Friday, July 18, 2014

Philosophizing The Walking Dead S3E3 Walk With Me And Idealized Post-Racial Sentiments Only Serve To Colorblind Reality

Welcome to our journey into the guts of The Walking Dead. What kind of journey? A philosophical, psychoanalytical and political kind. What I would like to do over the next couple months is dig thought the Walking Dead episode by episode to see what it can teach us. Thank you for following me on this journey. I look forward to reading your comments. Be forewarned: There are spoilers everywhere. Don’t forget to check out my previous article in the Philosophizing TWD series: Philosophizing The Walking Dead S3E2 Sick, Totalitarianism, and Deserving Survivors

Walk with me begins with Andrea and Michonne stumbling through the world with their two pet zombies. Along the way, Andrea developed a hardcore cold and Michonne has been taking care of her. Until suddenly, their chickmance is rudely interrupted by a crashing helicopter. Curious, they go to check out the crash and run across the Governor and company. Andrea and Michonne are quickly discovered, blindfolded and taken hostage. When the blindfolds are taken off they find themselves in the town of Woodbury.

Right from the get go Michonne is not buying into the town of Woodbury or the Governor. Why? The easy answer is that Michonne due to her past, which gets explained in a subsequent episode. She has developed a perpetual paranoia and distrust towards everyone. This distrust works as a social repellent in order to protect her sense of self through emotional distancing. The more difficult answer is a matter of cultural/social/racial/political intuition.
Unlike the viewer, Michonne isn't given the knowledge to separate the Governors doublespeak, so there is a sense in which her skepticism towards the Governor is not warranted. On the other hand, if you look at how power is distributed in the town of Woodbury you find a heavy radicalized distribution of labor. The power analysis here is a flat hierarchy where the Governor is at the top and under him is a set of governmentalities that are under his direct guidance. The govenermentalities take the form of medical, research, military, and so on. It is important to keep in mind all of the Governor’s allotted key leaders are white.

But one asks, does not the post-apocalyptic universe push the survivors into a clear post-racial society? No. There is a set of scenes that back me up on this point; the dropping of explicitly racist Meryl in television show's narrative, T-Dogs worry that the group of survivors will abandon or kill him because he is black, and Hershel's awkward conversation with Glenn about his ethnicity.

The creators of the Walking Dead could have picked any type of character to fill the void they felt needed to be filled by Merle and Daryl. What they picked is a clear commentary on the American soul. It's as if to declare, yes the dirty rotten core of the white American experience is jaded with rampant racism and sexism, but that’s OK because when times get tough and the collective self-interest is at stake the racist can tuck his personal animosities away and become a productive member of the group. The problem here is that while racism is adaptive the full force of the 'ism' is more chronic-ly embedded in the racist's psychology than the show gives credit for. What this looks like is Merle's capacity to turn his racism on and off light a light switch. As if the condition is distinctively and wholly located in the conscious section of his Merle's thinking. This is delusional for a couple reasons. Theorizing racism as if it was a light switch that can instantly undo upwards of 40 years of racist acculturation is unrealistic. Racism isn't just a set of thoughts, they are a set of thoughts that structure one's subjective reality, and filter how one understands the meaning in the world. The point here is not to uncover another set of racist themes, but to analysis the way in which racism is fully functional while seemly absent.

T-Dog declaration in the first season is justifiable because there is a reality of racism that intentionally excludes the other unto death. One of the ideological problems with this scene is that when T-Dog declares his worry to Dale, he does so under the duress of a fever caused by an infected wound. This is a problem because it is the first clear articulation of the potentiality of racism and impact on group belonging in the Walking Dead. The way the scene was presented put the viewer into a situation where the declaration was to be discarded as the wild rantings of a dude in a feverish state. But is there not a brutal truth in the statement that happens on a daily basis in reality, but is only ever alluded to in The Walking Dead? The question begged here is what is the benefit of presenting a fictional world as less racist than the reality is based on? The answer here is twofold. First, developing a post-racialized world avoids the real controversy the subject demands in order to appeal to the broadest audience possible. Second, the Walking Dead (and TV in general) that regurgitate the post-racialized universe has an acculturating factor that trains the viewer consciously and unconsciously in a set of racialized color-blindness.

The odd scene where Hershel awkwardly asks Glenn where his family comes from and he responds by first telling him the state he was born in then following up by saying he himself is another scene where a character (Hershel) radically flips scripts in order to pander to an idealized post-racial universe. Unlike, Merle Hershel shares a set of bonding experiences with Glenn and his daughter, which authenticate the evaporating of the racist perspective he took when the survivors first arrived at the farm. In the scene, Hershel tells Glenn about his Irish ancestor and gives him a watch to ritualize accepting Glenn into his family. This ritual acts as a way to functional de-other Glenn so that Hershel can accept him into his family.

Returning to Michonne's antagonism regarding the Governor and Woodbury, we can see that there is a racist unstated subtext to the Woodbury universe. The unequal distribution of leadership calls our attention to the systemic racism that emulates a pre-apocalyptic social-economic system. I can see how coming from Michonne's preservative looking out over the distribution of power in Woodbury there is something amiss. Of the characters that they interact with the only ones that are allowed to speak to Andrea and Michonne without supervision, are white people embedded in the Governor's racial hierarchy. So, while Michonne has not articulated her specific grievance, she is a literate and strong black woman who can see with her own eyes.

Check out the next article in this series; Philosophizing The Walking Dead S3E4 Killer With In, Metaphoric Babies, And Lori's Irrational Political Agenda

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