My desensitizing journey while watching The Walking Dead

Mackenzie Bernas

By Mackenzie Bernas

As homework and projects started crushing me with their infamous invisible yet migraine-inducing pressure, I knew it was time to hunt for a new TV show that would let my mind take its long-due vacation. My previous forget-everything-else show (The Office) was a very light-hearted and utterly hilarious break. I was fighting tears and a nervous breakdown after I shot through all nine seasons in a matter of a week or two. I was in—as that one commercial said—the inevitable and life-sucking “show hole.”

The dullness, and frustratingly large amount of homework were speeding my mental state towards cutting the needle-thin thread that was my limit. My sleep-muddled mind was sinking into the abyss of the “show hole” and I knew I needed to lessen the frightening redness in my eyes before I started unintentionally jumpscaring people.

With this in mind, my hunt began with scrolling through cheesy romantic comedies and ended with The Walking Dead. To answer the question that obviously jumped into your head—if you don’t already know—yes, it’s about zombies. To give some insight into my thought process, let’s say I realized I wanted to start stressing about fake undead instead of the reality check I got from homework every day.

My initial thought going into the first episode was that I’d be fine with seeing those nasty-looking zombies because a little voice in my head said, “I’m not scared of some fully makeupped wannabe zombie actors anymore.” So I asked my parents if I could watch the show with this naive and delusion-based courage of mine. My dad’s face exploded in excitement while my mom only reluctantly consented because it would get my mind off of homework. My younger brother was also interested in watching so he plopped himself on the couch with a confusing fearful expression. I just stared at him wide-eyed while sending my telepathic sibling message. “Why are you scared to watch zombies after sitting ever so nonchalantly through World War Z?’” And yes, that was about zombies too. After the shock, came the empathy for him. I have always been scared of the zombie genre because zombies’ lovable characteristics included rotting flesh, being undead, and an appetite for my brain.

Despite my previous frightened state, a good amount of determination burned to watch the show because of its glowing reviews and my need for a brain break from work stress. The only problem with The Walking Dead was that I watched walking dead people in pitch black night which I later cursed myself for—I strongly don’t recommend trying this. So as I prepared myself with motivational pep talks before the first episode, my dad pressed play and I put on my game face.

It began with a cop and a little girl who—at a painfully slow speed—turned her head around to give me a panic attack because I was suddenly staring into the eyes of a zombie girl. After the first 15 minutes, I lost track of the plot because I was too busy pep talking myself into bravery, but luckily my dad was explaining it to me. Following the zombie girl incident, I had a mountain load of details to point out in the episode, and my brother turned into my helper as we conversationed our way through jumpscares. Being the obviously more frightened one, my brother talked a lot more than I did. To be fair, he warned us before it started: “I’m going to be talking a lot during this because I’m scared.” I silently agreed with him as we talked until we got too invested in the show to continue our discussion.

Rewatching The Office afterwards to forget about the excessive gore came as naturally as breathing. One could say an unplanned benefit from this show is steering clear from junk food or any food for that matter while watching. I suppose it’s ironic how this show is helping me be healthier while showing me decayed blood and guts.

It was one scene specifically in the first season where they hacked open a zombie—I got to experience hearing the lovely sound effects—to cover themselves with its guts and blood. Their plan was to blend in with all the city zombies, and they evidently didn’t hear my objection because I can confidently say that seeing a zombie-intestines scarf was an instant ban on snacks for me.

I eventually pushed through the first season of five episodes while my brother was not so resilient. Maybe it was because of his young age that he barricaded his door with a wall of pillows.  

Fastforwarding a year, I am currently on Episode 2 of Season 8, which is disappointing being that an entire Season 9 exists out there. I’d say the whole experience has numbed me to gore itself and made me the shameless owner of eight The Walking Dead Funko Pop dolls. It was a rollercoaster of emotions that decimated any “show hole” that existed. The stress for school work has also been lifted and dumped onto somewhere else.

Instead of boatloads of homework, I now fear the apocalypse.