“White trash wet dream,” I said to a friend after I started the first season of The Walking Dead. He didn’t get it. Most don’t. Themes in post-apocalyptic science fiction are deeper than you assume. Science fiction, though strictly made up, has true things to say about the world. The situation of The Walking Dead is fictional, but it has something to say about 2020 America.
A white trash wet dream is a post-apocalyptic world where self-reliance and a trunk full of firearms means survival. A white trash wet dream means no government forcing you to buy a hunting license or drive on the right side of the road. A white trash wet dream has no social order asking you to respect your neighbor’s viewpoint, pay for merchandise, or judge your crimes. In a white trash wet dream, might makes right, and right means not being dead.
White trash was a slur for poor white people. Now it is a term for people living on the fringes of social order. For those who are unpredictable, and lack respect for political, legal, and moral authority. Some self-identify as white trash to celebrate the stereotyping and social marginalization of lower-class whiteness.
Being white trash requires a level of self-reliance the privileged do not comprehend. Privileged, respected, socially affluent city dwellers have no clue how hard it is to produce the food they half consume then trash. Power and water and two-day deliveries means the dependent rich can marginalize those that make their social status possible.