Ever wonder why the trend in recent, successful TV shows has been to pit small groups against others for survival? The Walking Dead (TWD) and Game of Thrones (GoT) rule in the ratings by combining two important elements: the fantasy and zombie-apocalypse genres are already exciting and cool, but when you add the ingredients for a long-running soap-opera, you exponentially enhance the televisual experience. The reason is they are tapping into our tribalistic impulses.
We humans adapted to live in small groups, 250 at most. We develop a little hunting band/honour group of around 15 folks we trust and favour; notice that small, close-knit gangs or crews are a winning formula for most of our favourite movies too. Killing another group upon sight, raiding camps and looting corpses was the norm; seven hells, even cannibalism was pretty universal for a time. For the tribe, co-operation is key and so anyone within the group doing anything taboo, i.e. defying group expectations, requires us to have a good old gossip and maybe ostracism. Of course, no group would be complete without the painfully familiar, Joan Collinsesque manipulatress we all want kept in check. Furthermore, we have outside threats to be constantly wary of, requiring strong men to patrol the borders.
Despite centuries of the Christian ideal of the universal brotherhood of man, deep down we all know that’s bullshit.
No one really cares anywhere near as much for the rest of the world as they do their family and friends – their honour group. As Samwell Tarly put it, in the latest series of GoT, ‘Well, no, I do, but I don’t really.’ Anyone who claims to care about the starving Africans beyond giving ten quid on Red Nose Day is just virtue signalling; no one’s inviting Syrian refugees into their homes and washing their feet. Now that the weekly voice of the Church has faded beyond a sheepish whisper, we are getting reacquainted with the inner-voice of our biology.
For the past several decades, living in our glorious Western lifestyle, free of strife and scarcity, we have been about as feeble and nihilistic as the isolated, feminist bonobo monkeys. But, now that God is dead and the West faces an entirely alien threat, inside and outside the tribal borders, we can no longer imagine that the whole world is one big family under one Father God. Indeed, the unified Europa and Christendom are crumbling. The creation and success of recent TV shows reveals a longing for the old ways of paterfamilias, decentralised patriarchy.
No show does this better than TWD.
All systems of government have collapsed, the majority of the population have become stumbling zombies and the industrial revolution has been undone. This may sound dreadful but fans actually romanticise the situation. We follow a band of survivors composed of a core of alphas and the more or less replaceable members of their honour group; their leader is Rick Grimes who is a first among equals rather than a despot. His decision is often deferred to but when he gets too big for his boots, his fellow-alphas put him in his place, preserving the libertarian aristocracy of the group. That yearning for strong men who we know and trust to patrol our borders hasn’t evolved away. Are you beginning to see why Americans prefer Putin, even to Trump?
In the battle against ridiculously unrealistic feminist and statist shows, we should continue to vote with our remote, encouraging producers to sell a different message. Otherwise, Firefly died in vain.