WE THE (WALKING) DEAD: Steuver’s complaint!


Part 1—When HAL shut down: We’ve never watched The Walking Dead, the AMC zombie drama now in its fourth season.

On the other hand, we did watch yesterday’s panel discussion on Meet the Press.

Was that not a form of the walking dead—that obviously faux discussion between those panelists and that moderator? (We’ll excuse Chuck Todd, who tried to create real discussion.)

Meet the Press is hardly alone, of course. Last Wednesday, we watched the pundit panel which interviewed author Amanda Ripley on CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

Were they not part of the walking dead? How about Ripley herself, with her endless array of embellishments and omissions?

Back in 1968, Stanley Kubrick portrayed HAL the computer in his throes, as he slowly shut down. Today, all around the domestic landscape, you see major American intellectual and political systems as they follow suit.

That brings us to Hank Stuever’s complaint in yesterday’s Washington Post. Stuever, a TV critic, was reviewing The Walking Dead’s new season.

According to Stuever, The Walking Dead has become “an exercise in hopelessness.” We thought of Meet the Press as Stuever voiced his complaints:
STUEVER (10/13/13): Where do you suppose “The Walking Dead” is taking us? Or let me put it this way: If I ask you to envision what its final episode might look like a few years from now, what do you see?...

The answer, as Season 4 begins Sunday night, is quite possibly and intentionally “nothing,” which would stand to reason: AMC’s zombie saga is a hit because it is an exercise in hopelessness and even nihilism.

The world is gone and it is never coming back. There is no underlying anchor of morality or long-term care; the characters who might have once been vested in the nobility of shared survival now struggle and fail to provide relief—to one another or to the viewer. Our rooting for them is a cruel joke. Our hopes in the stouthearted redneck Darryl (Norman Reedus) will almost certainly be dashed at some point; even Hershel (Scott Wilson), the wise country veterinarian now hobbling on one leg, no longer seems to buy into his own platitudes of perseverance.

With “The Walking Dead,” there is no goal in sight. We are not building toward payoff. We are not even following the story arcs of the 114 issues (and counting) of the original 2003 “Walking Dead” comic book that started it all. There is only a reset button (revolving showrunners, new writers) or a fresh level of horror and despair, just like the popular video game based on the show which emphasizes the feelings and personalities of characters, who could all die at any moment. The TV show also banks on non-zombie intervals of personal conflict among the still-living, who behave like test subjects in a morbidly long experiment of applied social psychology.

Having watched the serviceable but flat opening episodes of this new season, I think now is as good a time as any to ask if it’s worth going on with “The Walking Dead,” when all it does is underline its message of futility over and over and over. Why keep watching, even if we like the gore?
According to Stuever, the world of functioning human beings is gone on The Walking Dead. He says that world won’t be coming back on that AMC program.

According to Stuever, some viewers enjoy The Walking Dead because they like the gore. But beneath that pleasure, all Stuever finds is a “message of futility.”

We’ve never watched The Walking Dead. We can’t evaluate Stuever’s critique. But we’ll have to admit, his portrait made us think of the dying world of American intellectual elites.

At the end of Kubrick’s 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, a broken HAL begins shutting down. As with almost all living things, he very much wants to stay on.

Soon, though, all he can do is sing a very slow version of “Daisy.” Were those the famous old lyrics we heard on yesterday morning’s Meet the Press? Did we hear Cooper’s shambling panel singing that song last Wednesday?

In the current Harper’s, Thomas Frank describes one of the ways our intellectual systems have been breaking down in recent decades. Over the weekend, a version of his piece appeared at Salon.

We’ll discuss Frank’s piece later this week. We’ll also discuss those among the walking dead who have refused to discuss the obvious breakdown Frank is describing. (He describes it in lightly comical form. This is required within the world of our elites when their systems are dying.)

We’ll discuss Frank’s piece as the week unfolds. We’ll even discuss that panel discussion on Meet the Press. We’ll discuss those who have looked away from the steady process in which these systems have been shutting down.

All week long, we’ll discuss different versions of the dead—variants of the walking dead, the still-ambulating zombie elites among whom we are all trapped.

Tomorrow—part 2: Meet the Press

The way the French see HAL: According to the leading authority on the subject, HAL was “sentient.” Full name: HAL 9000.

We don’t know why they say HAL was sentient, nor do they explain. Soon, though, they provide more facts about the world-famous computer:
WIKIPEDIA: HAL is listed as the 13th-greatest film villain in the AFI's 100 Years, 100 Heroes and Villains. In the French-language version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL's name is CARL...
Those French! They do have a different word for everything, just as Steve Martin observed.


  1. IMHO Meet the Press died a long time ago. It wasn't a source of facts and true understanding. Instead, it merely told you what conventional wisdom was. At best, it might give you both sides' versions of what they wanted conventional wisdom to become.

    1. It died in 1997, ... or was it 1998?

  2. A 2013 review of a TV series BOB has never watched makes him vividly recall HAL singing Daisy in a 1968 film in order to connect to a couple of television talking head shows he does watch. This will lead us to a week of comparing our "intellectual elite", as defined and identified by BOB in a zombie motif.

    Of course the first corpse that gets to arise in this parade is the Amanda Ripley book. It's back for its fourth weekly season. Hope there is something new.


    1. "Hope there is something new."

      I sometimes peruse the comments here, with that same hope.

      That hope is generally dashed on the rocks of those like yourself, pretending you're bringing something new with your daily self-important contributions, joining the interminable, predictable regularity of DinC with his brain-dead cookie-cutter libertarianism, lowercaseguy guy with his paranoiac racist-under-every-Somerby-post unmedicated rants, etc. But then, the sun rises in the east every day too, so.

    2. Yes, wouldn't it be a much nicer comment box if everybody simply joined the tribe and agreed with Somerby?

    3. If that's your defense of KZ's (that is his name this month, isn't it?) utterly empty, but always self-congratulatory offerings, or of David in California, or of the off-med rambler -- that anyone who suggests that their comments are useless simply finds them useless Solely Because they disagree with Somerby -- than you are a worse troll than any heretofore seen.

      The problem with many dissenting comments here is not that they disagree with Somerby, it is that they do so in such lazy, self-absorbed fashion!

    4. Ah! The "T" word. Followed by the "L" word. And the "S-A" word!

      What would Dr. King say?

      So tell me, who are the "dissenters" that you do approve of? Or do you find them all to bel "L", "S-A" "Ts"?

      How curiious if you do.

    5. anon 12:01 PM, how can you lump davidincal, kz and myself all together as the sum and substance of the resistance to somerby? there are plenty of others who will, at least on occasion, very cogently dispute somerbys analysis. and others do it as complete anons to avoid the likes of you, i presume.

      further, davidincal seems to me to be one of somerbys bigger fans.

      further still, i doubt u even understasnd what kz is saying. i know i often get lost, but im not so arrogant as to think because i dont understand what a great scholar says, that he must be wrong. (i.e. the foremost somerby scholar)

      i think you are trying to psyche people out of criticizing somerby by preemptively associating them with three commenters you feel are the "other".

    6. Anon2:18pm, don't you find a life-affirming aspect to the fact that the forces of chaos and nihilism in the universe have sent the wrong troll?

      In their attempt to make dissenters marginal and laughable, they've sent a hammy hungry narcissist (better suit for the staid orthodoxy of an American Spectator or Freeper board) to counter a passionate and independent thinker.

      Rather than making their target into a crotchety crank, we've seen the stridency and superficiality of these forces.

      The life-perpetuating universe strikes back...

    7. anon 12:01 PM, btw if you meant i regularly call somerby a rascist, youre wrong. i never have. i have said he may be on the take, effectively a paid pr man for hire or a secret gop operative. ive also said hes a bigot but often ive mitigated that by saying that he is a good american patriot because hes an anti-american-of-irish-catholic-heritage bigot.

    8. Anon. 12:01-2:18

      You label me self congratulatory/self important/self absorbed.

      You label David in Cal a cookie cutter libertarian.

      You label lower case guy a racist in need of medication.

      You are simply an anonymous name caller with nothing at all to contribute. Zero.

      Squat from Squadoosh (My how I love being able to steal from the great and powerful BOB).

    9. Anon5:21pm, you love stealing from Douglas Adams too.

    10. I label you. If you say so. I'd say you labelled yourself by your actions -- they're the postings of man engaged in constant self-congratulation. They're free of content, but heavy with pretension.

      Noteworthy that you have on the other hand been labelled a "a great scholar" by lowercaseguy -- remarkable praise! -- though he confesses that you often leave him "lost." The admission ticket to this mutual admiration society? A shared, incoherent disapproval of Somerby.

  3. Replies
    1. I was hoping for a fresh new comment to lift Anon@ 12:21 from her/his gloom. Yours was timely. Perhaps a little inwardly oriented at a time of intellectual death and societal paralysis, but its good BOB is attracting fresh ideas with his work. Tell me, what prompted you to join our discussion thread?


  4. If you would like a taste of "The Walking Dead" (sans gore), dare to witness Peggy Noonan deathlessly shamble her way through another "This Week" plugging the "If only Obama were better at compromise" trope:


    Kruggers attempts some pushback, but it ends, as ever "Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

  5. If Bob is feeling the same hopelessness as the folks in the Walking Dead, it is a classic sign of burnout and a vacation is called for.

    There has been some speculation about why zombies are so appealing to folks today. I can understand the sense of frustration leading to a desire to bash someone without consequences, so I understand those who like the gore, but maybe the hopeless situation of the post-apocalyptic world appeals because there is no social responsibility to rebuild anything -- just to stay alive and stay human. Maybe people feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of decay around them and want some justification for focusing on their own problems and ignoring the larger ones around us. It is arguably as scary to worry about this renewed financial recession and the inability of congress to do anything at all, as it was to worry about the possibility of nuclear holocaust as we did in the 50's (when people invented aliens and radioactive house-sized rabbits -- remember Night of the Lepus?).

    1. Not to mention that it's poop to liken analytical heterodoxy ...sentience...to the mindless and soulless.

    2. I hope you are right about Bob, Lindy. A vacation might be called for to cure this burnout if he has it.