In Season 2 of the zombie apocalypse show Fear the Walking Dead, Nick, a gringo junkie from Los Angeles, survives separation from his family by slathering himself with zombie guts and walking amongst a zombie herd. Zombies can’t sense your tasty human vitality when you’re covered in their own slime. This slathering/wandering scene—which takes place in Baja California, Mexico, where Nick and his family entered illegally from the US by boat—shows that Nick has gone native. Like the Mexicans around him, he allows himself to be contaminated with putridity in order to survive, an act apparently too humiliating for the other gringos on Fear the Walking Dead and its companion show The Walking Dead.
This scene, like many other moments in the Walking Dead universe, turns on the futility of erecting borders, both national and bodily. Unlike the gringos in both shows, most Mexican characters in Fear the Walking Dead assume that borders between nations are always permeable, and walking among zombies covered in their guts might work better than killing them. This difference is all about boundaries: do you make them and defend them or do you live as if permeation is inevitable? This distinction provides us with a useful way to think about our current president and his fixation on border walls.
Fear the Walking Dead is a spinoff of its wildly popular companion show, The Walking Dead. The show premiered in 2010 on AMC and went to become first, the highest-rated cable show in United States history, and then, the highest-rated show among 18–49 year olds for either cable or broadcast TV. Over seven seasons and counting, The Walking Dead follows Rick Grimes, a white, small-town Georgia cop, and his band of biological and chosen family as they learn to survive—heroically, and then less so—in the same zombie apocalypse Nick faces in Fear the Walking Dead nearly a continent away. Originally, The Walking Dead was set in rural Georgia with occasional forays into a devastated Atlanta, while in the last few seasons the action has moved to rural and suburban enclaves near Washington, DC. The show returns for its eighth season in October 2017.