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Is The Walking Dead Genre fiction?

December 3, 2010

The Walking Dead is something of a conundrum.  It is critically acclaimed.  5 stars all around, but there are people all over the blogosphere that are complaining about it.  The primary criticism that I’ve heard is “It got off to a very good start, but…..”  Then they go into “It isn’t as exciting as the premiere anymore” or “It isn’t as gory” or “It isn’t as good” which is pretty subjective, but you know, some of us just need to complain.  This is a difficulty that I foresaw before The Walking Dead even premiered.  This story is not what the early ad campaigns made it out to be.  The Walking Dead is not simply horror, and it is definitely not genre fiction.

Genre fiction (as described by Wikipedia) – “in contemporary fiction an elastic term used to group works sharing similarities of character, theme, and setting—such as mystery, romance, or horror—that have been proven to appeal to particular groups of readers.”  Further, “All fiction is essentially generic but genre fiction is overtly and intentionally so, signaling its generic identity in the clearest possible terms. A horror novel, for example, makes it clear through its cover design, its summary, the comments printed on the cover from other novelists, and so on, that it is a horror novel; and it will be shelved in the appropriate place in bookstores.”

On the surface, The Walking Dead appears to be a genre story.  It contains all the elements that allow it to fit perfectly into a genre fiction classification.

Zombies - CHECK!


Guy wakes up from a coma – CHECK!




Murder! - CHECK!


Trouble from within the group – CHECK!


A strange lab with a strange man inside…. – CHECK!

To lay all that out there, yeah, it seems to be a genre story.   But at the same time it isn’t.  Audiences worldwide thought they were going to get an edge of your seat never-ending horror movie.  What they got was something else.

The premiere wove an exciting patchwork story of discovery.  Rick Grimes wakes up and is forced to re-learn the world and his place in it.  He was, and still is, our eyes through which to explore this world and the depths to which people have descended.  That discovery is over now, and the focus quickly shifted to survival.

Robert Kirkman, the creator of the comic, intentionally provided a large supporting cast, because he wanted to explore “What if” scenarios.  Additionally, he wanted this exploration to be plausible.  The large cast makes is a little more digestible, because he, as the writer, can spread disturbing traumas and experiences amongst the cast.  No single character, except for maybe Evil Dead’s Ash or Shaun of the Dead, could possibly process all the horrors of this series without completely losing their mind.


This is how you do it 28 days later

28 Days later… reinvigorated the Zombie Genre.  The reinterpretation of the genre by Danny Boyle switched the focus from blunt social commentary to slightly subtler social commentary, and he added fast zombies, a fantastic cast, and a thoughtful story.  The Walking Dead is not 28 Days later…  While it does contain all the elements of Boyle’s film, it is something else entirely.  This story will never have a neat ending.  Mankind will not win.  They can’t win.  In fact these people have already lost.

The Road - Post Apocalyptic Character Study or the most disturbing episode ever of "What would you do?"

The Walking Dead is more akin to The Road by Cormac McCarthy.  The Road was a story of survival in a dead world.  A man and his son travel south along derelict highways in search of food and safety.  This film is less apocalyptic horror and more so a drama about the human spirit and an indomitable will to protect those that you love from the horrors of a shattered society.

Similarly, The Walking Dead is a character study in which mankind has been replaced as the dominant species.  This is a slow-moving story.  None of the characters have the answers.  A cure is nowhere in sight.  Nobody is safe.  Time will pass.  New characters will be introduced.  Old characters will be eaten by walkers, perish and become walkers.  Some characters will simply split from the group and go their own way.  Survivors will fall in love, while others will grow to hate.  The survivors will give into his or her basest instincts, and at the same time, others will embrace their humanity.  And yet others will fall to madness.

If allowed by the powers that be at AMC, this show will meander for quite a while, not to bore you, but because it is supposed to and needs to.  Anyone (myself included) that is looking for clues as to why or how this zombie plague happened, so they can write about it on their blog and wow the world with their ability to spot a clue on the back wall in a lab, during a fraction of a second shot, should go watch another show.  This is not Lost, and it never will be.  If it tries to satisfy those curiosities, then it will have failed the source material and us as an audience.

I hope this show runs for many more seasons and we as an audience continue to watch these people survive and adapt to their new dead world, not just because I’m a little macabre and enjoy it, but mainly because I loath reality television.  Thank you AMC for decent programming!

The Season one finale is on this Sunday at 10PM!  Check back this Monday for further zombie talk!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 6, 2010 7:15 am

    I think the genre is Thriller, I haven’t seen it yet…but if it is about zombie, then Thriller it is

  2. December 6, 2010 9:30 pm

    It is a thriller, but it is even more than that still. It crosses over and doesn’t fit into one specific genre, which is what is so great about the comic, and now the show. Thanks for reading Novroz! I need to catch up with your site. You’re writing faster than I can read!

  3. December 6, 2010 10:14 pm

    I really want to see the show but our Local TVstations hardly show US series anymore 😦 . I’ll try finding it later on pirate DVD (original DVD for a TVseries is too expensive for me).

    Hahaha I like a like a lot of things and I want to write them all, sometimes it confuses me which one to write first.

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