I’m not the biggest fan of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” these days. And, although everyone has their views, we don’t really like to talk politics on Bloody-Disgusting. We like to keep it to horror. But sometimes something comes along that is so staggeringly dumb it manages to be even more ridiculously stupid than our own two-party shenanigans as of late (no matter which side you’re on). At first glance this is just a guy making a fool of himself, until you realize millions of others have similar arguments about our culture in general. Ironically though, in this case it could be argued that he works for a company whose ultimate mission is the exact thing he’s accusing “The Walking Dead” of doing – brainwashing you.
Dr. Manny Alvarez of FoxNews.com wrote an editorial last week about the dangers of watching the show. First of all, Mr. Alvarez might be even more literal minded than Anchorman‘s Brick Tamland when he says, “This obsession with the undead in television and other media is quite puzzling. The concept of zombies has been around for decades, and their mythology has even been studied by scientists to prove that such an outbreak can never occur. Yet, whether it be in books or film, zombie popularity has only increased…” It seems that this guy – who has a medical degree and therefore should be capable of reasonable logic – can’t even begin to remotely grasp the basic tenets of fiction, let alone metaphor.
Alvarez goes on to describe the popularity of zombies in today’s culture, bemoaning the fact that their ubiquitous presence has even extended to fun-runs and 5K marathons. He then dives back into the voice of a 6 year old trying to prove to his mom that he really is an adult by saying, “give me a break. As a doctor and scientist, I know one thing for sure: When you’re dead, you’re dead.” Of course, six year olds everywhere have the edge on him by having the decency not to include the phrase “as a doctor and a scientist” in their wildly obvious proclamations. As a doctor, he states, ‘our brains should be less focused on imaginary zombie hordes and more focused on harnessing the tools that we need in order to enhance our lives, whether it be music, education, science or the classics.” Does he mean classics like Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”?
Maybe he means classics like George Orwell’s “1984”, but it seems like he wouldn’t want you to read that either. Here’s where it gets interesting (and dangerously stupid) – he doesn’t think we should be reading or watching anything that challenges or provokes us. He believes, “entertainment should help us soothe our brains so that we can ease our minds of some of the stress from our daily lives.” Now, I’m not against the kind of entertainment he’s talking about. I like comfort food on TV as much as anyone else. But to say that EVERYTHING should be like that is actually a fairly dangerous way of thinking. The best “entertainment” is called “art.” Whether it’s a painting, a novel, an opera, a television show, an album, a film or a sculpture – the job of art is to serve the intent of the artist and to enrich the lives of those who consume it. And sometimes that means challenging people. Sometimes it means questioning the status quo and examining the ills of our society. Sometimes it means a more personal revolution, a piece of art can stir something inside you that causes you to change as a person.
In fact, while I do think there is room for “entertainment that soothes our brains,” I almost feel like that stuff should be dessert. Not the main course. Why fill your brain with empty calories? The hilarious (and truly sad) thing about Alvarez’s argument is that he’s actually describing and endorsing the sense of placation that makes “brainwashing” possible. “Don’t worry, don’t think. In fact, let our channel tell you what to think. That’s easier, isn’t it?”
And then Alvarez dives right down the rabbit hole by writing, “with this country heading towards a socialized system of government, in which officials don’t want you to think or focus on what is important for your own personal growth, I’m sure they’re more than happy to let you obsess over something as stupid as zombies.” Whatever your personal or political feelings about the ACA are, you have to admit that this is an incredibly specious line of argument. He’s wrapping his own political opinion – dressed up as some kind of common fact – and engaging in the exact kind of silliness his article set out to decry in the first place. He claims the powers that be are just fine with you watching “The Walking Dead” (or whatever) because you’ll be distracted and they can have their way with you. Meanwhile, the entire purpose of his article is to distract you with an amazingly stupid argument so it can have its way with you and embed its actual message into your consciousness.
He finishes with the
super clever line, “And in turn, you ultimately become the zombie.” Would that be the kind of zombie who watches a 24 hour news network (whether it be Fox or MSNBC) and never questions anything?
Season 4 of “The Walking Dead” continues this evening on AMC at 9pm ET. Mind you, I’m not a doctor like Manny here, but I’m fairly sure you can keep watching it without becoming a zombie yourself. The only thing you’re risking is boring yourself to death.