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.