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On Bryce’s Mind

By Staff | Apr 15, 2013

This past Sunday my sister, her boyfriend, and I (you’ll notice that the word “we” isn’t being used here) were three of the 12 million plus people who watched the season finale of the AMC series, “The Walking Dead”. I know what you’re thinking, “People actually watch TV on Easter Sunday?” People did actually, as the finale was in competition for ratings with the finale of the History Channel miniseries, “The Bible”, and the season premiere of the HBO series, “Game of Thrones”.

Near the end of the season of “Dead” the second youngest character, a boy named Carl, shoots another survivor in the face, and in cold-blood. He lies to the leader of the group, his own father, by (unconvincingly) saying it was in self-defense. But he’s not the only one. Each and every single one of the survivors is slowly losing their humanity. (Then again, they are the ones who are referred to as “the walking dead” rather than the zombies, because there is only one thing separating them from becoming the shambling undead: death.) Here’s how:

First off, zombies were once people, but they aren’t seen as such in the times in which the survivors live. Not to mention if zombies were people at one point, they would have probably never met the survivors at any point in their lives anyway, but the fact of the matter is that the zombies aren’t seen as human beings. If they were, doubts would start lingering and the main characters would start arguing about ethics and feelings rather than engage in a good, ol’ fashioned zombie slaughter.

Believe it or not, it’s a thing that isn’t limited to “Dead”. In “Star Wars”, Stormtroopers can slaughter the living crap out of small, hood-wearing aliens and alien dudes with swords and moral codes, but can’t even hit some bun-wearing princess, a whiny boy with a sword, and a scoundrel in a vest who will actually still have an acting career after the smoke clears. It’s called dehumanization.

Zombies don’t have any qualities that make them “human”; Herbert C. Kelman, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, Emeritus at Harvard, said in an article called “Violence without Restraint: Reflections on the dehumanization of victims and victimizers”, that two things that make someone human are an “identity” (they’re individuals, distinguishable from others, and still have free-will) and a “community” (they’re part of a group of individuals who care for each other). Nick Haslam, a psychology professor at the University of Melbourne, said in an article for Personality and Social Psychology Review called, “Dehumanization: An integrative review”, that some traits that define and distinguish humans from animals are language, emotion, civility, morality, and higher order recognition. The undead may or may not have hair, and may or may not come in all shapes and sizes, but they look similar. They’re animals, they’re ambling, rotting meat-sacks hellbent on devouring flesh and nothing else, and they could care less if one or more of their fellow undead are mowed down. They don’t speak any languages (except maybe moans and growls), they don’t cry, smile, laugh or get angry, they don’t weigh the pros and cons of going into a place at the risk of life and limb. Because of this, human survivors in “The Walking Dead”, and other zombie movies and video games, can kill zombies with impunity, and not have it weigh anything at all on their consciences.

Second, “kill or be zombie” has become almost second nature to the main characters, like eating, drinking, sleeping and breathing. It’s something the main characters have lived with for almost four seasons (in our time), and an indeterminate amount of time, seeing as how no one’s making clocks or calendars on the show. Every single human character, from oldest to youngest, eventually becomes desensitized to it. Only with Carl, to use that example again, he has gone from child to almost like a child soldier in that he is proficient with a weapon. He sees his core group as human beings, but he may or may not see others that way.

In conclusion, the human survivors in the AMC series “The Walking Dead” are slowly losing their humanity through dehumanization and desensitization, two “D’s” which may one day damn them all. On a side note, for any “Dead” fans, the new season comes out sometime in October.

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