Friday, October 14, 2016

A Pointless and Critical Analysis of The Walking Dead’s World and Why It Makes Little Sense

**Twelve months ago today I wrote a blog based partly around the concept of zombies and why they resonate with the living as proper scary monsters. Rereading that blog today I had a strong urge to do something utterly trivial with the same concept...

I give you the closest I have got to being a real geeky nerd for a long time mixed with the miserable git many of you know and love...

The Walking Dead started as a cult comic book and eventually became a massive TV hit, spawning a companion series and propelling Robert Kirkman, the ‘creator’ of the series into Spielbergian realms of fame and opportunity.
As any die-hard fan of the comic or TV show will tell you, it’s never really been about the zombies (a word that is NEVER used in the series), it’s been about the survivors. TWD is a bleak dystopian drama that shows how low humans will go to survive and has become more of an analogy of how some people believe humanity would perceive a post-apocalyptic world.
The problem is, while I have been a fan of the show since it began, it is hard work and during season 6, which started brilliantly and ended like some many other TV series now, as more of an introduction to what will happen in the next series, I started to think about the three or so years that Rick Grimes and his glum posse of survivors have been lurching around the locality of southern USA and while I’m no expert, I began to pick holes in the entire concept – not of a zombie apocalypse, but of what sensible humans would do in the event of one.
The genius of TWD’s set-up is there has never been any explanation about the plague, nor has there been anyone ‘official’ in it – no government, no radio broadcasts, nothing official. Therefore as a viewer we have no idea what the percentage of survivors is and while the world might be readjusting to it in some cities, in and around Atlanta, Georgia and in Virginia it’s the Wild West with flesh eating Indians and psychotic cowboys.
I mean, if you had half a brain you’d sit down and look at your situation and make some plans, which would be reassessed once you realise that it’s you versus everything. The problem is, while TWD has never been clear about the actual amount of time that has passed since Rick woke up in a hospital room (which itself was suggested to be about two weeks after everything went to Romero-land in a hand basket) and the point at the end of season 6 where one of his team faces certain death at the end of a militarised baseball bat, we have to presume that a minimum of three years has elapsed. Filming schedules means we rarely see a Georgia winter, but we have seen autumn leaves a number of times, so let’s presume Rick, Michonne, Carol, Darryl and all the others have been on the road for three years...

1. Food
TWD is set in and around some of the hottest and most humid areas of the USA. Research tells that almost everything that is organic in origin will begin to rot within a relatively small period of time. During the hotter months the humidity is so high that bread can go mouldy inside 36 hours and, more importantly, dry goods, even well packaged, succumb to the moisture in the air considerably quicker than in more temperate or drier regions. That means when we see a cast member munching a cracker or a biscuit they have found in a glove compartment or ignored in a deserted store, it should be soft, mouldy and inedible.
I have a friend who has lived in that area all his life, I asked him about food longevity and he confirmed things go off quickly. “Packets of chocolate chip cookies have gone stale within two days of opening them, hell, even Hostess Twinkies go off.” 
2. Water
It would be very stupid to drink any water, especially if the series is now three years since the Walker Apocalypse. Stream and river water would highly likely be contaminated, either by a number of pollutants or simply dead bodies. Bottled water, especially in areas where it will be heated, cooled, heated and cooled repeatedly runs the risk of whoever drinking it getting Legionnaire’s Disease. Most health bodies do not recommend drinking bottled water that has had the seal broken or is more than three years passed its sell by date. Water can go off just as easily as milk and therefore the safest things to drink would be alcoholic. Unless you have a way of filtering rain water or want to boil everything.
3. Vegetation/wildlife
Apparently in Georgia and surrounding states nothing grows or overgrows. Admittedly the constraints of budget and where they have to film dictate certain factual inaccuracies, but botanists, scientists and expert gardeners will tell you that inside one year, left unchecked, most vegetation will begin to encroach and take over anything man-made. After three years everywhere should resemble unkempt fields and meadows, roads would be covered, anywhere where vegetation exists in abundance would be overgrown.
Wildlife is portrayed as being eaten by man and walker. There are no deer anywhere; no domestic cats, in fact except for a couple of horses, some wild boar and some dogs, TWD world is almost devoid of any kind of life – no fish, no amphibians, no birds... Some of these are explainable, but generally animals outnumber people by a ridiculous amount and the USA has bears, coyotes, wolves, wildcats, mountain lions... Do I need to continue this list? Sheep can go feral if left away from humans for long enough... Why don't animals succumb to the same virus as humans? How come we haven't got flocks of zombified buffalo or armadillos?
4. Decay
Georgia isn’t a dry state like California is (where FTWD is based) and the point about humidity made regarding food is also prevalent with the general infrastructure and the Walkers. A book a friend has recently read by an undertaker points out that the human body decomposes almost 50% faster in hot and humid environments; it’s one of the reasons that funerals are fast and done quickly in hot countries.
Now, even if the walkers rate of decomposition was much slower by virtue of the virus, within three years the original first year walkers would have rotted from constantly getting wet from rain (as was witnessed early on in the series when they found a dead guy in a well), being frozen and defrosted constantly every winter, any of the elements from thunderstorms to high winds – dead humans would be as liable to erosion as everything else. Bones would become brittle and shatter; teeth would fall out, fingers drop off, clothes would rot – the smell alone would be horrendous, which leads us nicely to...
5. Climate/Environment – these states down south also have winters (as hinted at a couple of times) and sometimes temperatures can drop well below freezing for long periods and snow and ice storms are frequent throughout the winter months. The average lowest temperature during the winter is a reasonably nippy -4c, which would freeze the walkers – they generate no heat because they are dead and are effectively the same ambient temperature as any non-living object. This means they would snap or break if they attempt to move while frozen; could shatter if they fall and generally would be considerably easier to deal with if they were frozen to the road or a tree. Eventually the environment would become a far more dangerous adversary to the Walkers than any band of psycho humans.You have to ask yourself why the survivors haven’t broken into a library, looked up self-sufficiency; tried to find where the nuclear bunkers are, the survivalists, the people who installed generators, solar panels, independent water supplies – such as a well or an unpolluted mountain stream? Why haven’t they moved into the mountains where not only is the water safer, but the distribution of walking dead will be considerably less and much easier to deal with. Plus they have natural defences – high up, good vantage point against not just the dead but the nutters who still live. Why haven’t they given themselves an advantage? Considering the people ‘in charge’ are in charge, no one has come up with a plan to avoid the walkers; no common sense is being applied when you consider it is very clear that the real enemy in the series is now each other rather than the slow and usually easily dispatched dead. 
Obviously, a TV series about a bunch of self-sufficient mountain dwellers, safe in their beds with good solid defences against the rest of the world would probably make very dull TV. Just look at spin-off series Fear and its lifeless characters, dull plots and a post-apocalyptic world full of wankers – the creators of all of this must think the rational people will be the first to succumb to the bite of a zombie (probably due to our general disbelief) and the only people left will be the idiots who are too stupid to end up being bitten by anything. The underlying theme in both TWD series is the stupidity of people, it’s not really about surviving because it’s a TV series not real life.

So ask yourself this – if there was a zombie apocalypse tomorrow, would you make the same decisions as Rick and his mates or would you look for somewhere safe, well-stocked and presumably a place where, in this world, even Bear Grylls would forget about if a zombie was trying to bite his ear off?

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