The only thing that sucked about The Walking Dead this season was the Asian nerd Glenn hooking up with Hershel’s daughter Maggie. That’s reportedly in the comic book though. Otherwise, it was interesting to watch the liberal world collapse and give way to the zero sum world of the zombie apocalypse.
I think the liberal world will collapse one day, not from a zombie apocalypse, but because it is financially unsustainable due to global aging and changing racial demographics. There will be people like Dale who won’t survive The Day The EBT Card Stops Working. Their humanist principles will end up getting them killed.
It is people like Merle and Daryl Dixon who will thrive in the zero sum world of the future. There will have to be leaders like Rick Grimes who are capable of making the tough decisions. It won’t be a liberal democracy. I think that is why The Walking Dead has proven to be so popular...We’re tired of the Dales of America. Men are tired of this world. Women are tired of it too.The Walking Dead captures the zeitgeist perfectly.
When I was in high school, a Visiting Fellow at Yale University who was a graphic artist and author came to talk to my English class. We asked him questions such as, "how do you get a job that sounds so cool and fun?" "What do you read? What is a typical day like?"
Our speaker offered answers that I have long since forgotten. But, he did say one thing that I still remember. The Fellow subscribed to various KKK newsletters and white supremacist publications. I was shocked. Why would a black man be reading this stuff? He answered that you have to know what your enemies are up to and how they see the world. You need to understand their twisted minds so that you can anticipate their next move. In all, people of color and other marginalized groups must understand the political imaginations of those who hate us. To a 12 year old's ears and psyche, that was shocking advice. I value its wisdom to this day.
The season finale of The Walking Dead gave fans of the TV show (and comic) much of what they had been yearning for. There were zombies galore. The Governor is coming. The prison in on the horizon. And Michonne, iconic character that she is, has finally made her first appearance, katana in hand, with two zombies chained and in tow. Of course, T-Dog was still "T-Dog": a cowardly chauffeur for white women who wants to abandon the group, and that never gets to do anything of substance.
For most viewers, there was much to be pleased with in the The Walking Dead's second season finale. However, White Nationalists are decidedly mixed in their appraisal of the show.
The act of interpretation is everything for those of us who are critical students of popular culture. These types of analyses are inherently creative and inventive. The best involve theory building, a deep reading of a text, and a survey of genre (as well as the related literature). The worst types of cultural studies and semiotic work do none of these things: they are no more than intellectual scatology, "informed" opinions that abandon rigor in favor of high-minded intellectual navel gazing and mental masturbation.
Students often ask me, "if this is all an 'interpretation,' how do you separate the 'good' readings from the 'bad' ones? Why is your 'interpretation' more accurate or valid than ours?" My flippant answer is that I have been doing this longer, have read much more than you, and thought more deeply about these topics. My fair and more pedagogically sound answer is that you learn to separate the good from the bad through a survey of examples.
One of the strengths of interpretive/semiotic/textual analysis/discursive approaches to qualitative research in the social sciences and humanities is the breadth of possibility. This is a strength and a weakness. The former is embodied by folks like Hall, Butler, Lacan, Bakhtin, Laclau, Dyer, Lipsitz, Frith, Fiske, hooks, Foucault and others. The latter is exemplified by the fan boy rantings on websites and much of what counts as "cultural criticism" in the popular media.
Moreover, these epic failures in interpretation can also be productive teachable moments. When populist approaches run amok, and meaning is imposed on a text--as opposed to excised, pulled from, or intervened against--we can still learn a great deal about politics, and the ways that various publics and audiences understand popular culture as speaking both "through" and "to" them.
In our discussions of how race does a particular type of "work" in The Walking Dead TV series, many fans, and especially those of color, were troubled by the white-washing of the cast. Michonne had not yet made an appearance. T-Dog is a neutered, subservient, and quite literally muted, black male. Glenn is a model minority. As I wrote here, The Walking Dead television show is very much a drama which focuses on a crisis in white masculine authority. Consequently, black and brown folks are peripheral to its universe.
The White Nationalist and White Supremacist crowd have a different gaze. Our concerns about a lack of diversity and inclusion are their reasons for loving the show. We are happy to see an archetypical badass like Michonne finally introduced; they see this as unfortunate. The White Nationalists see "Jews" and "Zionists" everywhere in The Walking Dead; I am still struggling to make this discovery.
In much the same way that White racists are obsessed with the classic movie Planet of the Apes (what they suggest is a cautionary tale about white oppression), The Walking Dead television show has provided much fodder for their conspiranoid imaginations. It would appear that sometimes oppositional readings of a cultural text can go too far. What follows are some examples of the bastard stepchildren of the postmodern turn as seen on the website Occidental Dissent:
“You should download the comic series. Much better than a Wiki. The Black stud (a staple of the Jewish imagination) was Mr. Articulate, Competent, Brave, Honorable, Eligible Bachelor; he’s just been left out and is nothing at all like T-Dog. Yes, Sophia’s mom is the one who threw herself at the him within five minutes of meeting him (really, it was a very Jewy moment).”