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Miss Conduct Watches: "The Walking Dead"

Posted by Robin Abrahams  November 11, 2013 04:31 PM

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During the past few episodes of "Walking Dead," former antisocial hothead Daryl Dixon joins a team that is headed to a local veterinary college to scout for medications. That he joins a team at all is an impressive bit of evolution for the character; that he comfortably joins, and doesn't even try to lead, a group of African-Americans is even more striking.

Is this realistic? Would a zombie apocalypse be the ultimate Diversity Workshop?

Absolutely.

"Walking Dead" isn't known for detailed character development, but an almost overnight change of heart around racism under the circumstances of the show is quite believable. The gold standard for getting two groups (in the case of "Walking Dead," Southern whites and blacks) to unite as one is to give them a chance to know each other while working toward a common goal. People need a chance to talk, but all the kumbayas and story circles in the world aren't sufficient. They also need to work together on some kind of project. The best projects are challenging, require coordination between individuals, and have real consequences for success or failure.

Fighting zombies is pretty excellent for that.

640px-Michonne_and_Daryl_on_a_motorcycle.JPG

And of course, the zombies themselves provide the best possible outlet for aggression and fear. Talking and working together is a positive, upbeat way to think about reducing racial tensions. A nastier but also effective method is to provide two conflicting groups with a third enemy. Zombies really are aggressive, mindless, dangerous, subhuman, ugly, and disgusting. You can hate them without guilt, kill them without remorse. Which means no one is tasked with the hard psychic work of undoing their fears and rages in order to be a decent human being--they can simply transfer all that hatred onto the zombies.

A compelling and cooperative task. Time to talk, with no media or screens or outraged internet comments getting between two individuals. And a scapegoat.

Intergroup conflict solved.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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Curious if you should say "bless you" to a sneezing atheist? How to host a dinner party for carbophobes, vegans, and Atkins disciples—all at the same time? The finer points of regifting? Ask it here, or email missconduct@globe.com.

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