Free to be Bad Part 2: Dear Congress, Love, Zombies

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.

Let’s Go, Smarty-Pants!

I get it.  You are the master of the Information Age.  If you’re like the rest of us, I know you’re spending 8 maybe 10 hours a day glued to some screen or another–the smart phone wrapped around you like a leash or the giant screen tv that awaits you in your man cave, the computer you’re  locked in a staring contest with at your desk all day or the laptop that’s an extension of your very soul.

Like potato chips, you probably don’t even realize just how much you’re consuming, but trust me, we’re eating the whole bag here.

 But its not like you’re zombifying out to marathons of reality tv.  It is the Information Age and there’s a lot to stay up with.  How else can you stay current with a world of news, a host of celebrities competing for air time and the 648 friends that you’re keeping up with on Facebook?  You’d hardly know what to tweet about if you didn’t.
Whether you can remember the Dos prompt or you cut your teeth on an iPod, we all spend more minutes staying up to the minute than ever before.  So you’re savvy.  You’ve binge watched all of the Walking Dead and you could blow through a double jeaopardy round of questions on pop culture.  Sure you’ve seen every Super Bowl ad and seen more than a few bad public relations disasters.  Hardly a week goes by with out one.
And more often than never race and racism are in the mix.
So here comes your coworker/ professor/ boyfriend/ sister-in-law.  They want to know if you saw the latest and what you think.  They’ going to ask you to render an opinion on the most recent brouhaha over race in the media.
They’re going to ask you, ” did you think that was racist?”
Hey, you know what to do.  You live in what they have assured us is a black-president-electing-diversity-loving-open-minded-post-racial America.  So now we all agree on what’s racist and so you know just what to say to not look like an ass.
Except, maybe you’re not sure.  Even though we’ve all been chewing on this media diet for years, rarely have we ever learned how to stop to decode what we’re seeing based on more than a passing opinion.
And even though we want to live in post racial America, maybe we’re not quite there yet, and we could stand to talk some of this stuff out rather than shouting each other down.
This isn’t just water cooler chic.  Media messages about race are all around us, and they affect the way that we think about race, privilege and people in the real world.
But you’ve got smntks.
Here well get into the thorny patch of race in American media and clear a path for you.
Let’s get past the same old he said she said around race in the media and come to some common ways to talk and think about what we see.
So the next time they ask you at the church picnic/ boys night out/ book club if you thought something is racist.
You will have THOUGHT something.
Don’t you look smart?