"The Walking Dead" and "The Stand"
Set in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse The Walking Dead, is the story of a few human survivors and their struggle to exist in a world populated by flesh eating zombies and other evil survivors. The show is well written, well acted and gory. (it seems like every week they try to kill zombies in a more imaginative fashion than the week before). On it’s surface, the show is quite entertaining. But looking into it a little deeper reveals it is a remarkable story about human interactions in desperate situations. But when I saw the first episode on DVD last spring I thought it reminded me of one of my favorite novels, The Stand by Stephen King. And nothing has happened in the last 2 ½ seasons to sway me from that opinion.
King released this classic horror/fantasy novel, in 1978. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where 99.4% of the population has died of a superflu. Small bands of survivors struggle to fight for their very existence in a world where society has completely broken down.
The Walking Dead is based on a series of grahic novels and mines much of the same territory as The Stand. A virus has killed most of the population and turned it’s victims into zombies. Like The Stand, the survivors are forced to live and survive in a post apocalyptic world. But unlike King’s novel, the survivors are still in danger from the hoards of zombies which inhabit the abandoned towns, farmland and woods.
In The Stand, a band of survivors settle in Boulder, CO and attempt to set up a democratic society in “the Free Zone” while another group of survivors has settled in Las Vegas, NV. They are led by the demonic Randell Flagg. The two settlements live in a state of uneasy cold war for a time until a battle between good and evil is fought. The good people win, but not after paying a terrible price.
The Walking Dead just ended it's third season. One group is holed up in an abandoned prison, while a few miles away another group has sought refuge in the walled off town of Woodbury. They are led by The Governor, a Randall Flagg like character, who is training his people for a showdown with the occupants of the prison. Both sides are so paranoid of each other. Without revealing the ending, I can say that both groups suffer devasting losses, although it is worse for one side.
But what I find really fascinating about both stories is the way that people react when the society that they knew and were so comfortable in has been forever taken away from them. One of the ongoing themes in both stories involves the question: How does one survive in such a difficult world while maintaining humanity?
It is interesting to look at the groups of survivors and how they have come together. Both the Boulder, CO group in The Stand and Rick Grime’s group in The Walking Dead fight to maintain a semblance of humanity, civilization and sanity which exists in stark contrast to the atrocities they must commit to merely survive. And at the core, the 2 groups are very democratic in the most basic way. Although there are no formal governments in both King's novel and the AMC series, the groups next moves and strategies are debated by the entire group (although as the population of the “Free Zone” rises, a rudimentary representative government is formed).
In sharp contrast, both Randall Flagg’s, Las Vegas and the Governor’s Woodbury exist as societies which are ruled with an iron fist by one very tyrannical dictator. All major decisions are made by one person who is willing to sacrifice his “followers” for his own glory. Flagg rules Las Vegas by torture and crucifixion, while the Governor’s rule of Woodbury is more subtle but no less effective. While it is obvious that the climax of The Stand is a battle between “good and evil”, the same can be said about the coming clash between both sides in The Walking Dead.
While the predicaments of the characters in The Stand and The Walking Dead are caused by horrific yet implausible events, history is full of people who have left the society they knew to settle into the unknown. The early settlers of this country left England and elsewhere to form settlements in the wilderness of the New World. They battled the harsh winters and hostile Native Americans. Many did not survive. Later after this country was established, many American’s left the comfortable East Coast to settle in the wilds of the West. More recently, refugee Jews from Europe settled in the Mid East desert between Egypt and Jordan to form Israel.
The idea of a post apocalyptic world where the survivors struggle and fight to make a life for themselves in a world that is devoid of any kind of society or civilization makes for good stories. Add evil and sympathetic characters, throw in plenty of conflict and that makes for the type of novel that we will stay up late to finish or the series that has us counting the days until the next episode.
Facts about The Walking Dead, The Stand and Stephen King
- Before the apocolypse in the The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes was a Sheriff's Deputy in the fictitious King County, GA. The county was named in homage to the great writer.
- In his column in Entertainment Weekly, last December, Stephen King named The Walking Dead as one of the best shows of 2012.
- The Stand was originally viewed by King as a Lord of the Rings type, epic, in an American setting.
- The developer of The Walking Dead was Frank Darabont. He produced the film The Mist based on a Stephen King novella. The film starred several actors who would later appear in The Walking Dead: Laurie Holden,(Andrea) Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale), Melissa McBride (Carol), and Juan Gabriel Pareja (Morales). Daramont also produced The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, both based on stories by King
- While the look of the Zombies can be repulsive, the makeup artists are the best in the industry. Using common items like uncooked oatmeal, jello, liqiud latex and dirt they can make a person look like a rotting zombie