Night of the Living Dead to TWD: A Lesson That Society Failed to Learn

As we're coming closer to the end of 2020 (and thank whatever deity you might worship), it seems like the more we rest on our laurels becoming free largely of international conflicts, conveniently burying our heads in the sand to whatever geopolitical situation that might make its ways to these shores, and dealing with first-world issues, we're largely at each other's throats. It's didn't take a pandemic to realize this, but it's certain exacerbating given the people currently in charge. Regardless of who comes out the winner in the election, we're already preparing ourselves for even worse. Ironically, it's films like Night of the Living Dead that provided a commentary about the human condition that George A. Romero wanted to point out in his story. He may have introduced the world to the modern zombie genre, but the real monsters are the humans fighting them off when they should be looking into the mirror.

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Duane Jones as Ben in Night of the Living Dead (1968). Image courtesy of Image Ten

What was that message? When order breaks down and insecurities reign, we'll eat each other. The film is certainly not the first nor will it be the last to pound that message home. Batman's The Joker (Heath Ledger) most strongly in The Dark Knight (2008) does that first hand with its principal characters, most effectively to Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) stripping away all semblance of hope into his cause and replacing it with despair. The common theme in zombie apocalypse franchises is society trying to rebuild itself despite its frail foundation.

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Nico Totorella as Felix, Aliyah Royale as Iris- The Walking Dead: World Beyond _ Season 1, Episode 5 – Photo Credit: Macall Polay/AMC

What can we do about it? Before social media helped enable our most active imaginations to run wild either by watching random cat videos or providing innovative insights to our fandom, people used to be able to actually have active discussions without regrets, banality, or guilt. Now, we're trained like Pavlov's dogs to salivate by invoking the most extreme emotions to rampant suffering and maximize resentment thinking the worst in "others." Is there any coming back from this tribal mindset especially from our echo chambers? Is our breakdown inevitable where we live out the Night of the Living Dead/The Walking Dead fantasy or are there such things as "better angels?" Zombies might not be real, but our hatred for our fellow being certainly is. It won't be long until most of us aren't even bother to wait for them to turn before we behave like the "survivors" in those films/shows without impunity.

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About Tom Chang

I'm a follower of pop culture from gaming, comics, sci-fi, fantasy, film, and TV for over 30 years. I grew up reading magazines like Starlog, Mad, and Fangora. As a professional writer for over 10 years, Star Wars was the first sci-fi franchise I fell in love with. I'm a nerd-of-all-trades.
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