A Different Breed: What Separates The Walking Dead from Others in the Zombie Genre

This article is brought to you by Eric from Talking Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead is a spectacular show. It has something for everyone to enjoy and it engages our need to identify with the characters; both of which contribute to why The Walking Dead is so popular. For a more in-depth analysis regarding The Walking

Dead’s popularity, check out Frank’s article “Why is The Walking Dead So Popular?“.

But what separates it from the over abundance of zombie media flooding the market? I’m sure you’ve noticed the increased supply of zed media, from the introduction of Call of Duty Zombies, to the film adaptation of World War Z and everything in-between. So if we can find zombies anywhere we look, what draws us into The Walking Dead week after week, season after season, year after year?

Surprisingly, the answer lies in what makes The Walking Dead so popular — the characters.

I have maintained the idea The Walking Dead is a brand that, despite its title, is all about the human experience in post-apocalyptia. The zombies merely add an element of constant danger and anxiety. Some critics early in the series’ life protested against the minimal zombie presence, particularly through the first half of season two. It’s hard to understand the shift in focus, because most other zombie media overplays the importance of the undead threat. People want to see zombie-on-human violence in any setting remotely similar to a zombie apocalypse, and in large frequencies.

It can’t be denied that the first season maintained a delicate balance between character development and zombie gore; the six episode season felt more like an extended movie. This cinematic experience appealed to me, and most likely many others. But what kept me obsessed with this universe? I certainly have a sick fascination with the undead; I love zed fiction like Resident Evil, Zombieland, and Shaun of the Dead. But what is the magic at work within Robert Kirkman’s dystopia that has me begging for more?

I took to Facebook to ask my extended network of friends their opinion regarding the topic. Here are three of those responses:

The Walking Dead is more about the human condition and response [to a zombie apocalypse], where as most other zombie media is about shock value.

-Joe Locus of Prime Example

I’d say character development first and foremost. [Almost] every other entry in the zompocalypse genre is a one-shot. The Walking Dead benefits from its longevity in a way that allows it to explore the psyche of each character rather than rinsing and

repeating the same archetypes as other entries. The fact that The Walking Dead is able

to muster any sort of character development allows the characters to drive the narrative

rather than the other way around.

-Josh Gold

The thing that hooked me about The Walking Dead was definitely the character driven narrative. Imagining what it’s like to close your eyes and wake up in a world that’s been completely changed was a great way to begin the story. It’s like it grabbed me and forced me to empathize with Rick’s struggle, his fears and his hopes. After he met

Morgan and his son and I got see what Morgan went through, that was it. From that point on, I was completely hooked on The Walking Dead. I knew it was going to be

more than just your average post-apocalyptic zombie tale.

-Angelo the Third

After reading the responses, it’s clear that my original view has merit. The single most important aspect of The Walking Dead is its character development, made possible by its longevity and popularity. As a writer, I’m intrigued by Kirkman and company’s expression of humanity through the development of their characters. As a person, I’m intrigued by the idea of zombie-on-human violence. Kirkman created a living universe where he can experiment with the darkness present in us all to varying degrees, using zombies as the selling point. And that’s translated into not only a successful television series, but also several novels, and an episodic point-click adventure from Telltale Games.

You come for the walkers, but you stay for the walking dead.


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