The Walking Dead pt. 2: Why Do We Like Gritty TV So Much?

First let’s get this out of the way. Yeah, this post has been pushed hella out of the way. I won’t sit here and make excuses. Yes, I’m a college senior. Yes, I’m hectic and busy. BUT I made a commitment so I dropped the ball and I’m trying to make it better now, so let’s leave it at that.

So, here we are. Part 2. Of zombies. But it’ll get more widespread and interesting, trust me. There’s more to talking about the dead things. The Walking Dead, as we talked about is more than just groaning flesh eaters. But what else could stem from this TV show that’s got me in a rhetorical tizzy?

Well, the answer stems from another question: why do we love gritty, bloody TV?

Think about it. The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Westworld: a bunch of our most popular shows right now are very gritty and serious and, mind you, full of murder and blood. Why is that?

One way to look at it is the argument that people enjoy those because they are more realistic. After years of soft, censored TV, viewers want to go hard into grittier things. I won’t knock this theory, because I do think that is part of what factors into the popularity of these shows. But I do think there is another important reason.

Before I jump into my theory, I have a preface of sorts to add to help explain the roots of the logic. Last year, I was learning in an agricultural engineering class how popular science studies tend to be shaped by what’s going on in our world. Hence, energy and sustainability are heavily invested in topics right now. Though science seems objective and revered, it also can be subjective by design of what people are worried about or interested in. Though we talked about only science, I don’t think science is the only culprit of this. Art, I believe, is completely the same way.

Though as a culture there is a pull to be hopeful and inclusive in America nowadays, we also are in a violent, turbulent world therefore violent, turbulent shows are becoming a hot topic. Think of it as a personification of a “life is hard so we want hard” kind of mindset.

Now, then you might ask “so what?”. There is nothing inherently wrong reflecting our current world-state, nor in wanting something real. So is there a point to me talking about this other than just “look at how connective and book smart I am?”

Why, yes there is. I swear I am in no way shooting for pretentious know-it-all.

There is a flaw in this violent TV show mindset because there is a chance that we are getting a little too violent and serious; the American culture is literally splitting in two, between “realism” and “optimism”. Between wanting that violent grit and hardness and wanting more hopeful softness. Now, I don’t want to get too political right now, this point is NOT about that. There are even great parts of this grittier TV in that some shows that were normally too delusional and unrealistic shows are getting more human and realistic and awesome; and also some shows are more willing and open to being kinder and sensitive and smart. It is a good thing on some fronts.

But oversaturation or polarization of ANYTHING can taint a culture. Life is just like a healthy diet; you may have a favorite food but it still needs balance and variety. It’s not like we’re only all watching gritty shows, but the main formulas are: Gritty drama, family sitcom, friend group/workplace comedy. No one can live on just steak, carrots, and gravy. And I’m not saying you have to become some TV health nut, watching every kind of show, but being stuck on one thing and never seeing new opportunities is bad.

Yet again, not that these TV shows and growths aren’t good, but we all need new things. Maybe media should try a little more variety, and we should too; and before anyone rebuffs that, some people may make more varied shows, but we need to watch them too. Like I said before in different blog posts, we shouldn’t become placated. We should always expect better, even from media. One sad case currently is the wildly brilliant show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend that few people watch but hangs by a thread only because it’s smart and has won awards. The sharp-witted and clever Galavant fell into similar shoes.

Why not take a chance on wild, new things?

Furthermore, I mean, wild things can work, right? We’ve all fallen in love with new things like iZombie, Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black, or Mr. Robot. They all have their flares for gritty, but also can have great moments of comedy or softness. They worked because they were well-rounded. And though Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are not bad per say, they are supremely serious and sometimes a person just needs a laugh, not the fate of the world and face biters.

All I’m saying is that being complacent with things should never be the same as “the best”. People can like those murder-serious shows, but I also think other shows and trying new things should be given a shot if they’re done well. We shouldn’t just be complacent with these murder serious shows being “the best”. It’s kind of like thinking Oscars movies are the only real movies. They can be super damn good, but also movies not there can also be super damn good. I mean, look at Mad Max: Fury Road. It only forced itself there because it was so damn good, even though it had no chance of winning much because it wasn’t like the other movies there.

Who knows what could happen if we just let new, adventurous, and good things be the best instead of any formula.


Stephanie Marceau



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