Re-writing the social contract: ethical catechism and ‘The Walking Dead’

Dean, Robert (2012) Re-writing the social contract: ethical catechism and ‘The Walking Dead’. Ekphrasis, 7 (2). pp. 87-95.

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The setting, exploration, and adaptation of ethical scenarios are processes which lie at the heart of ethical debate. While they are used by philosophers as a means of illustrating key concepts, the conflicts around which they are positioned are charged with a powerful dramatic currency that has been frequently explored and exploited across all forms of narrative media. When these scenarios are set against a post-apocalyptic backdrop the
usual considerations that inform moral maxims are inevitably and intentionally re-orientated. This paper will focus on the American TV drama series 'The Walking Dead' (2010) which takes place after a zombie apocalypse and follows a small band of ‘survivors’ as they navigate their way across Atlanta in search of sanctuary. The ethical dilemmas that
the group find themselves in inform the narrative of each (and oftentimes consecutive) episodes. Kant’s Categorical and Hypothetical Imperatives, Fletcher’s Situation Ethics,
and Mills’ Utilitarianism are dramatically rendered as the characters attempt to continually reconcile their ethical behaviour with their personal survival and the protection of the group. The program could be described as ‘ethics for the masses’. From this perspective, the show provides an accessible framework through which the audience engages in both internal and orated informal ethical debate as they respond to the different arguments, attitudes, and actions presented. However, while it would seem that the encouragement of such reflection is a positive application of popular entertainment this paper will also consider the way in which the grammar and conventions of television are used to guide the viewer’s ethical conclusions.

Additional Information:Special Issue: Apocalypse in Cinema and Visual Arts
Keywords:zombies, post-apocalyptic narratives, Television, situation ethics, utilitarianism, hulme, The Walking Dead, Robinsonade
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W400 Drama
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P301 Television studies
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V520 Moral Philosophy
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
ID Code:15541
Deposited On:19 Oct 2014 19:48

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