Prof. Dr. Jörn Glasenapp (Literatur und Medien)
The American (Post-)Apocalypse in The Walking Dead
Travelling the American Zombiescape: the (Post-)Apocalyptic Mise-en-Scène in AMC’s TV Series The Walking Dead
When the protagonist Rick Grimes awakes to the post-apocalyptic landscape of the United States of America, his first glance goes to the frozen clock on the wall. His gaze already foreshadows that this series will focus on a spatial dimension of development, rather than a temporal one. The Walking Dead is the first on-going serialization of a zombie-narrative and as such defines an endless search for a secure domestic space. This on-going escape is characterised by a constant crossing of the various geographical places of zombie-infected Georgia accompanied by a permanent loss of space. It is therefore not surprising that each of the past seasons centres around at least one main location, which is shaped and used by the characters - alive or undead.
The post-apocalyptic wasteland in The Walking Dead is mostly dominated by zombies, which function as part of the scenic environment. By literally devouring the room, the zombie turns once culturally ordered and zoned places into destroyed, open spaces, initiating the nomadic lifestyle of the characters. Movement in The Walking Dead is equivalent to life, while stasis means death.
It is striking that all main places of shelter within the show are clearly distinguished as American. The City of Atlanta, a farm house, a barn, the Hilltop Colony or the highway itself are symbols deeply rooted in the American history and its cultural self-perception. Yet every attempt to build a secure home, even by turning ‘place’ literally into a prison, is destroyed. This constant loss of previously reclaimed space calls into question the once declared ‘righteous power’ of the European settlers over the New World and asks, whether a feeling of homeliness is possible in a world which is devouring its own creators.