XXV edition
8/13 December 2015


Zombie Anatomy

"Horror movies have always been considered a niche genre. Thanks to The Walking Dead, not only have they gotten the stamp of approval from a vast audience, but that intrinsic component of the horror genre - metaphor and social critique, which makes it quintessentially noir - has been thrown into relief at last." Chiara Poli, author of the book C’è un solo leader. Anatomia della serie TV The Walking Dead, offered these remarks as she introduced the conference entitled The Walking Dead, inside the screen and beyond, featuring two other speakers, Luca Rochira (Programming Director Entertainment Channels - Fox Channels) and Mattia Nicoletti (Metro reporter).

"Rick Grimes himself," Poli went on, "is a very noir character, living on the edge of morality and legality; he’s gloomy, ambiguous and unpredictable, and viewers tend to identify with him. The inherent aspect of the zombie apocalypse and the undead themselves little by little fades in importance in TWD, taking a back seat to the content, which could be described as the evolution of the discourse and social critique started by Romero, which mainly revolved around the characters’ loss of identity and a critique of the consumer society. So we find ourselves thrust into a world with no technology, in which mankind is forced to go back to its origins, struggling with its own instincts and called on to make awkward choices. Then, of course, there’s the fear of diversity."

And on this last aspect, extremely relevant in times marked by dire occurrences such as those seen in our own contemporary age, Luca Rochira weighs in as well: "In TWD an axiom gradually comes into focus: ‘If you go it alone, you die.’ The lead characters do whatever they can to recreate a small social group key to their survival, despite the various aberrations in the community that present themelves throughout the series, the latest being the Alexandria Safe-Zone. Many critics have seen that as representing America today, as people conduct their carefree existences in the face of a serious threat beyond the national borders: ISIS, for which the zombies are a metaphor."

Although TWD and other series in the same vein are still being practically ignored by the more mainstream awards like the Emmys, the impact on TV audiences of the undead originally conceived by Robert Kirkman has been enormous. Even in Italy. "In our country," Rochira observes, "we originally aired the show late night, at 10:45 p.m. The audience response was overwhelming, with a much broader viewer base than we expected, not only in terms of age - eenagers, of course, but also many adults - but also in terms of gender, with women viewers aplenty. So we decided to move the show to prime time, at 9 o’clock, which stirred no objections at all to the controversial content of the series."

The secret of TWD’s success, however, does not depend on its social critique or hybrid genres alone (it started out as a comic strip), but also on the fact that "Kirkman, like George R. R. Martin, is a past master at keeping the tension running high, implying that the main characters can die at any moment. This is the cliffhanger of the twenty-first century," Poli concludes.

So save the date: February 15, when Fox will be broadcasting episode 6x09, No Way Out, airing in the U.S. on February 14, 2016, on AMC.