Monday, March 3, 2014

Thoughts On The Oscars And Why I Love The Walking Dead

Last night the 86th Academy Awards was televised across the country.  I mostly know this because my friends have lit up my Facebook news feed with all sorts of relatively unimportant status updates and links about the big show.

I don't watch the Oscars, largely because I don't really watch movies.  You are much more likely to find me buried deep in the pages of a book, actively and emotionally engaged, than passively entertained and distracted by flashy cinematography and superstar histrionics.  (Not that I don't occasionally enjoy a good movie...it's just that I spend so much time living...and maybe I'm not so easily distracted.)

As a culture, we are easily distracted by the sequins and red carpets and multimillion dollar platinum and diamond necklaces.  We are not paying attention to the things that are actually worth paying attention to. My news feed is chock full of Oscar updates and almost completely void of updates about the impending war in the Ukraine or the violent protests in Venezuela  (Why can so few people even locate the Ukraine or Venezuela on a map?)  My friends are up-in-arms about Leonardo DiCaprio's loss at the Academy Awards, but not about the NSA's domestic surveillance programs or the major coal ash spill in North Carolina.

I heard that when Jared Leto accepted his award for best supporting actor he mentioned the Ukraine and Venezuela in his acceptance speech.
"To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight in places like Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say we are here, and as you struggle to make your dreams happen and live the impossible we are thinking of you tonight."  
WTF?  How horribly egocentric to even think that the people struggling in the Ukraine and Venezuela are glued to their televisions watching the Oscars...or that they care one iota that Hollywood is thinking of them.  Symbolism over substance.  There is no real value in his statement.  In no real way has he helped the citizens of those countries.  But he has symbolically stood with them in a sham of solidarity...whatever good that does.

While there are real and terrible crises going on all over the world...and in our very own back yards...we are busy wasting time on things that make no real difference...i.e. flashing priceless jewelry and fashion valued at more than the gross domestic product of most small sovereign nations, picking the people who are best at pretending to be other people, and listening to those people make trivial acceptance speeches,.  The fact that Ellen DeGeneres's tweeted Oscar selfie is shared by over 2 million people in less than an hour kind of shows us where our priorities lie as a country.  Is it any wonder so much of the world is just plain disgusted with the United States?

Needless to say, I did not watch the Oscars...

Because I was too busy watching The Walking Dead.

AMC's The Walking Dead is the one television show I watch with any regularity...and while it might seem like senseless and passive and even childish entertainment (which it is on many levels), there are many reasons that you will find me cozied down with a bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine on Sunday nights at 9:00 PM.

First, it's family bonding time.  While we exile the youngest two children upstairs (You must be at least 14 to watch The Walking Dead in our household, because of violence and intense adult situations...and because I don't want terrified nightmare afflicted children invading my bed late at night) the rest of us fill the hour with mutual rantings and thrown popcorn and yells of disbelief, "Just look under the bed!" and "Would someone please, PLEASE just eat Beth already!?!"  We pick apart the ridiculousness of the situation and the stupidity and carelessness of the characters that have us coming away a stronger and more bonded family.  (And one with a solid and firm plan in the event of a real zombie apocalypse.  Luck favors the prepared.)

But my fascination with The Walking Dead is more firmly grounded in the metaphor.

Consider for a moment that the "walkers" (or zombies for the non-Walking Dead initiated) represent the average citizen stumbling along unaware, alive but not truly alive, obsessed with a mindless and violent and destructive drive to consume, consume, CONSUME.  And their ever expanding consumption of goods drives them to seek out others and force them into unthinking ruinous consumers, too.  They stumble about devouring everything alive in their paths, paying no attention to the harm they inflict on themselves or their environment, complete slaves to their drive and desire to consume more. A more poignant criticism of consumerism I haven't seen.

And like our Oscars-loving friends they are easily distracted from what they desire (lovely warm flesh...YUM)...by loud noises and raging fires and shiny objects and even dusty gray rocks tossed in the brush.

Is it any wonder we pull for Daryl and Michonne and Rick (although in Rick's case, a little begrudgingly)?  We are them.  We are alive and cognizant in a world full of unthinking, easily distracted, automatons, listlessly stumbling through life with no purpose but to consume things that add nothing of real value to their lives.  We want them to survive (except for maybe whiny Beth).  We want them to thrive and succeed.  We don't want them to fall prey to the walkers.  We want them to maintain their autonomy and freedom of thought.  Because we want the same things for ourselves.  We don't want them to be left with some hollow semblance of life, will-less and mute and rote, because we struggle against those things every day.

So go ahead and keep your Oscars.  I'll just be over here breathing deeply, seeking awareness, focusing on what I think is important...and sharpening my survival skills...both pre and post apocalyptic.

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