Bread and circuses


I’ve recently started watching The Walking Dead which, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention for the past three years, is a TV show about the titular zombies. Except, it’s not… at least, not in the way that The Vampire Diaries is about vampires or Heroes is about superheros.

The Walking Dead is actually about the people who are forced into a very stressful situation (as seeing your loved ones eaten alive by zombies would naturally be) and how their personalities and the group dynamics change in response.

It actually reminds me a lot of airplane travel.

As I have mentioned numerous times, I used to travel full-time for work. Every week I would be on a plane to a different city (or country) and would not return home for months. My job could be very stressful and I had little to no control over my schedule and assignments. Thus, the only day of the week that I knew for sure what I was doing in advance was my travel day.

This was the day that I would be guaranteed quiet time to sit for hours and read. I would be able to relax in airport lounges and get upgraded to business class. I would be served drinks while I watched a movie. This travel day was the most relaxing day of my week.

I still find it very relaxing when I fly, even though I’m no longer treated to the comforts of the elite frequent flyer. This is obviously not the case for most people.

Like the non-zombie people in The Walking Dead, my fellow travelers during my trip last week were obviously under a lot of stress. Watching them scramble for food before getting on the plane and elbow for room in the overhead compartments was like watching a life or death struggle. It was an entertaining sight to behold. I didn’t even need to open my book.

There is a saying, coined originally by the Roman poet Juvenal in the first Century that laments the continuing slide of his former Roman Republic into a dictatorship.

“Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt.”

Gladiatorial games, chariot races, and bellies full of cheap bread kept the populace distracted and content while the emperors ruled as they saw fit. (Also a theme in The Walking Dead.)

Listening to the grumbling of my fellow passengers, I realized that someone needs to remind the airlines about bread and circuses.

Remember when they first took away the in-flight meals? That really sucked and the populace complained, but at least we would still get that little bag of pretzels. Then they even took away our little snack. But, at least we could still watch endless movies and be distracted from the rumblings of our empty bellies… or so I thought.

Perhaps I have been spoiled for too long by Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment systems, because that really is something they do well, but I was gob-smacked by the lack of entertainment on my United Airlines flight from Denver to San Diego. This wasn’t a little prop plane doing a puddle jump. This was a big airplane jam-packed with a lot of people who would be in the air for two and a half hours.

Yes, there was a screen in the seat back in front of me but, in order to watch anything, you had to swipe the old credit card and pay for the privilege. Perhaps this has been around for a while but this was a first for me. Now, before I sound too whiny about a first world problem, let me tell you that I was happy to entertain myself during the flight. After the initial moments of shock, I settled in to read.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little when I say you couldn’t watch anything without paying. There was a very un-funny looking sitcom episode that was playing in a repeating loop bracketed by a barrage of commercials that you could watch for free and COULD NOT TURN OFF!!!

This is my real complaint. After a very early start and many hours of travel, I just couldn’t abide the flickering annoyance of a screen I didn’t want to watch. I finally had to stop reading and instead plug into my audio-book, just so I could close my eyes and end the torture. So, I guess I’m okay with no meal or pretzels, I can bring my own bread to fill my belly, and I’m even okay with no in-flight entertainment, but there is no way in hell I’m going to be a happy Roman if I’m forced to watch commercials for three hours instead of a circus!

6 responses to “Bread and circuses

  1. My wife and I are both recent “Walking Dead” recruits and have been watching all the seasons on Netflix; we’re totally infected, albeit a little after the fact since everyone else is 2-3 seasons ahead of us. That said, I don’t see how anyone could think being forced to watch a bad sit-com sandwiched between equally bad commercials while strapped to a plane would improve product sales. Unless it’s an ad from Dr. Kevorkian.

  2. The Walking Dead is a wonderful television series! AMC really did wonderfully with it… though the graphic novels, in my opinion, are far superior. Though the story lines are incredibly different. The characters are mostly the same, though it feels like you’re taking part in two entirely different life stories. It’s brilliant. The newest season started off with some shocking footage… I can’t WAIT to see where it goes!! Which season are you on? πŸ™‚

    • I’m into the 3rd season now… Not sure I like how some of the characters are evolving at the moment. I found myself talking to the screen last night! I’m going to have to wait once I’m done this season as I’m watching them on Netflix, but you have me very intrigued!

  3. One of these days I’m going to have to give in and watch The Walking Dead, since so many awesome people are doing it already. But I need to know: how much of it will I actually watch, and how much of it will I watch with my fingers in my ears hugging my pillow? Just how scary are we talking, here?

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