Nonverbal Necessities in The Walking Dead

Ross Baxter

Nonverbal Communication Online



Frank Darabont’s The Walking Dead is a great example of Hollywood filling the script with nonverbal cues and communication. For those of you who do not know, The Walking Dead is a television series on AMC, originally a comic series, that takes place after an infection turns the mass majority of the population into zombies, and follows the movements and survival of a small group of individuals and the problems they incur. Rick Grimes, a small-town Sheriff who finds himself emerging from a coma into this zombie-infested world, must survive with his young son Carl and an ebbing and flowing number of other survivors that make up Rick’s group. This small waywardly group not only face a daily onslaught of the un-dead, but also a never-ending wave of emotional and psychological convictions.


Carl, who  is 14 years old in the most recent season of the show, constantly struggles with the line between preserving a childhood and adapting his maturity to his new, post-apocalyptic setting. This seems to be one of the largest issues that Rick seems to deal with, and his face says it all. Every time Carl draws his weapon to defend the camp from a walker, Rick’s face screams resentment without even having to say a word. The never-ending conflict that resides within Rick’s conscience shows itself within his facial expressions and body language in almost every episode. His shoulders tighten, lips purse, and cheeks pull up into squinted eyes every time he sees his 14-year-old son cross the line from innocent child to desensitized warrior. 


Another character that displayed a large amount of nonverbal communication was Shane, a former partner of Rick in his pre-zombie career. Shane ended up having a relationship with Rick’s wife while Rick was missing, and the tension between the two violently escalated. Towards the end of the first and through the second season, Shane’s demeanor turned from a soft, fearful individual wondering where his next meal would come from to a hard, borderline psychotic existence. Through this transition, Shane used his face and body to display this emotional change. He stares off into nothing, glares and winces at even the thought of Rick, and begins to distance himself physically and emotionally from the other members of the group. After his emotional transformation, Shane shaves his head and his eyes adopt a disheveled, uneasy appearance; his body language is standoffish and erratic. It has become clear to Rick and the other members of the group that Shane has now become a liability that must be eradicated, and all of this was easily deciphered from his nonverbal communication; in theory, the ability to translate Shane’s nonverbal cues was the event that saved the rest of the group from Shane’s potential danger.


In conclusion, the plot and the survival of the group of survivors all relies on the use of nonverbal cues and communication. Body language, facial expressions, and cues give these group of unlikely survivors a sharp advantage over others who lack that skill; whether it be the body language of a potential threat or of a fellow survivor, the ability to intercept and decode these signs may just mean the difference between life and death in the post-apocalyptic world.





Darabont, F., Kirkman, R., Moore, T., &  Adlard, C. (2010, October 13). Television. Retrieved from



Darabont, F., McGregor, D. (2013, June 26). Website. Retrieved from                  walking-dead-the-demarcation-points-of-gut-spilling-and-womens-             nipples-in-pop-culture/


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