In Say The Word, we are introduced to the activity that Woodbury uses to blow off steam. The Gladiator-like games pit two residents of the town to fight until incapacitation. The arena is lined circled with a group of zombies chained by their necks to stone blocks. When the fight heats up a stage hand loosens the chains holding the zombies effectively shrinking the combat zone. As the combatants swap blows the crowd cheers on their favorite fighters. The fighters respond in kind by physical displays of ego much like in a World Wresting Entertainment (WWE) match. Using the time where the opponent is knocked to the ground to turn to the crowd to call on them for morale support. The WWE wrestling match and the fights in Woodbury perform the same function. They enlist the masses to celebrate their distraction and alienate audience from the rigged nature of the game.
The spectacle of alienation is a collaborative effort. Audiences invest their leisure time to distraction through their participation and illusion of returned investment. The audience member cheers on the gladiator and misidentifies their participation in raising their fighting intensity. In one sense, this illusion of causality seems to be contradicted by what the audience sees. They see the wrestler acting as if their words had a magical effect on wrestler's performance, compelling him to turn the tides of combat. The consequent and the antecedent appear to be synced. The believability of this faulty logic is made believable by the nature of the event. The nature of entertainment is to get the audience toss of their capacity to think critically in favor of the passive consumption of an entertainment commodity. If the audience were to retain their capacity to think, the magic would be demystified, by knowledge of what is behind the curtain. The staged fight follows a script. The fight’s winners and losers are pre-identified by market researchers whose primary goal is to enlist more viewers into the consumption of a product. The magical moment here when the fan screams and the combatant appear to come under the sway of the voice is pure fabrication.
reification of the residents leisure time.
The reification works by planning an event that is intentionally serves multiple purposes. Like the WWE, the Woodbury fights structurally act on multiple levels. Wrestling and The Walking Dead are both gears in the media apparatus whose mission is to generate profit above all else. As stated above one of the necessary components of the reproduction of profit is the audience’s self-alienation. The media apparatus does not want to think too hard about its product because the viewer’s critical engagement with it is a product has a tendency to lower profit generation.
Upon realizing the event she is viewing, Andrea (not always the best representative of critical thought) immediately voices her disgust about the fights to The Governor. The Governor counters her suggesting that the games are just for fun.
Andrea: What the hell is this?
The Governor: Well… it’s a way to blow off steam
Andrea: Blow off steam?! You go for a jog to blow off steam. This is sick
The Governor: Well look around everyone is having a great time
Andrea: Its barbaric.
The Governor: Its staged. We pull out the biters teeth. It's all for show.
Andrea: that is crazy. This is your reason for keeping walkers around?
The Governor: People need entertainment (TWD S2E5)
Hey Awesome-Face! Check out the next post in this series: Philosophizing The Walking Dead S3E6 Hounded, Zombie Ethics and How Many Walkers Have you Killed?