Living Vicariously by binging on The Walking Dead during Pandemic
I’ve never even considered watching The Walking Dead.
People have been recommending it to me for years. I am a Sci-fi fan and I don’t mind the apocalyptic themes, but there is something quite unnatural about the dead who don’t feel pain, don’t need to urinate or drink, or sleep…or breathe… but they feast on flesh.
The undead angle never worked for me for this very reason…so I never even tried watching.
The Walking Dead Pandemic
The Covid-19 Pandemic officially hit my country on 16 March. The schools and kindergarten shut down, the shops closed, a curfew was introduced. My work went on full ‘work from home’ mode (side note: we are still not back to our offices!) and our world transformed.
Well, it should have transformed, but it just came to a halt.
It is a common theme in subject literature and tv, the pre-apocalyptic halt when we are all just waiting for things to go back to normal, holding onto what we know.
But being that I read and watched too many stories on the subject, my anxiety must have been heightened.
People started hoarding flour, yeast, and oil. (toilet paper wasn’t the main concern all over the world it seems) People walking around in their masks and gloves.
In the evenings, after our three year old would go to bed, my husband, my son and I would look for something to watch on Netflix. Yes, I know, I had every intention to do some crafting activity with my son, but it just…didn’t work out.
All I wanted to do was crawl under a blanket and let the tv occupy all my senses.
It was almost impossible to find any tv series all three of us could watch together. While my son will watch any sci-fi/fantasy with me, my husband is more of a Blacklist and House of Cards kind of a guy.
Now, I know that The Walking Dead is 16+ and my son is… well, younger. But, honestly, I offer thorough parental guidance and commentary at all times.
So, in my desperation and having watched pretty much everything else on Netflix, I played the first episode of the first season which aired, what a coincidence, in the year my son was born.
My son and I dove straight in, I mean who wouldn’t, the show starts with a sheriff having to off a little zombie girl!
My husband pretended not to be interested, but he kept glancing over at the screen while making a sandwich in the kitchen. By the 8th minute, he had slipped into his armchair and offered a few snarky comments about the show.
But he watched.
That night we watched three episodes in a row.
And we went to bed knowing that we had found our next TV Show.
Now, watching a TV show that you love, while, yes, a tremendous waste of time, is an experience in itself.
The Walking Dead was more than an experience for us.
It was a way of life, a guilty pleasure, somewhere to disappear from an ever more alarming reality. It may not have been meditation, it may not free your senses, but, oh boy, did it occupy them.
The Walking Dead did more than that, it occupied my muscles too because some episodes I had watched literally squatting on my couch.
Or as my husband remarked: “This is not a relaxing show.”
But each day we looked forward to the show. No matter what was happening during the day, no matter the news, no matter the fact that we were stuck in our apartment, no matter the full-time work from home with a three-year-old needing to be entertained…we all knew that come evening, we would be in another world. A little more apocalyptic. With characters making choices we would love to be able to make given that situation.
We made watching the show an experience. An adventure. We’d go about our days. My son doing his school online, me in my bedroom on a conference call, my husband cooking…and we would meet in the kitchen and discuss the show.
What would Rick do next? Is staying on the farm a smart thing or should they move on? Would I be as useless as Lori? (I mean what did she really do except attaching herself to a useful guy for protection)My husband assured me that I would be like Carol and Andrea. I would love to think that I would rise to the occasion. My son wanted to be just like Carl.
Then we would go about our day until the evening.
Daughter to bed.
We’d turn down the lights, we’d make popcorn. And off to another world.
On the weekends we watched it in marathon mode, four, five episodes in a row. Sometimes we would squeeze in an episode on my lunch break. We did have nine seasons to get through after all.
Yes, I did feel guilty, especially as the whole world was seemingly uber-productive.
But I will always remember The Walking Dead during the lockdown.
And here are a few of my takeaways.
It is ok to distract yourself
You don’t have to be in the now all the time. Escapism is ok, living vicariously is fine. When your own reality isn’t great and you can’t change it…well, take someone else’s for a while. That is why art was created after all.
Great characters beat the plot line
Ok, I knew this one of course, but it was reaffirmed by this show. I cared for the characters. Small plot holes didn’t matter. Flesh-eating undead didn’t matter. The fact that nobody thought of sailing off to an island somewhere… None of it mattered. With the character motivation and growth clear and well developed, it could have been a show about anything else (although I admit, it wouldn’t be so interesting for my son as this one was)
Material possessions don’t matter
Ok, I know this one too, of course. They should never matter much.
But in a world of pure survival, they don’t matter at all. They aren’t even mentioned. Except with abandon and with no regrets.
When they arrive in Alexandria, Rick’s group isn’t impressed. While its residents still care about how things look, if they are clean and pretty, Rick’s group sleeps in one room on the floor. Interior design is no longer an issue.
And when you think about it, it really shouldn’t be.
Life’s simple pleasures should be enhanced
And I am not just talking about the pleasures The Walking Dead characters take, which most of the time come down to finding shelter, food and having sex, but also the pleasure of doing just that in the pandemic. Being safe at home with your family and nourishing your body in different ways.
Never give up
I feel like I would be like the person and the scientist guy who decided to die in the self-destruction of the CDC.
But they never got to see the small successes the life was made of.
Of course, they also never got to experience all the death, blood, and brutality.
But this is how we made it as species. If in doubt, read Sapiens.
And one on a more personal note:
I am going to have laser eye surgery.
I would never make it far without my contacts. In fact, none of The Walking Dead survivors wore contacts and only two wore glasses. Fix your eyes if you can and while you still can.
I fear this surgery, but I will brave it out.
I don’t want to be doomed before I even get to discover if I am at least an Andrea.
To sum it up, this is a Facebook post that I wrote after we had finally watched the last episode of the ninth season and the lockdown had partially lifted:
(edited to add in Sep 2020, the Facebook post above was when we thought the would Covid19 business would be over in a few months. How wrong we were!)