Polyamory in The Walking Dead
Polyamory has popped up in the wildest of places. Now on may say that having it as part of my norm allows me to interpret theme in such a manner. I can see that as a reasonable position. In the same way extreme Christians may see the Virgin Mary’s face in a stack of pancakes, I see polyamory solving the problems of a zombie filled post apocalyptic world.
The characters of Rick, Laurie and Shane participate in a polyamorous construct, whether or not know agreed upon or intentional. I make this claim based on the fact that all of the characters all knew about each other, and that their actions were (for better or worse), meant to take care of each other. They form a unit that forms the classic polyamory V.
Before the fall out of the world Rick and Laurie are married and have a son named Carl. Rick and Shane work are partners on the police force, and have formed a very close bond based on their years of service together (it is unclear whether or not they knew each other before they joined the force). Rick is injured in the line of duty, and is hospitalized when the world collapses. Shane, who is alone at Rick’s bedside when the hospital falls, agonizes over trying to take Rick with him. As Rick is still in a coma, Shane decides with a heavy heart to leave Rick behind.
Shane takes Laurie and Carl to safety, and tells Laurie that Rick is dead – which he assumes is the truth, based on the conditions in the hospital when he leaves. Shane and Laurie begin a relationship that includes him as a father figure for Carl. Laurie was happy to have Shane yet still yearned for Rick. When Rick finds the groups of survivors alive, he and Laurie (and Shane) reconnect.
After Rick’s return, he and Laurie return to a monogamous couple. Rick later discusses that he knew about Laurie and Shane, though at the time of his return it is left unspoken. Laurie, in an attempt to hide her relationship with Shane, tries to distance herself and Carl from Shane. Rick appears satisfied (as much as one can be in a zombie apocalypse) to share the concern for Laurie and Carl with Shane.
At this point in the story Rick and Shane are working together to protect Laurie and Carl. They have their differences, but continue to move forward. Laurie hangs onto her guilt of sleeping with Shane while Rick was presumed dead. She feels the need to distance Shane, and to remain monogamous. Shane is left troubled by this; before Rick came back he had the family he had never had before the world ended. Now he was relegated to husband’s best friend. In a drunken stupor, Shane tries to get close to Laurie, which ends in a physical altercation between them.
Laurie and Shane’s relationship is forever marred, yet she does not tell Rick. Rick and Shane continue to work in tandem, though a greater divide begins to form between the two of them as they vie for control of the group. The major turning point for the characters occurs when Laurie announces that she is pregnant, and does not know if the baby is Shane’s or Rick’s. Shane begins to question Rick’s decisions in ensuring the safety of both Laurie and Carl, and by extension the baby. Shane confronts Laurie’s dismissal of their relationship and states that it was “a long time coming”. This may or may not introduce an undercurrent of relationship that was brewing before Rick was injured and hospitalized.
Rick is unable to see the danger Shane poses, as he still loves him. Laurie on the other hand, persuades Rick to see how dangerous Shane is, and inserts unsupported (unsupported for the characters, but known as true to the viewer) accusations into Rick’s head. Rick begins to question whether Shane can be trusted. He has his own relationship with Shane, and understands him on a different level than Laurie. In this understanding he finds the truth for himself and kills Shane.
How Polyamory Could Have Intervened!
When Rick found the group of survivors he found several things:
- His wife
- His son
- His best friend that he loved, that was now loving and caring for his wife and son.
- A world where there are no rules, dogma or institutions controlling his actions.
In everyone’s interest, Laurie (at least, if not also Shane), could have come clean about what had occurred after the fall out: Laurie, Carl and Shane had become a quick and comfortable family. They were also all grateful that Rick was alive, because he was important in all their lives and they loved him. It is likely that after assuming everyone was dead (subconsciously), Rick would have been more moveable on the boundaries of his relationship. As all the people he loved were alive, it would stand to reason that he may be satisfied with being a part of his group again, even if his role had been adjusted.
In the post apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead, polyamory may have provided greater safeguards. For Laurie, her eventual baby, and Carl, there would be more eyes and strength for protection. This would especially be true for Laurie while she is caring for the infant, whose cries may attract more walkers. Rick and Shane may never have commenced a sexual relationship of their own, however, that may not be as important as the emotional bond they already shared. A built in safeguard spouse may not account for increased procreation (i.e. Laurie can only have one baby at a time, or if Laurie were to die, procreation would cease), but would encourage a safer environment for rearing children.
Is our world so different now? Could the walkers of The Walking Dead be the example of plummeting economy in our own world?