My Other Brother Daryl

I used to think it was kind of cheesy whenever I would hear someone claim that the lyrics from a song or a character from a book or a movie changed their life.

 

With a world filled with so many real-life heroes and heroines, to say that your life changed after watching an episode of Mob Wives seems a bit trivial.

 

Although I will say that I was more than a little bit moved after watching Cloverfield.

 

 

THOSE PARASITES, MAN.

THOSE PARASITES, MAN.

 

 

Even if one has never experienced something as profound as being permanently changed by the lyrics of “Girls, Girls, Girls“, one can recognize that watching the “life” of a character from a TV show or a movie can be philosophically interesting.

 

One character I find philosophically interesting is the character Daryl Dixon, played by Norman Reedus on AMC’s hit horror-drama, The Walking Dead.

 

 

keep calm and love daryl dixon

Fans of the show like Daryl Dixon because he is a badass.

 

 

the zombie died

 
I like Daryl Dixon because he discovers the meaning of life.

 

Or rather, that Daryl Dixon discovers the meaning of his life.

 

 

  DARYL DIXON. BADASS LEVEL: SEXIEST HILLBILLY IN GEORGIA.


 DARYL DIXON. BADASS LEVEL: SEXIEST HILLBILLY IN GEORGIA.

 

 

Ok, I know I’ve written about The Walking Dead more than a few times already. And I know that some people think that the show is nothing more than inane television. They are befuddled by the fact that ANYONE can enjoy a show with characters that are straight from the TV clichés handbook. They are even more perplexed by the fact that the show is not only the highest basic cable drama on television, but and that anyone would look for, much less find “deeper” meaning in the soap opera-like plots and hammy (sometimes borderline unintentionally comical) acting.

 

There’s a reason why Mad Men wins the big awards and The Walking Dead isn’t even nominated.

 

 

YEP. THIS IS EXACTLY WHY EVERYONE LOVES MAD MEN.

YEP. THIS IS EXACTLY WHY EVERYONE LOVES MAD MEN.

 

 

 

Some people even question the judgment of people who express a fondness for former sheriff’s deputy, Rick Grimes, and his band of survivors.

 

And to that, I say,

 

 

haters

 

 

 

Many TV show characters have a following, but Daryl Dixon may be the only character in television history whose fans have threatened an uprising if the character is removed from the show.

 

 

If-Daryl-dies-we-riot

 

 
Daryl Dixon is initially introduced in season one as the delinquent younger brother of the racist, sexist, Heisenberg-using Merle Dixon (played by Michael Rooker). Daryl’s entrance is as memorable as his character: he emerges from the woods, crossbow in hand, grimy from head to toe, a bounty of dead squirrels strung around his neck. Daryl doesn’t care about anything or for anyone other than his brother.

 

Daryl Dixon angrily expresses his contempt (angrily contempt, is that redundant?) for the group when he’s told that his brother (Merle) was chained to a roof and left behind in zombie-infested Atlanta. And when the camp is invaded by the undead, Daryl declares that the reason why the camp was attacked is because the group has reaped what it sowed.

 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CHAIN MERLE DIXON TO A PIPE…. AT LEAST ACCORDING TO HIS BROTHER.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CHAIN MERLE DIXON TO A PIPE…. AT LEAST ACCORDING TO HIS BROTHER.

 

 
Consequently, Daryl agrees to accompany Rick back to Atlanta not to retrieve a valuable bag of guns that Rick left behind in the city, but to find his brother Merle.

 

 

UNFORTUNATELY FOR DARYL, THIS IS WHAT HE FINDS IN ATLANTA.

UNFORTUNATELY FOR DARYL, THIS IS WHAT HE FINDS IN ATLANTA.

 

 
Although Daryl proves he’s handy with a crossbow, without his brother or a defined and/or useful skill (other than brooding and squirrel hunting) Daryl’s place in the group is unclear.

 

 

THIS IS THE ONLY EXPRESSION DARYL DIXON HAD ALL OF SEASON ONE.

THIS IS THE ONLY EXPRESSION DARYL DIXON HAD ALL OF SEASON ONE.

 

 

In the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead, everyone’s role is clearly defined:
Rick Grimes is the leader of the group (undeniably). Rick’s former partner and best friend, Shane Walsh, is Rick’s second in command. Glenn is to go-to guy. Old man Dale is the voice of reason. T-Dog is the lone black guy. Carl Grimes is the incorrigible child. Andrea is the useless chick. And Rick’s wife Lori – let’s not talk about Lori.

 

 

ALL I'M GONNA SAY IS THAT JANET WEISS ISN’T THE ONLY CHARACTER THAT PEOPLE YELL “SLUT” WHEN SHE APPEARS ON SCREEN.

ALL I’M GONNA SAY IS THAT JANET WEISS ISN’T THE ONLY CHARACTER THAT PEOPLE YELL “SLUT” WHEN SHE APPEARS ON SCREEN.

 

 

lori grimes, slut

 

 

 

See?

 

Nearly every character in the group has a place to fill; a purpose. Daryl does not. He’s just a crossbow carrying, squirrel-hunting, brother-of-a-racist hick who knows choke holds are illegal.

Sure, Daryl Dixon is a fan favorite, a total badass, and can survive in the woods, but he lacks a reason for being where or who he is.

That has “easily expendable” written all over it.
Daryl Dixon is a The Walking Dead redshirt.

 

 

death had a near-daryl experience

 

 

 

Seriously, though. Daryl tells Rick and Shane that choke holds are illegal.

After Shane chokes him.

Cops aren’t supposed to put people in choke holds.
Because they’re cops.

 

choke hold's illegal

 
The meaningless existence of Daryl Dixon seems destined to be Dixon’s fate until the first episode of the show’s second season. In the season 2 opener “What Lies Ahead” something extraordinary happens – a character goes missing.

A child. Sophia Peletier.

 

THIS IS A WONDERFUL THING FOR DARYL DIXON.

 

 

WHO KNEW THAT A MISSING CHILD WOULD BRING ABOUT SUCH FORTUITOUS CONSEQUENCES?

WHO KNEW THAT A MISSING CHILD WOULD BRING ABOUT SUCH FORTUITOUS CONSEQUENCES?

 
Wait a minute. I have to go forward a bit for this to make any sense.

BACK TO THE ‘82

BACK TO THE ‘82

 

 

Ok. So in season four, the group is attacked by The Governor and they’re forced to flee the prison. Daryl and Beth Greene (the one who sings) find themselves alone (together) and – wait –

Damn. Now I gotta explain that.

 

Ok… Rick Grimes and his group find sanctuary at an abandoned prison. They’re able to clear out the undead (they’re never called zombies on the show) and make a safe place for themselves. But then this dude called “The Governor” shows up.

He’s a pretty bad guy.

 

How do you know The Governor is bad? He’s got an eye patch.

 

EYE PATCH = EVIL

EYE PATCH = EVIL

 

 

Long story short (too late) The Governor and Rick’s group can’t find a way to make nice-nice during the zombie apocalypse (this should be an easy thing to do, right?) and the opposing groups soon turn to war.

 

 

Then this happens:

 

 

Hershel beheading

 

 

 

And then this happens:

 

OK, I KNOW THIS IS A STILL FROM SEASON 3. BOTH OF THE GOVERNOR’S ATTACKS ON THE PRISON INVOLVE BLOWING UP THINGS, SO THIS PICTURE IS STILL TOTALLY APPROPRIATE TO USE.

OK, I KNOW THIS IS A STILL FROM SEASON 3. BOTH OF THE GOVERNOR’S ATTACKS ON THE PRISON INVOLVE BLOWING UP THINGS, SO THIS PICTURE IS STILL TOTALLY APPROPRIATE TO USE.

 

 

 

 

So this happens:

 

 

beth and daryl

 

 

Now, the natural inclination for any The Walking Dead fan on the prospect of an entire episode devoted to Beth Greene (she’s the one who sings) would be to avoid that episode at all costs. That would make sense if you watch the show solely for a weekly fix of blood, guts, and badassery. But remember, there are things more important than watching a character shoot a crossbow and kick ass.

 

norman reedus obsession meme

 

 

Namely, that The Walking Dead is also a philosophical show.

AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO THINKS HEISENBERG HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE?

AM I THE ONLY PERSON WHO THINKS HEISENBERG HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE?

 

 

You see, the search for little Sophia allows Daryl to find his purpose.

 

That’s philosophical.

 

It’s Daryl who leads search for young Sophia and is the most dedicated to finding the lost girl.

 

Well, I guess the girl’s mother would be the most dedicated to finding Sophia.

 

Daryl is thrown off a horse, impaled on one of his own crossbow bolts, gnawed on by a zombie (luckily it was only biting on Daryl’s boot), and is grazed on the side of the head by a bullet when Andrea mistakenly assumes that Daryl is a zombie and attempts to shoot him in the head.

ANDREA REALLY IS THE USELESS CHICK, MAN.

ANDREA REALLY IS THE USELESS CHICK, MAN.

 

 
Daryl helps Andrea to find a reason for living. He supplies T-Dog with antibiotics after T-Dog’s wound is infected. Daryl saves Glenn from a simplified Randall. And let’s not forget that it’s Daryl who steps forward to put down Dale after Dale is attacked by a zombie.
I’m not even going to say spoiler alert.

 IF YOU DON’T KNOW THIS HAPPENED BY NOW (IF NEWS THAT DALE IS DEAD IS A “SPOILER”) DON’T EVEN BOTHER TO WATCH THE SHOW.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW THIS HAPPENED BY NOW (IF NEWS THAT DALE IS DEAD IS A “SPOILER”) DON’T EVEN BOTHER TO WATCH THE SHOW.

 

 
Daryl consoles the grieving Carol Peletier by delivering her a Cherokee rose and telling her the tale of grieving mothers on the Trail of Tears.

 

 

daryl on merle

 

 
When Rick kills Shane by stabbing Shane in the chest, Daryl steps forward to occupy the newly-vacant position as Rick’s new right-hand man. When Daryl is nearly fatally injured and hallucinates a vision of his missing brother Merle, he rejects “Merle’s” allegation that the group rejects Daryl and has no use for him.

 

 

DIXON BROTHERS

 

 

Of course we know that Daryl is actually arguing with himself.

daryl's hallucination

THAT DUDE MUST HAVE FALLEN HARD TO SEE MERLE.

 

 

Daryl’s steadfast devotion to find Sophia shows the audience that Daryl not only cares for the group (Sophia, anyway), but more importantly, that he no longer is just Merle Dixon’s little brother. Daryl starts to forge a place for himself in the group.

 

panties dropping

 
In a world where Beth Greene attempts suicide because she finds life in a land full of the undead not worth living (Beth specifically uses the word “pointless”), the zombie apocalypse gives Daryl the opportunity to establish himself as a useful and trustworthy member of the group; a member with an essential role as protector, provider, multi-weapons specialist, tracker, and trusted confidant. By the end of season four, Daryl Dixon is not at all like he was when he was introduced at the outset of the show. Daryl has a purpose.

 

And through a purpose, Daryl Dixon’s life has meaning.

 

 

daryl's purpose

 

 

Daryl confesses to Beth that in the pre-apocalypse, he hadn’t done anything with his life other than follow behind his older brother Merle. Daryl’s life, other than his devotion to Merle, lacked engagement in any other significant activity – activities that, for most people, make our lives meaningful.

 
(Sidenote: the whole scene where Daryl confesses to Beth is a little weird. Beth is supposed to be about seventeen years old or so. That’s fine and dandy until you ask “how old is Daryl?” The actor who plays Daryl Dixon, Norman Reedus, is in his mid-forties. The way Beth extracts info from Daryl is while playing a variation of Truth or Dare (just truth, no dare). The whole situation is kind of creepy (and not just because they play the game while swigging moonshine). The situation gets downright odd when Daryl tells Beth not only has he never been arrested (ok, fine), but he also gives the impression that he’s never done a few OTHER things, as well. Yes, THAT. Are the viewers expected to believe that Daryl Dixon is THAT inexperienced? Is his character supposed to be closer to the fictional Beth Greene’s age and not the actual age of Norman Reedus? Does anyone know? )

 

 

 

JUST HOW OLD IS THIS DARYL DIXON, ANYWAY?

JUST HOW OLD IS THIS DARYL DIXON, ANYWAY?

 

 

The philosopher Susan Wolf says that a meaningful life is a life that a person is “actively engaged” in “projects of worth”. Active engagement, according to Wolf, is any activity that a person is “gripped, excited, involved” in.

 

 

Wolf writes:

To be actively engaged in something is not always pleasant in the ordinary sense of the word. Activities in which people are actively engaged frequently involve stress, danger, exertion or sorrow… However, there is something good about the feeling of engagement: one feels (typically without thinking about it) especially alive.

 

 

 

I KNOW IT'S NOT A PICTURE OF DARYL DIXON BUT THERE AREN'T ANY SCREENSHOTS OF DARYL DIXON CONTEMPLATING THE MEANING OF LIFE.

I KNOW IT’S NOT A PICTURE OF DARYL DIXON BUT THERE AREN’T ANY SCREENSHOTS OF DARYL DIXON CONTEMPLATING THE MEANING OF LIFE.

 
Life in the zombie apocalypse may be a life that is, as Hobbes described in Leviathan, “nasty, brutish, and short”, but it is in this world that Daryl Dixon finds his meaning in life. Daryl Dixon is actively engaged in protecting the lives of his fellow survivors. He is a man that others look to with admiration and for guidance (like the unfortunate patient zero Patrick). The world may suck and Daryl himself may not be aware of it, but Daryl Dixon’s life is not nothing; it‘s not meaningless. He’s done plenty with his life.

 

And not just hunting squirrels with his crossbow.

 

Well, if anything, this is the purpose of Daryl Dixon existence:

 

 

daryl is for the ladies

 

 

This is it. Right, ladies?

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
Susan Wolf. “Meaning In Life”. The Meaning of Life: A Reader. 2008. Eds. E.D. Klemke and Steven M. Cahn. NY: Oxford University Press. 232-3.

Living the Good Life: On the Pursuit of Happiness, Fame, Fortune, and the Philosophical Necessity of Twerking

Miley Cyrus.

There. I said it.

Nowadays, if someone even whispers the word “twerking”, she’s the first (and often only) name that comes to mind.

miley

I guess it’s up to you whether you want to tack a “fortunately” or “unfortunately” on that fact. For the record, when I think about twerking I think about this:

I’m not going to say anything about whether it is a good career move to officially shed one’s child star image by shaking one’s rear end in public places, but what I will say is that I can’t watch more than five minutes of TMZ Live without hearing the words “Miley”, and “Cyrus”, and “twerking”.

I’ve heard the word Syria on TV fewer times than I’ve heard the word “twerking” all month.

I gotta say that as much as I enjoy watching people twerk, I’m not a Miley Cyrus fan.

Luckily, for everything one can grow to dislike as much as one hates paper cuts or tequila-induced hangovers, there’s a philosophical something hidden in it somewhere.

They say that all of Miley Cyrus’ twerking antics isn’t about being inappropriate, but is about her want to reclaim the childhood that she lost while she was the star of the Disney series Hannah Montana®. It seems that Miley Cyrus has decided, now that she has the opportunity, to act the manner she wasn’t permitted to act when she was at the age when young people typically behave in a manner that we would call “acting out”.

In Miley Cyrus’ case, her “acting out” includes smoking weed and hanging out with “Molly”.

 

GOTTA THANK EBAUM'S WORLD FOR THIS.

GOTTA THANK EBAUM’S WORLD FOR THIS.

 

It seems that what’s really at the heart of Miley Cyrus’ behavior is that Miley, like so many of us, is trying to live the good life – the kind of life that makes one happy.

And when you talk about stuff like the good life and happiness, you’re talking philosophy.

Philosophers, from Socrates to Mill, have written about what kind of life constitutes the good life. Socrates wrote (actually, Plato wrote) that the good life is a life of philosophical contemplation. For Aristotle, the good life meant that one lives virtuously. John Stuart Mill says that once we’ve acquired a preference for higher pleasures (instead of lower pleasures) we are well on our way to living not only a good life, but a happy life. Mill writes that lower pleasures (e.g. sexual promiscuity, intemperance, gluttonous consumption of food and twerking) are merely physically satisfying and can’t make us happy. Indulging in mere physical pleasures, Mill writes:

“a beast’s pleasures do not satisfy a human being’s conceptions of happiness. Human beings have faculties more elevated than the animal appetites, and when once made conscious of them, do no regard anything as happiness which does not include their contemplation.”

Mill says that we should want to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied pig.
Unfortunately, though Socrates tells us that the best life is a life spent in philosophical contemplation, that’s not what society tells us is the good life. Two thousand years ago you could hire a philosopher (or a sophist, if you went that way) to teach you how to think. These days, the media not only tells us what the cultural zeitgeist is, the media tells us what to think about it.

The media tells us not only what’s important, what we should care about, but more importantly, what makes a good life. If you pay attention to the media long enough, you’ll soon be convinced that nothing matters more than being young, rich, famous, and beautiful.

And if you watch TMZ you’ll spend your day wondering what Lindsay Lohan is doing right now.

lindsay lohan tmz

What the media tells us is no matter how good we think our lives are, there are people out there (i.e. famous people) whose lives are marvelously better than ours. Not only are their lives better than ours, we should want to live the lives they lead. Their lives are the good life. After all, what could be more essential to living the good life than smoking salvia or twerking?

What can be more essential to living the good life than being famous?

So, when we watch the real-life downward-spiraling life of a Hollywood starlet or watch a fictional character whose life is nothing but a meaningless, black void, as long as they are either rich, famous, of good-looking, we can believe that their lives, despite all appearances, is good. Sure, a guy like Don Draper is a morally bankrupt, miserable, S.O.B., who lies not only to himself but to everyone else, but the fact that Don is moderately well-off and looks swell in a Brooks Brothers suit tells us that we need not worry about his philosophical well-being.

A guy like Don Draper is certain to live a good life and be happy.

I guess it has to do with pulling off a debonair look while smoking a cigarette.

don draper smoking

PRETTY SEXY, EH?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily condemning Miley Cyrus, TMZ  or any other celebrity.

Well, maybe I am condemning TMZ.

Any philosopher, well, most, will tell you that the right amount of physical pleasure is a good thing. A proper philosophical soul knows how to satisfy our higher and lower pleasures. And really, when’s the last time you heard of a philosopher drowning in his own vomit?

Our problem is that when we look at the media, they tell us that a good – THE good life is a life devoted to lower pleasures. According to our culture, the life of celebrity is the quickest way to living a lower pleasure-filled life. He might not have known it when he said it, but Andy Warhol hit the nail when he said that everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes.

As long as there’s reality television, everybody’s got a chance of getting famous on TV.

No doubt that being rich and famous is a good gig, but there are far too many examples of how fame and fortune has good reversing effect on people’s lives.

I mean, have you ever heard of the 27 club?

It’s not entirely wrong to appreciate the fact that the contemplative lifestyle requires longevity. Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Gram Parsons, and Amy Winehouse all lived the culturally-approved good life, but they all died before their 28th birthday.
Aristotle lived to be 62.
Leibniz lived to 70.
Sartre died at 76.
Ayn Rand unfortunately lived to the ripe old age of 77.
Immanuel Kant lived to 80.
Heidegger died at 87.
Bertrand Russell nearly made it to the century mark. He died at age 97.

Noam Chomsky is 85 years old and counting…

Listen: A philosopher may be a dissatisfied Socrates, but living past the age of twenty seven might give us enough time to realize that satisfied piggery isn’t the best life to lead. Having fun is alright. We have an inalienable right to be happy (The Declaration of Independence says so), but we also should want to do more than have a good time or feel that knowing intimate details about the Kimye baby is more important than knowing details about the Chelsea Manning case. We should know that twerking or even reclaiming one’s lost childhood isn’t a bad thing, so long as we realize that some of the things we believe will make us happy or make our lives “good” are merely distractions; things that keep us from pursuing the kind of life that will make us truly happy – the philosophical life.

… But then again, it’s hard to argue that partying with Molly won’t make your life good, too.

Sources:

John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism. 2005 [1861]. NY: Barnes and Noble Books. pp. 12.