Just in time to fill the hole in our life left by the death of Walter White, AMC premieres season 4 of The Walking Dead. If you’ve never seen it, the Walking Dead, based on the graphic novel of the same name, is an action drama set in the zombie-infested near future. Like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead has us riding shotgun next to an antihero navigating a world made of bad choices and worse situations.
Rick, former cop, zombie killer extraordinaire, wears the badge of the classic western sheriff when we first meet him. He takes on the noble task of shepherding a group of people, a newly formed family collected on the road, through an America destroyed by a zombie virus. Where once the hero in the white hat stood, The Walking Dead places a man, fallible and frightened. Rick does his best, and then decides there is no best in a world where right and wrong have been devoured.
What is most fascinating about Rick, Walter, and AMC’s other bad boy Don Draper is that these men are complex and flawed, even as they put a brave face to dealing with a new reality. What is not new is that each of them is all too willing to throw everyone around them under the bus as they search for the new world.
Whether it is Peggy toiling under Don Draper’s tutelage on Mad Men or Glenn running interference for Rick in the Walking Dead, our new anti heroes have fresh faced side kicks. Diversity is blooming across some of televisions great scripted dramas. While it’s great to see new kinds of characters representing the struggles of women and people of color too often absent from the scene, the characters too often end up as chattel, red-shirt wearing secondary character who are ground up to serve in our antiheroes wild plans.
The challenge facing the group in the Walking Dead is the same challenge we face in a world of increasing diversity–how can we all live together and share this fragile planet? The Walking Dead shows us the problems of hammering out new leadership. In order to avoid the pitfalls of the past, leaders have to run on something other than ego and hubris. Leaders need to embrace diversity not just for show but for the valuable ideas and important vision diverse voices can bring to the table.
So some advice for Rick in this season’s Walking Dead? Take some time to listen to the people you are working to lead– their voice matters. Surviving in any crisis takes teamwork, collaborative problem solving and critical thinking. Even in a world of bad choices, people together can make the world a livable place whether that’s a prison surrounded by zombies, or, say…..congress.