Friday, December 1, 2017

What We Become

The Walking Dead, Volume 10: What We Become
In the first volume of The History of Sexuality, Michel Foucault discusses the Catholic rite of confession as part of a larger societal innovation in the West that manages not the wrongdoing of the lone individual, but rather the maintenance and correction of a "sinful" and errant population. What We Become leans heavily on the notion of confession as a way to forge community and the bonds of "population."

To come to a place of mutual understanding, Rick and Abraham confess their sins to each other. Abraham tells Rick that the men of his previous group raped his wife and daughter; Abraham confesses to Rick that his revenge on the rapists was so extreme and grotesque that his wife and daughter were horrified by what he had done, and eventually parted ways with him. In turn, Rick confesses that he killed Dexter and Martinez at the prison to protect Lori and Carl. Even Carl pipes up to confess that he killed Shane to save his father.

These confessions serve to diffuse the growing tension between Rick and Abraham and ease the corrosive effects that those tensions were having on the rest of the group. Now that they have revealed the parts of themselves they feel ashamed about, they understand something important about each other: if each of them questions their actions, they are capable of striving to do better--and therefore worthy of a place within the "population" of survivors. They have done things that don't sit right with their sense of self, but nothing they confess to renders them unassimilable into the communal order. 

The Walking Dead works by contrast, by providing both positive and negative examples to drive a point home. In this instance, the importance of confession is underlined by a previous scene in which a character does not or cannot confess to her errant ways. Unwilling to speak about her grief at the death of her family, Maggie instead chooses to slip away into the woods and hang herself. She chooses death over confession, and the results are explosive. 

Although Maggie lives, Abraham's belief that it is better to put a bullet in her head now before she returns as a zombie bring him into conflict with Rick; Rick puts a gun to Abraham's head as a threat. Not only does Maggie's refusal to confess her feelings threaten her belief in the group as her larger "family" and her personal connection to Glenn, it spills over into a potentially violent conflict that threatens to tear the "population" apart by pitting the population's leadership against each other.

Previous Installments
Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye
Vol. 2: Miles Behind Us
Vol. 3: Safety Behind Bars
Vol. 4: The Heart's Desire
Vol. 5: The Best Defense
Vol. 6: his Sorrowful Life
Vol. 7: The Calm Before
Vol. 8: Made to Suffer
Vol. 9: Here We Remain

Vol. 10: What We Become