c. SpokaneFAVS 2012
Reprinted with permission
“Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant fighter from Kabzeel...He, went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion,” 1 Chronicles 11:22
I’ve been pondering why I enjoy the AMC series “The Walking Dead” I’ve never been a fan of horror, especially the human munching zombie genre. If you know me, I’m sickened by blood, surgery stories, old people doctor-talk, dirty diapers and even certain words like "episiotomy."
I started re-watching the series on a dare from a friend who had mocked me about my fraidy cat response to the first time I tried to watch the series opener. My first attempt at watching resulted in me quickly turning it off after Rick stumbled upon the crawling woman zombie, the eebie jeebies were just too much for me in a dark home with no one around.
But later in the year, after making it through the first episode I was hooked; but not without a fair bit of personal surprise and moral hesitancy. So as I find myself giddy as a 60’s teenage girl at a Beatle's or Bieber concert every Sunday evening. I’ve had to examine the millions of fans and my own fascination with this gory, frightening apocalyptic drama.
A clue to my edge of the seat fixation came to me when I read Sylvia Plath’s poem: Ennui.
“The gypsy’s palm and yawning she will still predict no perils left to conquer.”
This is a line from Ennui, a word that means: a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom.
Yes, I read that poem and started unraveling my own soul, in light of my double fisted love of TV controller and Xbox controller past times.
I think part of me, the inner archetype man, finds little in this modern, non-military, no hunting, work and family, often suburban dwelling, 5 o’clock news perpetually doomed culture, stimulating on a truly gut level. I find a measure of deadness in dad and the disoriented sense of place as a male in a culture that values hair gel, lattes, loafers, scarves and codes of conduct over much that used to be needed for mere human survival. Men are not needed as much in this culture — or at least that seems to be the whisper or the shout in much media and public conversation.
There’s a mound of books written on the state of the modern male, there’s a men studies section in every bookstore or college course list. Masculinity is the meandering pleasure of reactionary female academia or chest pounding man movements and mustache twirling, beer guzzling hipster gatherings. As a predominantly beard wearing man since I was fifteen, I find the current man-mandible-mane trend to be reassuring until I see that much of it seems to be just another anti-this or that reaction instead of a genuine love for manhood in this post-papa generation.
Today men are not even needed for raising babies, we are ‘sperm donors’, our priority in the perpetuation of human race is being written or voted out of preeminence as necessary and that feels a tad bit...apocalyptic.
So, I resonate with a show that has a front and center place for a machete wielding man, next to his pregnant wife and pistol packing boy. Almost everything is turned upside down in this TV show’s infected and devolving world but a few things do make sense to many guys, at least subconsciously — men matter.
When I spend hours beating down live opponents in the Halo universe or in the gritty war zones of Call of Duty I find the same issues at play. There is something these genres touch within many men that no amount of socialization and cultural reengineering can pamper, pander or persecute out of their psyches. The money being hauled in by movies, video games, comic books and these type of tv shows is proof that the male nerve, groin, heart, mind and even soul are wired to live at times within these currents of being.
There is just something about ‘jumping into a pit with a lion’ that will never get bred out of a man and I hope to God our culture quits trying.
(Eric Blauer writes for SpokaneFAVS, a sister site in Spokane, Wash.)