Rick Grimes, Hardcore Conservative?
Over 14 million Americans watch The Walking Dead every week. Almost as many have tuned into the companion series Fear The Walking Dead. The show covers one of the widest demographics of any series on television. Just like America, the show has a diverse mix of characters. The more characters we meet, the more likely we are to stumble upon people of all political and religious stripes. Halfway through the fifth season, socially conservative viewers reacted to the show's first gay couple. African American viewers complained about the number of black characters being killed off. Some women even complained about the show being too misogynistic. With such a large audience, it's impossible to avoid controversy. However, the blatant and hardcore conservative ideals of the show's main protagonist, Rick Grimes, haven't seemed to cause much controversy at all. In fact, most fans of the show have appeared to embrace them.
Although a zombie apocalypse might justify a different kind of approach to everyday life and survival, season five – and the group's arrival at a walled sanctuary – brought Rick's current conservative worldview into focus.
The group's first requirement upon entering Alexandria was to turn in their guns. They were told they could have them back if they ever needed them, but that community members aren't allowed to be armed. They were rules set by Alexandria's female leader, who also happened to be a Congresswoman in her past life. Actress Tovah Feldshuh, who plays Alexandria's leader, attributes her inspiration for the character to Hillary Clinton. These little facts probably do more than enough to sum up the political ideals of her character.
In the episode entitled “Forget”, Rick suggests allowing at least some citizens to carry a gun. Of course, Deanna objects. As the conversation progresses, Rick learns that Alexandria has no lookout posts and nobody on patrol along the community's wall. Shocked by the community's naivety, Rick and Carol hatch a plan to steal their guns back. The next day, they meet outside the walls where Carol gives Rick a gun.
Guns have played an important role in every season of the series, but it's in the fifth season that we get a real taste of how important they really are. The fifth season also helps us fully realize the pivotal role of Rick's conservatism.
Being a Sheriff, Rick has a natural proclivity for law and order. It was philosopher John Locke who said, “Wherever law ends, tyranny begins.” Most American conservatives believe that freedom wouldn't survive without law. If the threats from outside were to find their way in, people wouldn't be able to live peacefully. Conservatives know that freedom requires peace. Keeping your doors locked is the easiest way to keep criminals out of your house. It's a simple and logical concept, unless you're a liberal who believes that all threats can be neutralized with hugs and kisses.
Alexandria is a lot like America. Deanna is a lot like a Democrat. Rick Grimes and his clan are a lot like Republicans. They know the cost of freedom and peace. They've also acquired a realistic and cynical worldview from experiencing the raw, ruthless nature of human beings in a lawless environment.
“Can we talk security? We need a constant patrol along the walls. People are the real threat now.”
– Rick Grimes
After much convincing, Deanna eventually allows someone to man a lookout tower and for Rick and others to patrol Alexandria's walls. By now, Rick's group has learned that zombies aren't the most dangerous threat facing the community.
“You ever heard the broken window theory? It boils down to this: you keep the windows intact, you keep society intact.” – Rick Grimes
In the season's finale, we see a walker enter Alexandria after someone leaves the gate wide open. Like a minuteman on a mission, Rick hunts it down, kills it and drags it to a community meeting about his sanity. This event revisits yet another overtly conservative theme.
Season five's finale wasn't the first time we saw Rick Grimes execute someone out of necessity. Before ending the threat posed by an unstable Pete Anderson – who kills the community's beloved “First Husband” with Michonne's katana – Rick ended similar threats posed by unstable, violent thugs in previous seasons.
In season three, a violent prisoner named Thomas took a machete to the head. This was a conscious, preemptive move by Rick to eliminate the threat Thomas posed to the others. In season two, Rick even murdered his old friend Shane Walsh, who was becoming increasingly less trustworthy and unhinged – and who also had an affair with Rick's wife after convincing her that Rick was dead. In hindsight, most of Rick's victims were scumbags. Whether that justifies murder in the minds of some viewers is questionable, but viewers have proven that they have supported most of Rick's decisions.
As most supporters of capital punishment, Rick Grimes supports the use of first and second degree murder by a higher authority to protect a community. To see the other scumbags that fell victim to Rick's laws, click here.
Before we jump to the conclusion that Rick Grimes is a fully sane conservative, we have to keep in mind that the story isn't over. Based on previews from season six, there might be some suggestions that Rick is “dangerous” or crazy. Based on the graphic novels, Rick isn't as crazy as some might think and he's one of the few continuous (surviving) characters in the most recent story. The rest have all died.
We have no idea how Rick's story will end or whether the show's writers are consciously making him appear Republican, or whether they're planning to imply that conservatism is a symptom of insanity. We have no way of knowing whether the show's writers even have a political bent of any kind, or whether they're simply trying to tell a genuine story without any slant whatsoever. We don't know if Rick's story is about instinctual leadership, moral relativism, or both. What we do know is that most zombie films (particularly those by George A. Romero) have acted as intentional social commentaries. From zombies aimlessly roaming a shopping mall in Dawn Of The Dead and the living using it as a refuge, to zombies learning new skills and breaking the boundaries of their zombiehood in Land Of The Dead, most of Romero's classic tales have tried to tell us something. Whether The Walking Dead is a similar piece of social commentary won't be fully known until the series ends. Until then, the graphic novels might offer the only clues to the overall intent of the series.