Salon.com Rips the Walking Dead Over Race and Gender Issues

A few blog posts ago, I wrote about the 2012 election results and how this has been the year of the female voter and women’s issues.  Following the 2012 election and all of the discussion over women’s rights, Salon.com posted an interesting article slamming AMC’s hit TV show “The Walking Dead” over its portrayal of female and minority characters.  The article can be read here.

I will admit that I am a fan of the TV show, but I do agree with several of the points Salon raises, especially that minority characters are nearly invisible and women are reduced to domestic spaces and depicted as constantly needing protection.

Salon’s writer, Lorraine Berry,  analyzes a few of the main characters on the show, including Andrea, Lori, Michonne, and T-Dog, raising valid points about each. Regarding Lori, the writer is especially critical that Lori’s main role by the third season is only to carry Rick’s baby (or Shane’s), and she sacrifices herself to fulfill the pregnancy. She is not even given a choice as to whether or not she wants to have the baby in a world where its chances  of survival are slim to none.

Berry also points out that Andrea too is depicted as weak, especially at the start of the third season when she can barely survive on her own and has a gushing crush on the governor, probably because of the false sense of security and protection he provides, and who, like Rick Grimes, can be viewed as an example of a white patriarchy ruling in the post-apocolpytic world. This is quite a contrast to Andrea’s depiction in the comic; she becomes a sharpshooter and critical to the group’s survival, even as early as the prison arc. Meanwhile, the govenor’s right-hand man is Merle Dixon, absent from the comics, but one of the most outwardly racist characters on the show, frequently dropping racist and sexist slurs.

The writer does acknowledge that hope for a strong female lead  is introduced at the end of season two, when the katana-wielding comic favorite Michonne is shown during the last few minutes of the season finale. However, Berry points out that so far, her role has been reduced to a captive of the governor and his Woodberry crew, which doesn’t happen until a little later in the comic. Still, I have hope that the writers  will illustrate Michonne’s strength and perseverance evident in the comic, and she will indeed take on a grander role. I hope she  enacts vegence on the governor like she does in the comic, and I have my fingers crossed that she’ll take her katana to Merle’s neck.

Berry’s criticism extends to the shows few minority characters. The show’s only black character, T-Dog, has already been killed off. The only ones remaining, excluding Michonne and Glen, are depicted as prisoners or lackeys for the governor. This is another aspect where the show and comic differ. Throughout most of the arcs in the comic, the group has minority characters that are key to survival, but for whatever reason, they’re absent from the show.

The comic certainly avoids some of the racial and gender stereotypes and clichés that are prevalent on the show, which is surprising since the comic’s main writer also pens several of the screenplays. My hope is that these stereotypes and the white patriarchy Salon describes will change as this season progresses. Bigger, stronger roles should be written for Michonne and Andrea, once they flee Woodbury. Meanwhile, the writers should introduce a multi-layered minority character, like Tyrese or some of the others featured in the comic.

I am curious as to whether or not anyone else who has read the comic and watched the show has noticed a difference in regards to character development and gender and minority stereotyopes.

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About Brian Fanelli

I'm a poet, teacher, music junkie and much more. My first chapbook of poems, Front Man, was published in 2010 by Big Table Publishing. My full-length book of poems, All That Remains, was published in 2013 by Unbound Content. My latest book, Waiting for the Dead to Speak, was published in the fall of 2016 by NYQ Books. My work has also been published by The Los Angeles Times, World Literature Today, Harpur Palate, Boston Literary Magazine, Kentucky Review, Verse Daily, Spillway, Portland Review, and several other publications. My poetry has also been featured on "The Writer's Almanac" with Garrison Keillor. Currently, I teach English full-time at Lackawanna College.
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