Apocalyptic Psychotherapy: Emotion and Identity in AMC’s The Walking Dead

  • Kyle William Bishop


In recent years, storytellers have increasingly used the zombie as a platform to explore a variety of cultural anxieties and concerns. Two of the most prolific themes scrutinized by zombie narratives are those of human emotions and personal identity, particularly those that exist within familial relationships. From the beginning of the modern-day zombie tale, George A. Romero has deployed zombies as uncanny Gothic figures to reveal the repressed emotions eating away at the contemporary family and redefining familial roles and individual identity (see Bishop 94–128). Almost 50 years later, zombies once again facilitate stories of love and hate, pride and shame, resentment and guilt in family relationships; this is especially evident in AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead (AMC, 2010–).1 The series begins with a family divided both physically and emotionally, and much of the story to date concerns efforts to both preserve and redefine different family units, such as ‘wife’, ‘mother’, and ‘brother’. Yet, rather than depicting a dystopian wasteland, The Walking Dead proposes a surprisingly positive apocalypse (see Boehm 130), one that uses both zombies and human survivors as uncanny figures to explore and challenge a host of emotional relationships that (re)define identity while revealing the need for awareness, action, change, and ultimately, healing.


Personal Identity Human Emotion Familial Relationship Conscious Mind Emotional Trauma 
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© Kyle William Bishop 2016

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  • Kyle William Bishop

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