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Zombies & Walkers & Zeds, Oh My! Why I Watch AMC’s “The Walking Dead” May 2014

TWD Cover Photo

Let me start off by saying that I am not paid by the Atlanta Movie Tours and I am definitely not paid by AMC. This blog post is an example of the “nerd” in my “DiversityNerd” self. My name is Pi’ilani and I am a big fan of “The Walking Dead”. I don’t obsess (not really) and I don’t read the comics.  But I watch the series for a multitude of reasons. I enjoy the family drama elements. Note that the first reason I listed isn’t because of the horror or gore, which I do find to be delightfully disgusting, it is because the show portrays a story of survival and relationships. When the Zombie Apocalypse happens, the remaining survivors must start over. They find themselves forced to create a new society, with new mores and social norms. That becomes an exciting foundation for a TV drama, ripe with endless possibilities for conflict. Who will make leadership decisions? What will drive those decisions, good intentions or self-preservation at all costs? What parameters will you use to determine who to trust? How will they develop the skills to defend themselves? How do they determine their weapon of choice? Where will they find ammunition for weapons? Food? Clean water? Shelter? Maslow’s basic hierarchy of needs will be tested and not everyone will have the capacity to cope. Do we revert back to prehistoric gender roles and what sort of tension will arise within survival groups because of that? Will surviving humans procreate? How will they innovate to create new technologies or imitate old ones? Will they be able to “reinvent” electricity? And all of these questions come before the survivors are dealing with the impending threat from the undead. The possibilities are endless. And so far, they feed some endless good fun!

One of the other reasons why I started watching the show may not surprise you, if you’ve read my blog postings before. “The Walking Dead” has an Asian American character on the show and the production staff has wonderful ethnic and gender diversity, top to bottom. For example, Gale Ann Hurd serves as an executive producer on the show. Her producer and writer credits in film and TV are quite impressive, take a quick peek at her IMDB page. My interest in a show that has an Asian American lead character may not make any sense to some of you but seeing Asian faces on TV and in movies delights me. Especially when those characters do NOT embody Asian stereotypes. In 2014, the scarcity of ethnic diversity in media has abated. I consumed a lot of TV as a teenager in the 1980s and people of color (not just Asian Americans) did not play lead roles. More often than not, these characters exemplified overinflated stereotypes. Some of that stemmed from the lack of diversity behind the scenes in the writers’ room, director’s chairs or production offices. That is slowly changing and the shifting demographics of the U.S. drives that, as well. Not that long ago, Asian Americans could aspire to load supply trucks on “MASH,” be the dry cleaner speaking in broken English, or stand in the background as hooker wearing bright red lipstick. Those are the images I recall of Asians on TV in the 1980s. In “The Walking Dead”, Steven Yeun plays “Glenn” who is a handsome young Korean-American man who used to deliver pizzas in Atlanta. Not only does he become a badass warrior during the Zombie Apocalypse, he also wins the heart of a beautiful young woman named “Maggie,” a hot little boss with a gun. And by the way, Maggie is not Asian American. Their interrracial relationship doesn’t raise an eyebrow, which is just as it should be.

My interest in the show started during season two. When that season ended, I binged-watched S1 on Netflix and sought out a way to talk to other fans about the show. My iTunes introduction to a variety of different podcasts on the show has literally changed my life. Because of these podcasts, I have met other nerdy fans and podcasters who are now some of my dearest friends. I will name the four podcasts that I listen to, with special emphasis on two. “The Walking Dead’cast” became my refuge during the hiatus between S2 and S3 and you can find them at http://www.walkingdeadcast.com or @jasonandkaren on Twitter. That podcast is hosted by Jason and Karen, two bright and energetic fans who enjoy talking to us and each other about the show. In fact, they are big enough fans that they figured out how to play zombie extras and Jason has had major screen time getting killed as a walker on more than one occasion, much to delight of their listeners. Jason and Karen have become my friends. Honestly, we actually hang out in person, not just virtually. I appreciate how they take care in responding to fan emails and comments on Facebook. Another differentiator of “The Walking Dead’cast” is that they provide an opportunity for fans to chat with each other in real time while J&K record the podcast. Two fellow fans have also become good friends of mine, Gracie Lou and Mr. Blahg. Grace and Mr. Blahg have been a part of the “The Walking Dead’cast” community longer than me, they’ve both guest-hosted episodes and are extremely active in the chat room. Jason and Karen also interview people from both the cast and crew. In fact, if you check out Episode 117, you can hear me and Jason interview writer/producer Angela Kang. That was a treat for me!

iTunes also introduced me to “The Watching Dead” hosted by ARon Hubbard and Jim Jones of Bald Move, whom you can find at http://www.baldmove.com or @baldmove on Twitter. Much to my delight, the Bald Move network encompasses a wide diversity of podcasts. All of the hosts discuss their content with candor and wit, occasionally fueled with beer, wine or whiskey. ARon and Jim personally host a number of podcasts on a variety of television shows such as “Fargo,” “Game of Thrones,” “House of Cards,” “Mad Men,” and “24 Live Another Day”. Their style in covering “The Walking Dead” feels direct and blunt, with no excessive fawning or fanboy-ing. “The Watching Dead” is definitely not a love fest for the show, just two hosts providing a brutally honest and quite humorous account of their opinions. In the spirit of full transparency, I must divulge that “Jim” is the man who I have written about in previous blogs. We met at a Walking Dead convention and much to both of our surprise, felt a connection that can only be described as #nerdlove. However, even if he and I were not in a relationship, I would still recommend baldmove.com. They are THAT good. Side note, Jason and Karen attended the convention to moderate panel discussions and I would not have gone if they, along with Grace and Mr. Blahg, weren’t there, so Mahalo Nui Loa to them all!

In addition, I listened to “The Talking Dead” with Chris and Jason and “Walker Stalkers” with James and Eric. Each podcast delivers content with a different personality so there is something for everyone. In addition, I’ve met all of those hosts and they’re just real people who are fans of the show. Thankfully, all those hours and hours content helped me train for a couple of half marathons and listen to opinions on “The Walking Dead,” a win-win situation for Pi’ilani.

All of this an extremely long preamble to introduce what I intended on writing about, my experience at the Atlanta Movie Tour “Big Zombie Tour, Part 2” in May 2014. Keep an eye out for another blog to cover that, complete with nerdy photos.

One photo from Terminus with “Jim” from BaldMove.com.