The explosion (and gentrification) of the zombie world into mainstream teevee is fascinating, and makes me think of the ways in which the genre is able to question the boundaries of being human. We root (I think) for Rick and his group to survive, and Year Three (farmer vs. warrior) is the only year that anyone truly questions their decision, based mostly upon the humane presence of Herschel (and his desire to raise his family the right way). The notion seems quaint and old-fashioned, and the show demonstrates just how quaint, as Rick tills his garden while wearing an iPod. As soon as he removes it, the growling of the zombies becomes clear, and the debate seems moot.
The Governor makes sure of that.
It also doesn’t help that Darryl and Michonne are by far the coolest characters.
So, the boundaries of humanity become a combination of inner and outer features – we watch the young ones go crazy in this season, killing each other, and we watch the older ones try to wrestle with their own demons. In this sense, the zombies becomes mere animals, and we don’t need to be horrified by them in ways that we might have been in the earlier incarnations of the genre, as the ultimate transgression of the ultimate boundary.
My guess is that once we find out what Rick and his group do to the cannibals we’ll be even more confused, and middle-class boundaries and codes of conduct will seem even more quaint.
I wonder about my surprise, though – after all, Year One and The Reapers are the Angels are incredibly literary novels, and I’m the original believer that genre fiction can be transcendent and, perhaps, might even qualify as literary…