the term “walking” or “living dead ”(living dead is the term coined by George Romero in his classic and seminal film “Night of the Living Dead”) is to be preferred.  These creatures are animated corpses who turn on the nearest living thing.  In the series on AMC, humans are choice food, but the dead will turn on anything, horses, deer, etc.  These walking dead consume anything before them. 

What makes this series more than just a horror flick is that as with most zombie narratives, the zombie apocalypse brings about a remnant of society yet untouched and who struggle for survival.  While the horde of zombies clearly devour anything, the big question for this pocket of humanity is if they can manage to avoid doing the same.  Throughout the series, it is a struggle for the community to survive each other’s prejudices, hatreds, jealousies and more.  It remains to be seen what exactly is more repugnant, the walking dead devouring living human beings or living human beings devouring each other.  In the zombie apocalypse, survivors don’t necessarily get to choose who else has survived.  So when the racist white man has to live and depend on young African-American man with an attitude, the struggle for survival becomes all the more difficult.

Kirkman’s comics and series raises the important question for our culture.  What does our unchecked consumption mean for us as human beings?  Are human beings merely mindless consumers? Is there an ability to survive in a way where we do not simply feast on the lifeblood of others?  Just like in the growing darkness of the zombie apocalypse, where resources seem ever so scarce, is our society simply spiraling down into a place where each turns against the other?  Is there any hope for humanity whatsoever? Or is humanity doomed to be what it eats, itself?