The other bad men at the door: Ontological spaces and the monstrous

Robert J. Helfenbein


The project here lies in putting two texts—The Walking Dead (TWD) and True Detective (Season 1)—to work in the effort of pedagogy, looking at the text as curriculum and as a way to teach curriculum theorizing through the use of popular culture.  Using a cultural studies framework, this paper suggests that contemporary popular culture provides fertile ground for new understandings of the ways in which the socio-cultural context and its relation to contemporary issues in curriculum theory are entangled in the ethical and the ontological.  In particular, representations of the spatial in the show/s provide an entrée into thinking about the ways in which space is increasingly politicized within contemporary conditions. I argue that these two shows are primarily about ontology—what it means to be, or perhaps in the “posts,” what might it mean to become.   For a zombie show like TWD, this may seem obvious as we witness the transformation of the dead to the undead, but as has been offered all over the internet, the show is really about the human (or post-human?) characters. True Detective, at least at first glance, a more traditional, film noir, Southern gothic crime drama, buries these questions a little deeper and requires one to think through the dialogue and overall structure to push the ontological.  Both shows involve the monstrous, however (spoiler alert), at the end of the day…the monstrous is us.


ontology, cultural studies, monster theory, Critical Geography

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JCT: Journal of Curriculum Theorizing is an interdisciplinary journal of curriculum studies. It offers an academic forum for scholarly discussions of curriculum. Historically aligned with the "reconceptualist" movement in curriculum theorizing and oriented toward informing and affecting classroom practice, JCT presents compelling pieces within forms that challenge disciplinary, genre, and textual boundaries.

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