Fear The Walking Dead (FTWD) viewers have applauded the series’ portrayal of youth drug addiction after it wrapped its first season this week.
The Walking Dead (TWD) spinoff traces the beginning of the end in Los Angeles and features a main character who is a Heroin addict.
Popular culture expert Dr Paul Manning said media depictions of intoxication and drug use are often presented in conflicting discourses.
“Our popular culture does not only glamorise these things but very often transmits important ‘cautionary tales’ about risks and dangers, too.” Manning said.
The Oz Walking Dead Podcast creator Ash Turner said FTWD has effectively delved into the ramifications of drug addiction which transcend the small screen.
“Having Nick hooked on drugs only adds another facet for a viewer to relate with in the real world,” Turner said.
“The Clarks are an average family and this is a reality for many average, real-world families.”
Turner said FTWD’s drug addiction themes make him uncomfortable as they’re an accurate depiction of events faced by drug addicted teens and their parents.
“You also see Nick lying to his family again and again as he fails [at] keeping clean and struggles to keep it from his patriarchal Mum who, has a borderline breakdown after discovering he was still using,” he said.
“She’s heartbroken and it’s shown very dramatically.”
“At this point, it’s pushed home the message very hard… There is absolutely no good in what he’s doing and it’s a devastating ripple effect on the family.”
Drug addiction is something TWD only explored briefly through ex-con character Merle, which Turner said was a stereotypical portrayal of a drug addict and therefore not confronting.
“FTWD is different, Nick is a valued and loved family member from a post-divorce but loving home,” he said.
“You like the kid and he could be anyone’s mate, brother or son you meet in life.”
“When you do learn of his drug addiction the viewer can only feel sad and sorry for his and his family’s burden.”
Gizmodo writer and franchise fan Campbell Simpson said the Clark’s family dynamic is interesting and the inclusion of drug addiction is thematically, a very modern concept.
“Their son runs off a lot, their daughter rebels because of it, the parents are struggling to cope,” Simpson said.
“Drugs are an exotic thing and are, in a way, the height of what we can do as a species.”
“Going from a world where you’re able to change your perception of reality by injecting chemicals, to one where your perception is the only thing keeping you from being killed and eaten, is a pretty stark difference.”
FTWD owns the title of highest-rated first season in cable television history. Expect to see the series’ second instalment next year.