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Where’s the Line?

My husband has recently been sucked into the TV show The Walking Dead, thanks to some of his co-workers. I watched bits and pieces of the first two episodes with him and barely contained a gag reflex the entire time. When something too disgusting happened, I hid behind my newly acquired copy of Imager’s Challenge by L. E. Moddesitt, trying to ignore the squelches and snarls and other gross sounds coming from the TV.

This just confirms what I’ve been discovering the last two years—I’m just not a fan of horror books or movies. Technically, I have no problem with zombies in general. I’m not a huge fan of them, but I’ve been known to tolerate a zombie or two (I Am Legend doesn’t disturb me because of the zombies, for example…there are other reasons I dislike it.)

Rather, The Walking Dead put me in mind of an issue I’ve run across in entertainment before. The good thing about it is that it’s provided me with a chance to think and discuss this with Justin.

The issue I see is with what Mike Duran in his blog post “Why Is The Walking Dead So Popular” calls “redemptive killings”.

…Not to mention, the slaughter of these zombies is actually considered… redemptive. The brainless walkers are finally freed from torment. So the gore is tolerable because it’s an act of compassion on the part of the executioners.

Sorry. I take issue with that. Not because I think that freeing someone from Storment is specifically wrong–but I don’t know where some people would draw the line.

A “redemptive” or “mercy” killing is based upon someone other than the sufferer deciding whether or not that person is living life to their fullest potential. In the case of zombies, how does someone who is not a zombie know whether or not the zombie is enjoying their life? (If you think this is a silly point…think about those who participate in real-life zombie walks.)

More to the real point, where does it stop? What if someone decides that the disabled kid down the street isn’t living life to the fullest potential? What if some doctors and lawmakers decide that everyone over eighty, or someone who is mentally disabled, is no longer living life to the fullest potential?

Oh wait, that already happens. It’s called abortion and euthanasia. It’s Roe VS Wade and Terry Schiavo. It’s not common to “mercy kill” those who are judged to have a ‘tormented’ life, but it’s getting there, and that worries me. I know multiple people who are older and who are disabled (my own sister-in-law has Downs Syndrome) and my life is richer by knowing them. If someone had decided that their life was ‘torment’ and that they would be better off dead, it would be horrible.

Now, understand, I realize this is entertainment. I know that I’m probably over-analyzing it. And I’m using TWD as an example because it’s what made me think of it (I know in the show that the “mercy killings” are ways that the living deal with having to defend themselves). I know it’s not meant to be a show full of heroes, but a what-if scenario with ordinary humans. I know I’ve run across mercy-killings before, but my tired, headachey brain is not cooperating on where or when, so I can’t give you any other examples.

So don’t think that I’m knocking TWD specifically here. I know that some people enjoy it. Justin definitely seems to. What makes me have a problem with shows and books similar to TWD is that I don’t trust everyone to be discerning about what they’re absorbing from that entertainment.

The last time I saw my dad, we got into a discussion about my research of Nazi Germany for an alternate-world-steampunk story I want to write. I said something about how I don’t understand how so much evil could go on without some sort of demon possession. My dad allowed that that could be possible, but he also reminded me that people are capable of horrible things all on their own.

If humans are so capable of evil, it bothers me to think that some are mindlessly watching and absorbing entertainment “mercy killings” without employing their brain to filter out and discern what exactly they’re seeing. I worry that some might go right along with lessons and morals they’ve gained from that without a second thought.

Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I worry where that would lead us, and I don’t want there to ever be a possibility of my country going there.

About H. A. Titus

H. A. Titus is usually found with her nose in a book or spinning story-worlds in her head. Her love affair with fantasy began at age twelve, when her dad handed her The Lord of the Rings after listening to it on tape during a family vacation. Her stories have been published in Digital Dragon Magazine, Residential Aliens Magazine, and four anthologies: Alternative Witness; Avenir Eclectia Volume 1; The Tanist's Wife and Other Stories; and Different Dragons Volume II. In December 2013, her short story "Dragon Dance" won Honorable Mention in a Writers of the Future contest. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior with her meteorologist husband and young son, who do their best to ensure she occasionally emerges into the real world. When she's not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, skiing, or hanging out at her online home, hatitus.wordpress.com.

One comment on “Where’s the Line?

  1. The Nazi’s are a great example of the slippery slope–ridding the world of undesirables. Who gets to decide who is undesirable? The answer should be God. He decided what was good when He created the world, and He created us too. Nazi Germany is one example of many, a true dystopian story straight from history.

    I don’t get the whole zombie thing myself, but I know they are really popular right now. Maybe its a metaphor for the condition of people’s hearts – anyone without Christ is ‘walking dead.’ In that case, we need to be intentional about seeing these zombies buried and resurrected in Christ. It puts a whole new perspective on ‘mercy killings’.

    I enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing.

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