Zombies + Political Theory= TV Hit
Sunday nights are usually nothing more than reading and completing POLSCI 101 quizzes and studying for the week’s many challenging academic hurdles. But, at 10PM on Sunday, my new favorite cable TV show, The Walking Dead, airs. The Walking Dead follows select members of society as they persevere and endure a post-Zombie apocalyptic world. Somehow, a massive virus infected the world’s living population, taking down cities, continents, and reigning governments. The virus infected living humans turning them into mindless, zombie walkers. These zombie walkers search for humans as they provide sustenance. Eventually, the walkers are able to devour the military and government might of all global superpowers, rendering all of society a desolate, chaotic, and zombie-infested ghost town. The show focuses on Rick Grimes, a sheriff who emerges from a coma, finding himself thrown in this world completely overrun by zombies. After the coma, Rick searches for his wife and son, believing that they and others had fled to the military stronghold of Atlanta. However, on the streets of Atlanta, he ends up cornered by zombie walkers. Almost about to be consumed by the walkers, a small, civil society formed by survivors hunkering down in the Atlanta warehouses comes to his rescue by distracting the zombies and offering Rick shelter. In turn, he joins the group, offering the survivors weapons and protection and organizing access to government help. It was only after Episode 4 did this mini-series’ storyline start to underscore some of the political philosophy that we have covered in class.
First, Hobbes’ idea of the State of Nature is a key facet of this post-apocalyptic world. Since the zombies have usurped humankind, government disappears and there is a state of license given to the zombies. The zombies now have license to eat people, because there is no functioning government to enforce laws. Locke’s conception of the State of War is also important. The State of War is described by Locke as
“a state of enmity and destruction” where “he that in the state of society would take away the freedom belonging to those of that society or commonwealth.”
Here, we see that the zombie walkers have declared a State of War on all of civilization by preying on the freedom of life granted to Rick and the human survivors. Consequently, The Walking Dead follows this Lockean line of logic when the remaining humans offer Rick shelter and camaraderie in exchange for his leadership and weaponry. This of course, is the formation of a civil society where
“other men join and unite into a community, for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living” and for the “secure enjoyment of their properties.”
Here, we see that the property of life itself is unprotected in a Zombie apocalypse. With general fear of survival, the survivors enter an agreement with Rick to form this civil society and to therefore protect the property of life.
Though a zombie-apocalypse is probably not on the horizon for the world, we should wonder if we too, could use the political philosophy of Hobbes and Locke for our own survival.