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Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American DreamCon Men, Gangsters, Drug Lords, and Zombies$
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Paul A. Cantor

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780813177304

Published to Kentucky Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5810/kentucky/9780813177304.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM KENTUCKY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.kentucky.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The University Press of Kentucky, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in KSO for personal use.date: 26 September 2021

The Apocalyptic Strain in Popular Culture

The Apocalyptic Strain in Popular Culture

The American Nightmare Becomes the American Dream

(p.133) 5 The Apocalyptic Strain in Popular Culture
Pop Culture and the Dark Side of the American Dream

Paul A. Cantor

University Press of Kentucky

This chapter seeks to explain the popularity of grim shows like the zombie narrative The Walking Dead, which seem to delight in portraying the destruction of the world as we know it. The Walking Dead offers a variant of the American dream, because it celebrates the independence of the ordinary people who are forced to fend for themselves in the absence of the authorities and institutions that traditionally had protected and taken care of them. Several of the characters reinvent themselves, going from the meek roles they played in pre-apocalyptic times to strong people. The show reflects widespread anxieties about social and political developments after the 2008 economic downturn. Many Americans felt betrayed by the elites who had claimed to have the expertise to run the country smoothly, and the show generally casts elites in a bad light. The Walking Dead recaptures the pioneer spirit that built America in the first place—a sense of self-reliance that harks back to the American West and frontier existence.

Keywords:   American dream, The Walking Dead, American West, Frontier existence, Pioneer spirit, Zombie

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