One of the key themes throughout THE TRIBE is the idea of creating a new world from the ashes of the old.
It’s not possible to explore this theme without the characters, and the show’s creators, asking questions about the kind of society these kids want to build. This isn’t anything new; since ancient times, philosophers and politicians have also asked questions about the ideal society and how it is formed and maintained. But these have all been largely theoretical debates; it takes the breakdown of society to really force people to start talking practically in terms of starting over, and that’s exactly the scenario we have in THE TRIBE.
So where do we start? Every society needs some form of community at its heart. Aristotle’s famous quote that ‘man is by nature a political animal’, when translated literally, essentially says that human beings will naturally come together to form communities as a more efficient way of providing for our needs than if everybody tried to be self-sufficient. We see this in the very first episodes of series 1 as a disparate group come together amidst the chaos and anarchy of the post-Virus city to form their own tribe, the Mallrats.
On their own, none of the individuals or small groups that made up the original Mallrats would have survived in this new world. Let’s take a look at them:
AMBER & DAL
Already a firm pair through their existing friendship and shared values, Amber and Dal nevertheless found Tribeworld a difficult place to navigate. Though resourceful enough to survive while staying under the radar (Dal: ‘You know the rule Amber, look after number one’), ultimately it was a way of life that didn’t sit well with either of them, and so was unsustainable. We meet them at the point where they are considering fleeing the city altogether, though cracks are already showing between them, with Dal wanting to retire from modern life completely and return to more natural ways of living, and Amber struggling with the desire to stay and fight for the old society she believed in, even though she knows she can’t do it alone.
It is only through the Mallrats that Amber finds hope and allies, and Dal finds the safe haven he needs to build practical solutions without the fear of the destruction or abandonment of his creations.
SALENE & THE CHILDREN
While Salene had clearly done an admirable job of protecting Patsy, Paul, Cloe and Bob the dog from the Locos and Demon Dogs (series 1 is set around 6 months after the last adults have died), theirs isn’t a sustainable way of life – especially when Cloe is apt to wander off after stray animals – and by the time they meet Amber and Dal, Salene has resigned herself to giving themselves up to one of the larger tribes after the kids have had one last taste of freedom in the playground.
Even knowing that this likely means a life of slavery, being part of a larger community will give them access to wider resources that will end their struggle to meet daily needs such as food and shelter. Luckily, they happen upon a friendlier group of people than the Locos to build this community with, and the rest is history!
LEX, ZANDRA & RYAN
Another group that have formed their own small community already, originally with Glenn, Lex and co. have similar struggles to Salene’s group. Their ability to scavenge (or perhaps steal) useful items has allowed them to survive as a foursome for this long through trade, but with increasing competition for food (Lex: ‘we only have enough for ourselves’), the decision is made to try and merge with a larger tribe.
Not just any tribe will do, though. Lex attempts to make a bargain that will get them – or perhaps just Lex himself, according to Glenn – admitted into the Locos, a tribe that Lex believes to be top dogs in the city. It’s not just daily needs that Lex aspires to here, but a life of ease and relative luxury. This is something he cannot attain with his current company alone. At the very least there’s only so many times you can shaft one of your pals to get out of a sticky situation when there’s only four of you.
As for the others, natural follower Ryan is little more than Lex’s heavy without a deeper cause to be a part of, while Zandra’s creative talents can’t reach their potential without first having a place of safety and a community of people who can benefit from said talents.
BRAY & TRUDY
While Lex is determined to join the Locos, Bray has been trying to get Trudy out. Pregnant with Loco leader Zoot’s child, being part of the tribe for Trudy means danger, with a jealous Ebony, unpredictable Zoot, and a general environment of violence and fear all adding to the threat to Trudy and her baby’s safety. Bray hasn’t given up on community entirely, however. Having to leave Trudy on her own for long periods of time is far from ideal, and like Amber he believes in the importance of a fair and functioning society. After scouting around, he thinks the fledgling Mallrats are the closest he and Trudy will get to that for the time being, giving Trudy security and a safe place to have the baby while he goes out to find supplies without having to worry about them as much.
Unlike the rest of the characters we have looked at so far, when we first meet him Jack has decided to go it completely alone. Given that he so often thinks he knows best, this isn’t too much of a surprise. And in fact in many ways he has succeeded in providing for himself all those basic needs that the other characters have been looking for.
He has the shelter of the abandoned shopping mall, with an effective security system he can operate by himself. He also has an impressive stockpile of food, as well as a means to cook it. On top of this he has luxuries such as CDs and magazines, as well as real beds and soft furnishings. But as well as being an incredibly lonely existence, it’s also not one that can be classed as self-sufficient, and he knows it.
One of the first things he discusses with Amber and the others after letting them in and trapping Lex and his gang outside is how they can repay him by finding supplies; the food won’t last forever, after all, and there’s also the matter of water and batteries. And let’s not forget that even with extra defences the mall’s security couldn’t withstand an all-out assault by Tribe Circus. Jack needed the others just as much as they needed the shelter and food he provided.
Though we don’t really see anything of Tai San’s life or survival strategy before becoming a Mallrat, it would be wrong not to include her here as it is essentially her philosophy and beliefs that transform the Mallrats from a group of young people sharing the same space and resources into a Tribe, a proper community united by common values and loyalties. The many become one symbolically and literally as the Mallrats form a circle and join hands. Even previously difficult characters like Lex and Trudy sense that this is a turning point and want to be included. And whatever spiritual path Tai San herself had been on, she must have found what she was looking for in this group of people too.
So now we’ve seen the importance of community as a starting point for rebuilding society in Tribeworld. Keep a look out for future articles in this series, where we’ll look at the society the Mallrats make for themselves in their tribe and how this compares to other groups in the city. We’ll also be looking at what happens when things start to settle down and the tribes start working together and eventually start holding city-wide elections.
Until next time!