In the TV series The Walking Dead I found a Biblical allusion that really got me going. In the season finale of season two the context of the Biblical allusion is one of sorrow. Hershel’s farm had just been overrun by zombies, his family had gotten split up, he was alone with Rick and his kid, and all hope seemed to be lost. While talking to Rick in such a way that could be described as depressed, Rick turns to him (Hershel is a devout Christian in the show, by the way) and says, “You’re a man of God. Have some faith.” To which Hershel replies something that takes semantics to the next level, “I can’t profess to understand God’s plan. Christ promised the resurrection of the dead; I just thought he had something a little different in mind.” This Biblical allusion has a tinge of dark humor, sheds some light on the character Hershel, and possibly on society’s perception of those with faith.
The dark humor aspect of this Biblical allusion derives from the dichotomy of the character and the audience. While Hershel is going through the five stages of grief in this scene, the audience is getting a touch of comic relief through a Christian’s view on the situation.
The Biblical allusion is also shedding some light on the character Hershel. Hershel is known throughout the story line up to this point to be a devout Christian man, and before this occurrence Hershel believed that the zombies were alive—just sick. He wouldn’t even kill them. Hershel is shown as a man that trusted in God to deliver all the answers, and that he understood the situation to be in God’s hands. However, with this Biblical allusion we see that Hershel is admitting to have not truly understood the situation. This Biblical allusion is used to show how Hershel has to battle a form of doubt in his faith.
The Biblical allusion also provides some possible insight on society’s (or at least the screenwriters’) view on those with faith. Moreover, you might could go as far as saying that this scene is somewhat of a satirical portrayal of Christians due to the dark humor. One way of looking at this is the show’s portrayal of how the average Christian would react to a zombie apocalypse: how those with faith will rationalize God into any sort of situation. Hershel, being a devout Christian is faced with a circumstance that seems completely and totally out of this world and implausible in a world in which God is ruler. However, Hershel doesn’t jump on the wagon and just accept this occurrence as proof of the Christian God’s nonexistence. Instead Hershel rationalizes that this occurrence must be what God/Christ spoke about when referring to raising the dead. The reason I say this may be satirical is because of the dark humor of the situation. While in an emotional and grieving state Hershel says that the zombies are how God is raising the dead, and by saying this the audience is given a good laugh. In retrospect, it seems to me as if this was said to poke and point at Christians with a jeer saying, “Y’all will do anything to keep God in the picture.” Now, this may just be me over analyzing the script, but I think this idea certainly has some merit.
Moreover, this situation provides the show with the realism that it tries to invoke despite the far-fetched and supernatural theme. This Biblical allusion supplies realism to the show by portraying how a Christian—which is a common type of person in America— might react to the occurrence of a zombie apocalypse. The allusion also provides an example of just how influential the Bible is on the world. Therefore, the Biblical allusion gives credence to the prospect of realism that the show tries to incorporate, and by doing so the Bible reference shows how that the Bible’s influence is far-reaching, even to the point of fitting into a far-fetched situation.
There is also a question to bring up on the point about how influential the Bible is on the world. What is a Biblical allusion doing in the most watched TV show in America 2000 years after its completion, and why is it in this show? The answer lies in the previous paragraph—it provides a sense of realism. The accurate and realistic use of the Biblical allusion provides reason in itself for why it would be used—it is an accurate and realistic view of how many in the world operate today. The Bible reference and Hershel are used to portray real people in the real world just in a supernatural state. By doing this the allusion gives us an example of how the Bible has influenced the world and can be applied to any situation. Furthermore, this provides reason to believe that perhaps the Bible’s influence is never ending and surpasses all other works of literature. Therefore, the question isn’t, “What is a Biblical allusion doing in such a huge show, and why is it in this show?” The real question is, “Why wouldn’t it be in this show?”
The Biblical allusion made by Hershel is one that provides many different layers of cultural analysis. The allusion provides an example of dark humor and by doing so provides an almost satirical view of Christians today. Moreover, the allusion gives us an example of just how expansive the influence of the Bible is, and gives us the perception that the Bible can be applied to almost any situation.