Watching the Dead

“The Walking Dead” have finally shambled into Ferris.

The lack of the cable channel “AMC” has been a long standing complaint among Ferris students living in the residence halls. With two of the highest rated shows on television – the recently ended “Breaking Bad” and the still-undead “The Walking Dead” – both on AMC, Ferris has seemed behind the times not having the channel.

This problem was solved this year when Ferris updated their cable package with 16 new channels. AMC is among them, and probably not so coincidentally, just in time for the premiere of the fourth season of “The Walking Dead,” not to mention the spinoff series that’s in the works.

The season premiere of “The Walking Dead” had a viewing audience of 16.1 million, making it not only the series’ highest-rated episode, but also the highest rated episode of any show ever aired on basic cable. It also scored an 8.3 in the coveted 18-49 age demo. It’s so successful that AMC has a show where people simply talk about the previous episode – “Talking Dead” – and has ordered a companion series.

So naturally, this begs the question, “why is this show so damn popular?”

“The Walking Dead,” based on an ongoing comic book series from writer Robert Kirkman and artist Charlie Adlard, is about a group of humans trying to survive the recent zombie apocalypse. While the television version of “The Walking Dead” does take occasional cues from the original text, it has separated itself to the extent most fans regard the show as its own entity. It has gone on to be far more successful than Kirkman’s series, which is still one of the more successful comics in publication.

The show – which has an unparalleled amount of gore and quasi-cannibalism (zombies are still technically humans) – certainly has an overwhelming number of fans. This is fueled by its over-the-top violence and consistently downbeat tone, which one would think might turn off many viewers.

“I like it because it’s so intense,” said Autumn Ver Strate, a sophomore in the pre-pharmacy program and a self-proclaimed avid fan of “The Walking Dead.” “It has so many interesting twists on what could be a future society, and I feel like we don’t have a lot of shows like it.”

Ver Strate also mentioned she recognizes how over-the-top the show’s violence is, and feels the concept of a zombie invasion is too far-fetched to raise the same ethical issues as something like the “Grand Theft Auto” videogames.

Ferris students enrolled in a pop culture class are learning a more psychological approach to the popularity of zombies. According to “Introduction to Pop Culture” professors Randall Groves and Robert Quist, zombies come in all shapes and sizes and stem from fears held by current society.

When zombie films were just becoming popular back in the late 1960s, zombies reflected society’s fear of foreign invasion from the likes of Russia, Cuba or any of America’s other Cold War enemies.

Nowadays, although themes of fear of foreign invasion may still be apt, plagues of zombies tap more into our fear of medical advancement and whether or not a zombie apocalypse is at all possible. This is why most recent zombie media like “The Walking Dead” or “28 Days Later” explain zombies as the result of chemical testing or communicable diseases.

While the fear aspect is certainly a part of why “The Walking Dead” is so popular, other fans feel the carnage the zombies cause is secondary to watching the human characters interact with one another in this wasteland.

“I enjoy ‘The Walking Dead’ because it not only shows an apocalypse with a ton of zombies, but it also focuses on human relationships and rebuilding society in their current situation,” Caraline Visuri, a senior in the graphic design program said.

Visuri said while the zombies are an interesting part of the show, it’s the way the humans get along (or how they don’t) that is the most intriguing part of “The Walking Dead.” The show, while it may heavily feature zombies, also showcases the interaction between people under stress and speaks on human nature.

With season four just starting, it’s anyone’s guess where the plot of “The Walking Dead” will go or just how high those ratings will climb. “The Walking Dead” airs Sunday nights at 10 on AMC, and now, at Ferris State University.

  • Samuel

    I’m glad The Torch is posting hard hitting news like this informative story.

    • Steve Fox

      Seriously, you choose a Lifestyles section story to write this comment on. And one that’s actually part of Ferris life – dorm life and the TV selection and a channel that provides smart content. Not sure what you’re comparing to, but this is a step up from many campus paper “Lifestyle” section stories.

      • Samuel

        A step up from what? The nonexistent community college papers? It’d be one thing if this was an isolated incident, but ALL of the stories in The Torch are useless fluff.

        Does The Torch send out their advisor for all commenting emergencies, or just the ones where someone disagrees with the publication?

        • Steve Fox

          I happen to believe you were wrong in your sarcastic criticism in this case.

          I would encourage you to take some action. Maybe be part of the solution or help spark some improvement:
          1. Write a letter to the editor that will be published with your name. Be critical of the paper. Be critical of whatever you want. Criticism is always welcomed.
          2. Suggest some story ideas. The Lifestyles section is not hard hitting. It’s not supposed to be. The News section, hopefully, does more hard hitting stuff. And I believe it has of late.

          Yes, I’m the editorial adviser to the paper. I will respond on here occasionally. Especially when I think the comments miss the mark.

          Feel free to contact myself or Editor in Chief Alex Wittman if you have concerns you’d like to express about the paper. Or maybe you’d like to fill out an application to join the staff – to make the paper better.

          • Samuel

            Ah, there’s the schpiel. I was wondering when I’d get the “Write a letter to our ever helpful editor” BS. There’s no point, dude. What’s the E-chief gonna do? Whine at them?

            And since you asked so “nicely,” here’s some ideas for you:

            -Recent books (Malala Yousafzai’s book was released just last month. Didn’t hear much about her.)
            -Culture (Contrary to popular belief, even non-caucasian people have lifestyles!)
            -Hobbies (Talk about new ways to spend time aside from Instagram.)
            -Music

            Those are just the ones I thought up in 5 minutes for your Lifestyles section. I won’t even get started on your Opinions section. That crap is whinier than Tumblr and is working it’s way up to competing with LiveJournal.

            But seriously, if you need to crowdsource your ideas, no wonder you guys keep complaining you aren’t getting funding.

            • Steve Fox

              Samuel,
              First, I wish all Torch readers were as interested in news, the world and campus as you are. If you’d like to contact an editor about writing a guest column, or a letter to the editor, you may be pleasantly surprised – the Torch is not a closed campus club.

              Second, I don’t recall any stories complaining about not getting funding. Especially nothing recently.

              Finally, your first idea is the most helpful, though the Torch really strives for local/campus content – not international news. The Torch really can’t compete with the NY Times or The Guardian, for example. However, I’m sure a reporter could find a local angle to write about this young woman’s fascinating story and what it means to us here in Big Rapids.

              In case you missed them, here are a few recent Lifestyles stories you may find interesting:

              fsutorch.com/2013/10/30/lifestyles/a-weekend-of-irreverence/

              fsutorch.com/2013/10/30/lifestyles/artworks-hosts-international-festival/

              fsutorch.com/2013/10/16/lifestyles/ferris-goes-beyond/

              fsutorch.com/2013/10/16/lifestyles/ferris-friday-night-live/

              fsutorch.com/2013/10/10/lifestyles/getting-the-bulldogs-back-on-air/

              And here are a few recent Opinions columns:
              fsutorch.com/2013/10/30/opinions/civilized-debate/

              fsutorch.com/2013/10/23/opinions/campus-collaboration/

              fsutorch.com/2013/10/23/opinions/government-shutdown-ends/

              fsutorch.com/2013/10/23/opinions/understanding-islam/

            • Steve Fox

              Good ideas. Other than the book, which is a fascinating international story that has been told by many media outlets, I think you will find several Torch examples of Lifestyle stories recently about culture, hobbies and music.

              Please, check out campus newspapers from nearby schools like Grand Valley, CMU and MSU, and let me know. Recently, I’ve read online from their papers about a scholarship for twerking from CMU, a person at MSU dressed in a bigfoot costume selling beef jerky and a club that helps with public speaking by doing comedy at GVSU. Good stuff, but not exactly deep….

              Keep reading. Maybe the Torch will get better and impress you with some of its reporting soon.

              And, again, if you want to write a column or a letter to the editor, go for it. It’s not always as easily as people think. In fact, the Torch editors are very receptive to suggestions, including guest columns (as have been featured recently on some timely political issues).

              • Samuel

                Not exactly deep…? And you are implying that The Torch is? Seriously?

                I must be missing the deep meaning behind these:
                fsutorch.com/2013/10/30/opinions/costume-controversy/
                fsutorch.com/2013/10/16/opinions/life-in-limbo/
                fsutorch.com/2013/09/18/opinions/joy-in-the-mundane/
                Or my personal favorite failure: fsutorch.com/2013/10/16/opinions/powerless-and-pissed/

                I also like that you just implied that The Torch is deeper than Michigan State University…. No. Just no.

                I also don’t understand why you’re telling me that crowdsourcing your article topics is a good thing. What’s the point of having your own staff if you frequently feature things written by others? Do you guys actually DO any story research or do you just cruise Facebook for the hot button topics and check the Student Government page for events?

                • Steve Fox

                  Samuel,
                  Newspapers everywhere – since before you and I were alive – have been asking readers for story ideas. Especially thoughtful community members. I was hoping you fit that category.

                  I’m implying the Torch runs deep content and completely frivolous content every edition. That’s pretty much the standard formula for student newspapers around the country.

                  As for suggesting better/best/worse regarding the Torch and those other universities, those are your words. I was simply sharing the fact that the range of acceptable student newspaper material is all over the map for the Torch, CM Life, State News and the Lanthorn (close proximity examples – i could find far more frivolous story examples if I expand my search). None of them is an outlier in terms of what could be in the paper – as I shared.

                  As for deep stories, we can always pick out examples of good and bad. The Torch can be better – as I said earlier – and I hope it continues to get better. I think that is happening. If it does, you can take credit.

                  Thanks for your time – readers are always valued.

                  • Steve Fox

                    Samuel,
                    Thanks for spurring on my interest in what other student media is doing lately.

                    I check out Western Michigan’s paper, the Herald and found some more fun stuff (not all hard hitting):

                    Opinions topics:
                    - Funny Halloween anecdotes
                    - Top five “not too scary” Halloween movies
                    - A selection of autumnal albums from Mich artists
                    - A Tigers playoff column
                    - A column urging students to go to hockey games

                    News:
                    - Four-foot volleyballs served up in cancer fundraiser
                    - launching pumpkins
                    - New student rec center app
                    - Things to do in Kzoo for the week
                    - WMU week in review

                    A&E:
                    - Masquerade ball
                    - Fall fashion trends
                    - Monster ball event
                    - Band releases new album

                    These are a few. And I’m not condemning the Herald. In fact, a former Torch staff is there who is the author of a few of these – and I think she is very thoughtful. But it’s not exactly deep stuff across the board.

                    Which is the trend/style for student papers around the country, as I said. Thanks for giving me the incentive to look into this more. I’m interested in the right balance in student newspapers, for sure, concerning hard news vs. fluff.

                    • Samuel

                      Fluff is designed to fill up space if someone drops an ad. It shouldn’t be what you start with.

                  • Samuel

                    Look, I don’t know how long you’ve been doing the adviser thing, so I’ll give you a little advice. Pointing to other papers and saying “See? They’re terrible too. Stop giving us crap!” is not the proper response. Your goal is not to be better than that other guy. That’s a crappy worldview to have in general, but I digress. Back to The Torch.

                    The Torch should try improving. I thought that was the whole point of your little publication? Aren’t you the professor of Journalism at FSU? I assumed all those times you cancelled classes for no reason (To be fair, this was a female friend of mine, not me) were to work on other pursuits, like The Torch, but I guess not…

                    This particular publication year has been the worst I’ve ever seen. The layouts are awful, the topics are shallow, and The Torch is as much of a terrible meme on campus as ever. Your staff needs to review the proper APA style and learn the difference between a printed publication and a blog.

                    This response to me is an absurd amount of fluff in and of itself. If you don’t have anything to say, I suggest you just walk away.

                    P.S. – Don’t try and use the “I’m very disappointed in you” argument on me either. I get enough of that from my father, thank you very much.

                    • Steve Fox

                      Samuel,

                      Interesting things to focus on here. I don’t believe I have yet condemned any other papers – only pointed out that student newspapers are full of diverse content that is not always hard hitting (your original concern/complaint).

                      I stand behind my teaching and the work the students do on the Torch. With my name attached to my comments.

                      So far this year, the level of content has been mostly very good in my opinion. We disagree. Please, share your concerns in a letter so more people can benefit and maybe it will get more people engaged – if the readership demands more hard-hitting news it will be the obligation of the Torch to do more.

                    • Samuel

                      Okay, did you read my response at all? I feel like you didn’t. If you aren’t going to read it, please don’t bother replying. This isn’t a contest for who gets the last word. I read your paper before commenting, I feel like you could do me the same courtesy.

                      I get that you want me to write a letter. I’ve had several friends write in and nothing happens. Not even a “Thanks for writing, but we won’t be publishing this” response. I’ll not bother wasting my time. Especially since this is much more public.

                      You should be happy that SOMEONE is commenting. I don’t know why you waste the Disqus widget. This place is usually a ghost town. Except when you post something about Greeks drinking (At least your cartoonist is fantastic. He’s too good for this publication.) or failtastic Atheism hatred. You guys were finally on Reddit for both of those.

                      Honestly, I think the fact that the Torch Adviser/Journalism Professor at FSU is responding directly because he CAN’T STAND that someone thinks their paper is crummy is baffling enough. This is ridiculous! I commented with a sarcastic remark and now I somehow should be giving The Torch ideas and be responded to directly by someone who should really have no involvement at this level? That’s professionalism right there.

                    • Steve Fox

                      Samuel,
                      I have repeatedly let you know above that I appreciate the feedback/comments.

                      I hope you continue.

                      As someone who believes strongly in the power of journalism at many levels, I also believe strongly in engagement and responsiveness. As well as full disclosure and transparency.

                      If letters to the editor have been submitted and not published, I find that surprising and bothersome. Thank you for pointing that out.

                    • Samuel

                      My mistake, I suppose this IS a contest for who gets the last word… Unfortunately for me, I actually have things to do, so I’ll have to pass. Besides, just because someone has the last comment in the thread doesn’t mean they’re right. Really, there are no winners here, and that’s the worst part.

                      This is completely pointless anyway, it’s like arguing with a spambot. I don’t know if commenting is any better than sending a letter…

                      I still think this is highly unprofessional behavior. Just because you’re writing in full sentences doesn’t make it professional.

                    • Guest

                      I’ve read through all of the comments bashing on the Torch, but despite the efforts there weren’t even any constructive criticisms given, just someone that is afraid to be harsh and not put their name with their opinion. All besides Mike Hunt, who only decides to say that the Torch has nothing on CMU’s newspaper. The Torch is run by Ferris’ students who put their time and passion into their work, and deserve to be acknowledged for it. As another student passionate for writing myself, I think that if you’re at least going to post something harsh, have something constructive to be said in order to improve on.

                    • Dusti Manning

                      I’ve read through all of the comments bashing on the Torch, but despite the efforts there weren’t even any constructive criticisms given, just someone that is afraid to be harsh and post their name with their opinion. All besides Mike Hunt, who only decides to say that the Torch has nothing on CMU’s newspaper. The Torch is run by Ferris’ students who put their time and passion into their work, and deserve to be acknowledged for it. As another student passionate for writing myself, I think that if you’re at least going to post something harsh, have something constructive to be said in order to improve on.

              • Mike Hunt

                CMU’s newspaper is so beyond anything that the Torch writes. It actually looks like a newspaper.

                • Samuel

                  As someone who saw their Opinions section this week, I’d have to agree. Do CMU’s polls add up to 100% too?

            • Guest

              One of the most challenging responsibilities for any newspaper
              has always been catering to a mass audience of readers with various demands of
              their information sources. Also, looking at other newspapers for information,
              design ideas and even story ideas is constantly done by even newspapers on the
              professional level and would be a fantastic
              exercise for The Torch. I would consider
              that a great start for any newspaper or journalist looking to expand their
              ideas. I applaud what CMU and The Torch are doing. The Torch has recognized a
              need of its audience, has addressed it to its readers and are working to better
              themselves. Honestly, the best way to
              better the paper would be to invest some personal time in improving it.

        • Steve Fox