Anti-Exceptionalism in 'the Walking Dead'

Topics: The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, American exceptionalism Pages: 16 (5001 words) Published: February 2, 2013
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Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik
6. Semester
Contemporary American Television Series

Anti-Exceptionalism in "The Walking Dead"

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Table of Contents
I. Introduction .......................................................................................................................................... 3 A. The Myth of American Exceptionalism ............................................................................................. 4 B. Anti-Exceptionalism in "The Walking Dead" .................................................................................... 8 1 Symbols............................................................................................................................................. 8 2 Western ............................................................................................................................................. 9 3 Higher Law ..................................................................................................................................... 10 4 Frontier Thesis ............................................................................................................................... 11 II. Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................ 13 III. Bibliography .................................................................................................................................... 15 IV. Disclaimer ....................................................................................................................................... 16

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I. Introduction

The third season of AMC's "The Walking Dead" is scheduled to premiere in October 2012. An American post-apocalyptic zombie television series which enjoys great popularity not only in the United States. The popularity of this show is reflected in the record-breaking number of viewers as well as the contemporary discourses it triggered. This makes it another milestone in the zombie genre and sets it apart from other zombie narratives in the, meanwhile, long list of books, comic books, movies, computer and console games, and likewise television shows that pick up on the zombie trope, whose popularity seems everincreasing. AMC's "The Walking Dead" is based on Robert Kirkman's graphic novel of the same name. Much like the comic book series, though not in every detail, the television show, which this paper will lay its focus on, follows the journey of Rick Grimes, who wakes up from a coma, and discovers that his world has been completely turned upside down by a zombie apocalypse. Flesh-eating undead walking the streets, looking for the living to feed on is daily fare. Deputy Rick Grimes and his group of survivors must constantly be on the watch in order to stay alive.

Throughout the existence of the zombie trope, regardless of the medium, the zombie has functioned as a variable, multi-faceted metaphor for many of society’s phenomena and anxieties. The synopsis of "The Walking Dead" provides fertile ground for many different kinds of analyses. In one way, which, however, will not be the primary focus of this paper, "The Walking Dead" can be seen as a Western. According to Udo J. Hebel, professor for American studies, movies and television series contribute to the glorification of the West in a variety of ways (cf. 324). In movies such as "Heaven's Gate" (1980), "Dances with Wolves" (1990) or "Brokeback Mountain" (2005) these dominant glorifications of ideals of freedom, masculinity and community are reverted (cf. ibid.). This is exactly what happens in the television series "The Walking Dead". This paper will deal not only with glorifications of the West but also with a widely varied glorification of notions and concepts of American exceptionalism. Or more precisely with 'anti-exceptionalism' as...
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