Stories like The Walking Dead are what we need right now

Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) - The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) - The Walking Dead - Season 2, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

The world is a scary place right now, and we need stories like The Walking Dead more than ever to help us process what’s going on.

"“The world we knew is gone, but keeping our humanity? That’s a choice.”"

Fans who have watched The Walking Dead from the beginning have always been drawn to the show’s narrative thread of the survival of humanity as much as they have been drawn to the zombies and fighting.

The show’s evolving cultural definition of what humanity is, and how we treat each other when all the societal institutions and rules that previously defined it have fallen is what people look to for reassurance. They want reassurance that when we are faced with situations that challenge our most deeply ingrained ideals and perceptions of who we are individually and as a culture there will be some innate set of guiding principles that dictate how we should act and who we should be.

That craving for stories, specifically for stories that seem to offer some clues as to how to survive extraordinary events and times, is as old as humanity. Legends, myths, fairy tales, folklore – no matter what form the stories come in we create them over and over to help us process everything around us.

We look to stories to see how to survive, how to process trauma and fear, what makes us human, and why that’s worth fighting for. One of my favorite quotes about the power of stories comes from Neil Gaiman who wrote in Coraline, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

In the world as it is today we’ve never needed that more. There is no playbook for what we’re facing. When we are attacked from outside, it’s easy to unify and rally as one against a tangible enemy. But where there is no enemy, and death is random and pervasive it ignites a primal fear that makes everyone feel untethered.

We are disconnected from each other and from all the institutions and routines that have been the bedrock of our lives. And the recurring themes of survival, connection, and humanity in The Walking Dead are a lifeline for people searching for examples of survival and what’s worth surviving for.

Survival Stories

It makes perfect sense that right now people are desperate for survival stories. Stories of ordinary people forced into extraordinary circumstances that might give us a clue about how to process the world that has changed completely and permanently in just weeks. Throughout ten seasons The Walking Dead has delivered stories of the survival of humanity, not just stories of physical survival, and that’s what people need now.

From Dale fighting for the life of prisoner Randall to Rick sparing Negan’s life after Negan’s many crimes against humanity to the death of Alpha The Walking Dead has never shied away from taking on sweeping stories of good versus evil and right versus wrong. But those aren’t the stories that are going to provide the kind of emotional sustenance that people who are in crisis need right now.

The survival stories that are going to give people the reassurance they need and help them hang onto their hope and humanity are the small moments. The day to day moments where strangers, thrown together in a world turned upside down, choose every day to be a community and to live, and die, for each other:

  • Glenn deciding to help a stranger, who changes Glenn’s life forever.
  • Hershel using valuable supplies and his skills to save Carl.
  • Daryl almost killing himself to search for Sophia.
  • Michonne saving Andrea, and later showing up at the prison with the baby formula.
  • The group allowing Merle into the prison despite his crimes.
  • Sasha and Hershel risking their own lives to help others during flu pandemic in the prison
  • Carol saving Judith, and then saving the group that kicked her out from Terminus.

And on, and on, and on, throughout the seasons.

Over and over through the seasons the survivors acted for the good of the group, not just their own personal good. They were sometimes selfish, sometimes wrong, and sometimes intolerant. But they never wavered in their commitment to the family they were building.

In this time now when people are so isolated it’s comforting to see strangers form communities and sacrifice for each other. It’s reassuring to see that in dire circumstances people will pull together to work for a common good. And it makes the world a little less terrifying to believe that the concepts of love, loyalty, and family don’t have to be casualties of the pandemic.

So if you’re struggling during this chaotic period and you’re having a hard time dealing with the isolation necessary right now go back to season 1. Start rewatching The Walking Dead.  Connect with TWDFamily on Twitter and Instagram. Immerse yourself in a world that might actually be less frightening than the on we’re living in now and remind yourself of these quotes to live by.

  • “We all have jobs to do.”
  • “We survive by pulling together, not apart.”
  • “Everything we’ve done, we’ve done together. We got here together, and we’re still here. Things have happened, but it’s always worked out for us, ’cause it’s always been all of us. That’s how I know. ‘Cause as long as it’s all of us, we can do anything.”
  • “We can make it together. But we can only make it together.”

dark. Next. The Walking Dead season 10 cut short

Stay inside. Wash your hands. Wear a mask if you must go out. Just survive somehow. Follow us on Twitter @SonyaIryna and @Culturess.