(WARNING: The following contains major SPOILERS for both the most recently aired episode of The Walking Dead, and the comic books upon which it was based. Proceed with whatever level of caution that suggests to you is wise.)
Now, with the most recent episode of #TheWalkingDead pushing even devoted fans of the series to their limits with its brutal depiction of bloody, bloody murder, it's perhaps not all that surprising that those who've never been fond of the show were downright appalled. That, at least, was the response of The Parents Television Council, a conservative watchdog that — in a move that should surprise literally no-one — just denounced The Walking Dead's Season 7 premiere for that aforementioned violence.
Yup, that's right:
The Walking Dead Premiere Didn't Go Down Well With Conservative Groups
Largely, it seems, because it featured Jeffrey Dean Morgan's #Negan bludgeoning two leading characters to death with a barbed-wire strewn baseball bat. As the president of the PTC, Tim Winter, recently put it:
"Last night’s season premiere of 'The Walking Dead' was one of the most graphically violent shows we’ve ever seen on television, comparable to the most violent of programs found on premium cable networks... It’s not enough to 'change the channel,' as some people like to advocate, because cable subscribers — regardless of whether they want AMC or watch its programming — are still forced to subsidize violent content. This brutally explicit show is a powerful demonstration of why families should have greater control over the TV networks they purchase from their cable and satellite providers."
Which, a) suggests that Winter was forced to watch the episode by his much cooler kid or younger sibling, and b) raises an interesting question: Is it reasonable to expect viewers to be responsible for what they watch, or should they be allowed to self-censor entire channels by removing them from their television packages in much the manner that Negan typically removes eyeballs?
After all, on the surface, the idea of being able to cherry-pick which channels you want in a cable or satellite package seems entirely reasonable: If you don't want a channel like #AMC, which features extreme violence, it seems instinctively odd to be forced to pay for it. There are two key problems there, though:
1. There's a widespread belief among industry professionals that unbundling will ultimately lead to both reduced choice for consumers (niche channels won't be able to afford to stay afloat) and increased costs for many subscribers (channels will be forced to raise their rates in order to stay profitable).
2. There's an argument to be made that the PTC's argument isn't actually in favor of greater choice, but in a greater ability for bill-payers to censor themselves, and those around them.
Now, whether it's relevant that the PTC — an organization with close ties to the conservative wing of the Republican party, and with a long history of espousing traditional conservative values — just happens to be simultaneously advocating both content-based censorship and a de-centralizing approach to television delivery likely depends on your own political views, but either way it's important to note that the organization's argument isn't all about Negan, or even Lucille.
Instead, it's about whether or not we should allow unlimited creative freedom on the airwaves, and — assuming the majority of us agree that there are ultimately limits to what should be shown — exactly what limits we should collectively set. In that sense, this really does become a question of censorship: The PTC is, in effect, saying that The Walking Dead has gone too far, and positioning itself as a suitable arbiter for deciding what else is or isn't appropriate. For better or for worse, that road leads to censorship, and to certain shows being deemed "unsuitable," "immoral," and, if history has taught us anything about how these things tend to go, "un-American."
And there we were thinking most people were just mad about the eye thing.
What do you think, though? Is the PTC right to take issue with The Walking Dead, or is it stepping into the realm of censorship? Let us know below!