Warning: this post contains mild spoilers for season three of The Walking Dead.
When I first heard the announcement that The Walking Dead comics were going to be made into a TV show I was thrilled. Zombie movies always end just as the story begins to grapple with how one survives psychologically and physically in such a terrifying environment over the long term and this franchise was created specifically to answer that question. While I’d recently given up on the comics when they crossed the gore line I assumed the TV show would tone down the gross out factor and concentrate on the lives of the (un?)lucky survivors.
Growing up my church taught us to be selective about the types of media we consumed. My youth group leaders warned that some images are tough to get out of your mind. They were thinking of sexually explicit content, of course, but rarely violent video games or movies would be trotted out as examples as well.
As I slowly deconverted from Christianity I started testing all of the things I’d been taught about human nature and the world. Some assumptions turned out to be true, others didn’t.
It came as a surprise to learn that, at least for me, violent, gory content matters. Without giving away spoilers for fans of this show, seeing people tortured and killed every week – even if it’s obviously a situation that could never happen in real life – raises my adrenaline levels and provides fodder for vivid nightmares. Rather than marvelling at the special effects, makeup or stunt work that went into making that scene possible I imagine myself rushing to help the victim and watching them either die or recover slowly over several gruelling months. The ability to jump into what is in this case such a bloody narrative changes the way I interact with the world…and not for the better.
Incidentally I have no problem watching graphic sex scenes on shows but the despair these characters feel after months of ceaseless violence isn’t entertaining to this viewer.
So I will stop watching The Walking Dead this spring. They have a few more episodes to change my mind as I prepaid for the entire season but given the dark places the comic books have gone I don’t think the TV show is going to stray far from that path.