On the outset, the central theme of the brilliant AMC drama series The Walking Dead (TWD) is the zombie apocalypse and the characters’ strife for survival. The series does a brilliant job conveying the abject hopelessness of a rotting world where rotting corpses terrorize every living, breathing, being. Over the course of the series the writers were able to interweave more salient threats (other than the zombies) into this cataclysmic world: the tribulations of a nomadic lifestyle, the complex human psyche dealing with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as well as the threat from nature. However, one of the show’s greatest triumphs is the portrayal of humankind’s own journey and the show evolves to reveal that the true threat to our band of characters comes from the undead – the other remaining survivors, aka “those who walk amongst the dead” (hence the title of the show).
It is this wonderful theme of The Walking Dead that I was reminded of when watching The Revenant in theaters many months prior. The Revenant is a cinematic experience replete with wonderful imagery encapsulating the untamed forces of nature. Underneath the exterior of the hardships of winter, therein lies a nuanced struggle between the different band of explorers, mercenaries and the native inhabitants who are combatting each other whilst coping with frigid temperatures. Di Caprio’s character, Glass, is a steadfast survivor who fights all odds of nature to fight his true enemy – the murderous Fitzgerald.
This got me thinking, why is it that humankind is its own worst enemy? Why is it that even in the midst of extreme conditions (a Rockies winter and a zombie apocalypse) that the human species is its greatest threat to one another? According to this article in The Telegraph, humans are prone to rage wars because of a phenomenon that is known as ‘positive illusion’ – we underestimate our opponents, as did Fitzgerald who presumed Glass’ death when abandoning him. But, human resilience is one of the strongest forces of power that we have at our disposal; it is that resilience that allows Glass to fight death, overcome the forces of nature and fulfill his mission of killing Fitzgerald.
Thus, there is much to learn from The Walking Dead and The Revenant. Firstly, like TWD survivors and Glass, we must all strive to not only survive but make the best of our opportunities even in the most desolate of situations (that’s the easy part) and secondly, we should never underestimate the threat from our own kind (that’s the hard part).
Sadia Sarwar is an upcoming author with plenty of opinions and rarefied tastes. Follow her on @sadiamhsarwar.