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November 11, 2012 12:53 PM   Subscribe

'The Walking Dead' has become a white patriarchy. (Spoilers/Salon)

Also: Make Sure Your Face Is Clean Now, Can't Have No Dirty Dead: Race, Gender, And “The Walking Dead”
posted by mediated self (143 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wasn't it always? I only see people talking about it when they're ranting about the hideous gender politics, but I might hang with a weird crowd that way.
posted by winna at 12:55 PM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think you'd have to not have read the comic to be very surprised by that. I'm not expecting it to get a heck of a lot better, either.
posted by gurple at 12:58 PM on November 11, 2012


AskMe: Are the Walking Dead comics as sexist as the show?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:01 PM on November 11, 2012


Why has the world of “The Walking Dead” turned into a white patriarchy?

Presumably, for the same reasons that world before "The Walking Dead" did.
posted by Egg Shen at 1:10 PM on November 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


SPOILER COMMENT


Did they somehow reach a black character threshold with the introduction of Oscar (the tall convict) and so had to kill off T-Dog? Maybe they should have named it The Whitening Dead?
posted by orme at 1:12 PM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Can someone position the character Michonne in this vision of Walking Dead as racist/sexist? I'm not even disagreeing with the thesis, mind you. But that seems like a hell of an outlier.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:14 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


AskMe: Are the Walking Dead comics as sexist as the show?

Just to be clear, the answers to that question are overwhelmingly "NO." There's not a single example anyone gives that points to sexism/misogyny in the comics, and a number of folks, myself included, who read them all and saw nothing but a wide variety of female characters treated with complexity and thoughtfulness.

That said, the TV show's treatment of women sounds like shit. They actually have *Andrea* betraying the group to the Governor? My god, that's atrocious. Seriously, that's so far away from the comics it's shocking; Andrea was one of the key folks defending the group from the Governor. Does the TV show even have her as the group's best shot with a gun? I've only seen the first season but figured they'd get around to that eventually. It happened quickly in the comics.
posted by mediareport at 1:17 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Whitening Dead

The world's first zombie-based toothpaste?
posted by adamdschneider at 1:22 PM on November 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


Does the TV show even have her as the group's best shot with a gun?

It looked like they were going that direction for a while, but at this point in the run everyone is a crack shot (100% accuracy, all headshots, from any distance, with any weapon).
posted by mediated self at 1:24 PM on November 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


Can someone position the character Michonne in this vision of Walking Dead as racist/sexist? I'm not even disagreeing with the thesis, mind you. But that seems like a hell of an outlier.

Michonne exists for about thirty seconds per episode. The third season opened with a split plotline; Michonne and Andrea were on their own, and it seemed like this would be a nice break from the patriarchy of seasons 1-2. They quickly joined the Governor's cult, though, so that wasn't to be. Now there's little besides alpha male chest-thumping in both subplots.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 1:26 PM on November 11, 2012


Just to be clear, the answers to [whether the comic is as sexist] are overwhelmingly "NO."

Well, my answer is "yes", from what I've read so far (and I'm fairly caught up). Women aren't involved in the decision-making, ever, any more than they are in the TV show. A relentlessly terrible thing happens to a woman at one point, which isn't necessarily sexist, per se, but the problem I had with that particular incident was that it was entirely in the service of developing other male characters. That incident was also rather disturbingly lingered on, and if the reason was anything other than disturbing titillation, then I missed it.

The female characters are, by and large, entirely underdeveloped. They seem to exist only because it's necessary to have some females around to drive the plot forward by becoming endangered or having babies.

Who knows. It's a long arc, and I could be wrong in the end. But the comics don't seem to have anything more interesting to say about their female characters than the TV show does. If anything, the show has a lot more examples of women actually having conversations with each other. I feel like I know more about the TV show's Maggie than the comic's Maggie; same with Lori. Of course, a lot of that is because of the time spent in the show on Herschel's farm, which unfortunately bored me to tears.
posted by gurple at 1:29 PM on November 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm clearly out of the loop. Apparently this is a comic or TV show. I thought it was a computer game.
posted by edd at 1:34 PM on November 11, 2012


This kind reminds me a bit about this post by Abigail Nussbaum about the gender politics of Breaking Bad and Mad Men (there's a bit in there about race, too).

Nussbaum makes the point that a common theme to these shows (as well as, to some degree, their common ancestor, The Sopranos) is the attempt by a white male to recapture a fading form of masculinity, defined by violence and control and under constant challenge from their social environment - including the women and minorities that inhabit it. Having seen a few snatches of other shows like Sons of Anarchy, Falling Skies and Terra Nova, I'd say this is definitely an ongoing trend. The presence of loved but somehow oh-so-ungrateful/unreasonable females and (usually male) children/subordinates looking for protection and guidance is part and parcel of this, and I think it extends to a wider unease among what is still a predominantly white and male audience (viewing stuff created primarily by white men).

As for The Walking Dead specifically - someday I need to sit down with one of my friends who are True Fans and have them explain to me the attraction. Having seen the first season and not bothered with anything further (and having read a solid chunk of the comics before enthusiasm faded) I still don't get the tremendous popularity of the series. It's not bad, certainly, but the acting isn't all that impressive outside a handful of the primary characters, and virtually everyone else you meet is a walking stereotype. Is it just that this is the first time we've seen the zombie apocalypse scenario dealt with in TV series format, and so there's more that can be done with the premise?

That said, I'd like to see The Walking Dead start a trend in grabbing interesting indie comic titles to put on-screen. I'd have a certain amount of enthusiasm for when someone ponies up for a Y: the Last Man or DMZ series, myself.

Can someone position the character Michonne in this vision of Walking Dead as racist/sexist? I'm not even disagreeing with the thesis, mind you.

From what the linked articles suggest, she is chronically underused and not given much development at all.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:35 PM on November 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


AdamCSnider:
Y: The Last Man would never make it onto TV. Not enough men.
posted by Hactar at 1:38 PM on November 11, 2012 [17 favorites]


I have a dream that one day, down around Atlanta, with its vicious humans, with its crazed human Governor; one day right there, somewhere around Atlanta, little black zombie boys and black zombie girls will be able to join with little white zombie boys and white zombie girls and chow down on some braaaaiiiiiinnnnssssss.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:38 PM on November 11, 2012 [23 favorites]


I'd always thought that the status of women in the Walking Dead was intended to be part of the horror.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 1:40 PM on November 11, 2012 [20 favorites]


Haven't seen the TV show because I felt the comics got just sillier and sillier.
but if there was a zombie apocalypse, wouldn't the pre-apocalypse hegemonic groups be most likely to survive overall? Unless there is a concerted counter-hegemonic effort, they are likely to dominate the survivor population of the apocalyptic era too.
posted by Bwithh at 1:52 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, for heaven's sake. Chalk one up for some feminist Salon writer getting published by jumping onto the Walking Dead bandwagon after it becomes a hit show in order to score some human rights points. For the record, I've been a fan of the show from season one after Mr. Adams DVR'd it and insisted "I think you'll like it, it's not just zombies and science fiction, there's a story, too." And, OK, I will also admit that even though I'm something of an elder stateswoman I should be past that fangirl kind of stuff, but nevertheless I have fallen helplessly, hopelessly in love with the character of Daryl Dixon and as a result have watched and re-watched all the Walking Dead episodes up into double-digit numbers. Which is apparently more than the Salon columnist has viewed, since she would have noticed on repeat viewings that a large amount of the walkers are African-American, and many are in medical scrubs and suits and ties. The walker that attacked Andrea when the gang was out searching for Sophia was black. But, of course, once the group got to the prison it was racist to show African-American prisoners, despite current statistics (whether they're incarcerated justly or not).

As far as the women being protected by the men, in the case of Ed (Carol's abusive husband), Andrea and Jacqui did stand up to him, but because he physically outweighed them by more than half it took a steroid case like Shane to cut him down to size. That is often the case in real life when it comes to abusive partners - even if the female stands her ground, she often does not have the physical strength to combat the male.

As far as the women being relegated to the Hattie McDaniel work, I agreed with Jacqui in that episode, seeing as some of the men (Ed, the abusive husband, and Shane who was hunting frogs with Carl) could have certainly contributed to laundry detail. At least Dale was serving a purpose by keeping watch, and Daryl (*my hero*) was out hunting for food....
posted by Oriole Adams at 1:55 PM on November 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


SPOILER COMMENT


Did they somehow reach a black character threshold with the introduction of Oscar (the tall convict) and so had to kill off T-Dog? Maybe they should have named it The Whitening Dead?


Even better: Oscar shoots and kills the only other black guy to prove his worth to his new white boss Rick. Hmm!
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 1:55 PM on November 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


What I want to know is: How do they get away with NC-17 levels of gore on a basic cable show?

Won't someone please think of the children?

(Not actually concerned about the children.)
posted by Egg Shen at 1:57 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even better: Oscar shoots and kills the only other black guy to prove his worth to his new white boss Rick. Hmm!

Wait, what?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:58 PM on November 11, 2012


While I agree that some of the racist issues are apparent, I can't help but wonder if anyone actually believes that the writers are steepling fingers going, "Hmmm, yesss, and then we'll make him kill the other black guy!"

I'm more inclined to believe that maybe they killed T-Dog exactly because he wasn't a good character, and are trying to correct their ways with the new one.

Not that they couldn't have had both, but T-Dog was really stale.

Michonne is awesome. I want to see them make Daryl and Michonne a zombie smashing duo. I don't like how they're having her hang around Andrea as if she needs her.

Yes, the cast is overwhelmingly white. I'd like to see that change.
posted by Malice at 2:03 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm clearly out of the loop. Apparently this is a comic or TV show. I thought it was a computer game.

That's Left 4 Dead. But don't feel bad -- there are so many zombies (not to mention vampires) in current media it's pretty hard to keep up with them.
posted by dhartung at 2:05 PM on November 11, 2012


Michonne is awesome.

I dunno...

The question of her range aside, I find a bit of the Magic Negro in the ferocity of her concern for the welfare of a white woman who, frankly, doesn't seem that valuable a survival asset.
posted by Egg Shen at 2:08 PM on November 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


While I agree that some of the racist issues are apparent, I can't help but wonder if anyone actually believes that the writers are steepling fingers going, "Hmmm, yesss, and then we'll make him kill the other black guy!"

Racism isn't always or only the result of conscious and premeditated choices.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:14 PM on November 11, 2012 [34 favorites]


I'm more inclined to believe that maybe they killed T-Dog exactly because he wasn't a good character, and are trying to correct their ways with the new one.

Also: The new one? Really?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:15 PM on November 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


@AdamCSnider: Nussbaum makes the point that a common theme to these shows (as well as, to some degree, their common ancestor, The Sopranos) is the attempt by a white male to recapture a fading form of masculinity, defined by violence and control and under constant challenge from their social environment - including the women and minorities that inhabit it.

Not to derail the thread too much, but my specific attraction to Mad Men originates from the feeling that the image of Don Draper and co. as "cool" is a well-designed ruse. The show does a good job of expounding upon characters of both sexes, along the way illuminating much of how awful most of the men are. (Though, like The Wire, I think the show also takes the position that the men's sins often stem from societal or environmental pressures rather than some innate evil.)

(And back to our regularly scheduled programming:) The Walking Dead is significantly less nuanced.
posted by isnotchicago at 2:18 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yes, the cast is overwhelmingly white. I'd like to see that change.
Just as an aside, I'm trying to think of a case where someone could state that a cast is "overwhelmingly black" and not be accused of being racist. And it's not just in this instance...for example, I'm a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and quite often they mock a film or singing group for being "too white." I used to wonder if they'd be so comfortable for mocking a scene that was "too black." Where exactly is the line drawn at being "too" one race or another...?
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:19 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


As an Atlanta resident, the lack of black, Latino, and Asian characters makes it look like the show is not filmed here, even though it is. Even the suburbs here are largely majority-minority.

I have lots of friends who have played zombies, I read the comics years ago, I watched the first season, but ultimately I gave up because there are plenty of shows on TV that don't disappear the world that I actually live in. When the apocalypse comes, I hope all of my friends survive, not just the white ones.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:26 PM on November 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


Where exactly is the line drawn at being "too" one race or another...?

Wherever the exact line is, you can safely say it's been passed when the fictional city's minority population is an order of magnitude smaller than the real city's - i.e. Woody Allen's Manhattan.
posted by Egg Shen at 2:26 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


dhartung: no I really was talking about The Walking Dead.
posted by edd at 2:26 PM on November 11, 2012


Wait, what?

Yeah -- SPOILERS for last week's show -- there were three black guys on that episode: T-Dog, Oscar, and Andrew, a prisoner that Rick (the leader of Our Heroes) had left to the zombies earlier, and who was presumed dead. Andrew, still alive, tried to get revenge, and Oscar ended up getting hold of Rick's gun and pointed it towards Rick and Andrew. Andrew tried to convince Oscar to shoot Rick so that they could re-take the prison, but Oscar ultimately shot Andrew instead, then spun the gun butt-first and handed it back to Rick. Previously, Rick had no reason to trust Oscar, and this is clearly the point where that changes and Oscar will begin to be accepted into the group.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 2:31 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I used to wonder if they'd be so comfortable for mocking a scene that was "too black." Where exactly is the line drawn at being "too" one race or another...?

The point is that the situation is basically never going to arise. I'm never going to have to wonder if it's plausible there are no white people in place X. There are either no white people for some obviously plausible reason or there's a white character.
posted by hoyland at 2:32 PM on November 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's not just your imagination.

Key and Peele also did a sketch about racist zombies: http://youtu.be/4xyhVO-SWfM
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 2:32 PM on November 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


The show does a good job of expounding upon characters of both sexes, along the way illuminating much of how awful most of the men are.

I thought The Sopranos did this too, though I could see how it was too easy to gloss over the more nuanced view of The Sopranos. If I remember, this was the chief complaint of Weiner, that everyone loved Tony Soprano and didn't realize that he was a bad person. I felt a lot of the latter needless violent scenes in the last season were a somewhat jabbing response to the audience of, "You want needless, violence, here you go."

To a similar extent, American Psycho is viewed in a similar way. Patrick Bateman isn't a trader cum James Bond type, he's an unpopular, sociopath. He can't get reservations at restaurants, has to hire prostitutes to fulfill his fantasies, etc. But I still see douches post quotes on Facebook like he's some sort of suave aristocrat.

Walking Dead, I don't get this same nuance. The characters are too Little House on the Prairie, with the women sacrificing and keeping their heads down, and the men just sort of chest beating. I could deal with a story that proposes we regress to 19th social norms in the absence of technology and strong central institutions, but I think Walking Dead is just sort of being lazy.
posted by geoff. at 2:35 PM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Just to be clear, the answers to that question are overwhelmingly "NO." There's not a single example anyone gives that points to sexism/misogyny in the comics, and a number of folks, myself included, who read them all and saw nothing but a wide variety of female characters treated with complexity and thoughtfulness.

The comics are a sexist fantasy of "what if...?" As well, the amount of sexual, sadistic violence is off-putting.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:43 PM on November 11, 2012


As for The Walking Dead specifically - someday I need to sit down with one of my friends who are True Fans and have them explain to me the attraction. Having seen the first season and not bothered with anything further (and having read a solid chunk of the comics before enthusiasm faded) I still don't get the tremendous popularity of the series.

Because zombies.

To expound further. Zombies are like the potato chips of pop culture. Even a bad zombie show is still somewhat appealing, although I have to say The Walking Dead is *extremely* close to turning into Ruffles or some store-brand shitty potato chip that is thrown into a bowl at the last moment.
posted by jeremias at 2:49 PM on November 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


The point is that the situation is basically never going to arise. I'm never going to have to wonder if it's plausible there are no white people in place X. There are either no white people for some obviously plausible reason or there's a white character.
Perhaps I'm obtuse, but I don't understand your point. I lived in Detroit for many years in the mid- to late 1990s, and was often publicly called out about being a white girl where "I had no business being." My original question was when there was an all-white crowd with an all-white band playing, why was it apparently acceptable to call it out as such. Had the scenario been an all-black crowd, I doubt that the movie riffers would have made an issue of it. (For example, would the riffers have sing-songed "We're black, we're black" like they've previously done with a white crowd?)
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:54 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I'm obtuse, but I don't understand your point. I lived in Detroit for many years in the mid- to late 1990s, and was often publicly called out about being a white girl where "I had no business being."

Never going to arise in a film or on television, which was what we're talking about, not real life. When those places where you get looked at funny because you're the only white person show up on TV, there's inevitably a white person whose presence passes without comment.
posted by hoyland at 2:58 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


'The Walking Dead' American television has become always been a white patriarchy.
posted by Renoroc at 3:06 PM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's not just Walking Dead. Zombieland was not just set in, but shot in Georgia. Despite shooting in areas where whites are mostly the minority, somehow the only living black guys you see are in the opening credits, and most of your walkin' dead? White guys.

I have this theory that contemporary zombie movies are trying to get over the shame of the earlier, more explicitly racist zombie movies by just omitting most minorities whatsoever. Because if those people aren't the ravening dead, then it's not racist, right? Right?
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 3:09 PM on November 11, 2012


As if the tv series wasn't bad enough (I do watch it, but make liberal use of the fast forward button), here's the icing on the cake: let's discuss the attitudes toward race and gender of a bunch of rednecks from the Georgia countryside.
posted by gertzedek at 3:14 PM on November 11, 2012


The whole sexist angle... As a woman, I can't think of anything more horrifying than having a fetus cut out of me while I'm still conscious. It's absolutely part of the horror, and it's on the most basic, boiled down level possible. Male viewers, try as they might, will never quite understand the almost primitive level of fear. Without modern medicine, women are no better off than they were centuries before when 1/3 of women died in childbirth. It trumps Herschel's leg any day. My knuckles were white at the end of last week's epi.

But yeah, it had gotten to the point where I would gasp when T-Dogg got a line. I had hoped they could reset his character like they had with Carol. His character died a noble death but it was needless.
posted by mochapickle at 3:18 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


(For example, would the riffers have sing-songed "We're black, we're black" like they've previously done with a white crowd?)

In fairness, if that crowd had been any more white it would've gone infrared and vanished from sight.
posted by delfin at 3:22 PM on November 11, 2012


That said, I can't believe the show hasn't more fully explored the idea of women as chattel or breeding stock, as was done in BSG and the eerily similar-to-WD Survivors series from Britain.
posted by mochapickle at 3:22 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The question of [Michonne's] range aside, I find a bit of the Magic Negro in the ferocity of her concern for the welfare of a white woman who, frankly, doesn't seem that valuable a survival asset.

I'm not sure what else the show has to do to telegraph that Michonne and Andrea are lovers. It's not even subtle.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:38 PM on November 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


The protagonist of Telltale's Walking Dead games is black. Some reviewers say they're better written than the show or the comic book.
posted by straight at 3:48 PM on November 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also: The new one? Really?

I knew as soon as I wrote that there'd be someone who'd make it sound racist.

Yes. The new one. The new black guy on the show. If it was a cast of black characters I would refer to the new white character as "the new one". He was obviously a replacement for T-Dog.

I dunno...

The question of her range aside, I find a bit of the Magic Negro in the ferocity of her concern for the welfare of a white woman who, frankly, doesn't seem that valuable a survival asset.


As it's been pointed out, Michonne and Andrea appear to be lovers. Black, white, Asian or purple I don't know how else you treat a lover.

And even if they aren't, it's been established that they've been together for a long time. They're friends, and depend on each other. Andrea was ill. Was she supposed to just leave her there to die? She's acting like a human being, not a 'magic negro'.
posted by Malice at 3:50 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The fish tank scene pushed me back to the conclusion I had reached in mid-season 2, in which the show is not just silly but is wrong in so many ways it's to much work to make a case that it even tries.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:51 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Walking Dead misses on so many levels. The article mentions just a couple.

The Sheriff character was mildly interesting for some of the first season but now he is so friggin humdrum that I cannot wait for him to get offscreen. The only character that seems to have any complexity whatsoever is the boychild. Everyone else is predictable at all times.

The state of current tv (what's actually on and not between seasons) is dreadful. Between Walking Dead and Homeland, both praised to the high heavens, there's absolutely no characters with the depth of anyone on Deadwood, The Wire, Sopranos, or Breaking Bad. Hell, the characters who showed up in Deadwood who were killed within minutes had more depth than the leads on Walking Dead and that's no exaggeration. Persimmon Phil? Crop-ear? "I am not the fine man you take me for"? Hell, I'd watch the boy who talked about the jumbo trout for an hour with more pleasure than I get outta Walking Dead or Homeland.
posted by dobbs at 3:53 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's really just about heads getting busted open in exciting and innovative ways.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:55 PM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


From what the linked articles suggest, she is chronically underused and not given much development at all.

See also: Dee from BlacksDon'tStarin Galactica; Martha Freeman from Dr Who; and probably a bunch of other characters I can't even remember because they were/are so underused.

But there's hope for Michonne. The writers have got to know she's a fan favorite and that her appearance in the show was much anticipated. I'm going to have faith that they're not dumb enough to T-Dog her.

But speaking of women and minorities in speculative fiction, let me dial it back a few years to make a point about how frustrating the situation with TWD and other spec fic properties can be. I have a T-shirt that increasingly strikes me for its remarkableness: it features the cover of Secret Wars #1 from 1984. What makes it remarkable is that it features 3 black characters, 2 of whom are women -- Iron Man (Rhodes was in the armor at that time; annoyingly enough, the toy tie-in leads one to believe Stark is in the armor), Storm, and Captain Marvel. They are all on separate superhero teams, with Storm and Marvel even leading their squads at one point.

Where is such a thing nowadays? It amazes me that my daughter at age 5 sees fewer women who look like her in speculative fiction than I did in my youth. Michonne in the comics is pretty bad ass, but quite a few readers, not all of them black, wrote Kirkman to let him know how problematic it was that he chose to have the only black female character raped in order to show that Things. Are. Different. in the world of the zombie apocalypse.

Back to the tv show and other genre television, I really wish the casting directors and writers of all these genre shows would sit down with David Simon and have a discussion about how there are a ton of fine black actors out there who would make fine additions to any cast, and that they don't have to devote themselves to keeping the 18-35 heterosexual white male audience happy to keep their shows on the air.

Cuz it's getting to be goddamn ridiculous that we keep having these same race, gender, and sexual orientation discussions about action-adventure, crime, fantasy, and sci-fi shows in two thousand frikkin' twelve
posted by lord_wolf at 4:04 PM on November 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


I love zombie moves, and was big on them, if I might say so, before it was cool...

But The Walking Dead suuuuuu-uuuucks--IMHO. The final episode of last season and the first couple of this season seem better--more action, less overwrought, soap-opera-y dialog. But it's still not great, according to me.

And: I simply cannot understand why--if you're going to go all sci-fi / fantasy / horror anyway--you can't (or wouldn't)--dunno how to put this--give the traditional social underdogs more of a chance. I toy with writing a crappy zombie novel from time to time, and the classic underdogs always seem like the most interesting and satisfying heroes ( / heroines). Another ass-kicking dude is boring. Ass-kicking girls, for example, are just WAY more awesome. Or so it seems to me. So why not more of them?

OTOH, I'm in academia, and I'm way past tired of knee-jerk, poorly-thought-out charges of racism, sexism and classism. Which are generally tedious and silly and counterproductive. I basically quite reading anything in which I see the word 'patriarchy'...wish I'd stuck to that policy here.

That show isn't good. It's bad in basically every way, even by the standards of horror. Why anyone would think that such a show has some kind of obligation to help transform society--or would be surprised that it doesn't--is beyond me.

And is the percentage of non-white walkers in TWD really worth commenting on? That's about as trivial a point as I can think of. There's nothing even vaguely Southern about either of the male leads (though Shane's a gonner now)...or anyone else for that matter (except for the horrifically fake accents...). I wonder...is that politically incorrect as well? Where are the Southerners, dammit...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 4:21 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


To a similar extent, American Psycho is viewed in a similar way. Patrick Bateman isn't a trader cum James Bond type, he's an unpopular, sociopath. He can't get reservations at restaurants, has to hire prostitutes to fulfill his fantasies, etc.

Not to derail, but watch the interview with the director and writer of the screenplay, they are hilarious. Both strong feminists, both talked to Ellis about that exact take on him, which he loved. That he's not to be admired or looked up to, just the opposite. The same situation happens with 500 Days of Summer, the writers didn't make the main character someone to look up to, but some viewers didn't see that. What we see isn't always what the creators intended.

With the walking dead, i mostly got bored, both with the comic and show. It seemed like it was a repeating plot of: calm, move to new area, seems safe and settle down, someone is a bastard, have to move... repeat. I've got friends who honestly believe the portrayals of how people behave in the book is exactly like people would in real life, but that's bunk. One just needs to look at real life and see that people would simply form tribes of like people in different areas. That could also explain apparent racism.
posted by usagizero at 4:26 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ass-kicking girls, for example, are just WAY more awesome. Or so it seems to me. So why not more of them?

Name a horror film in the last decade or two with the survivor being male (if only one survivor)? I'm a fan of horror, and i'm having a hard time. Heck, it's even a trope, Final Girl. Looking at the site, i see a couple i had forgotten, but it's still pretty much the standard. Nothing against it, but it's not that rare a thing at all.
posted by usagizero at 4:34 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


there are so many zombies (not to mention vampires) in current media it's pretty hard to keep up with them.

So you are saying it's a fast zombie release schedule? I think I preferred the old-fashioned slow zombie release schedule.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:39 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The tragic journey of T-Dogg: from 'Ah hell naw!' to 'Ah, hell! Gnaw!"
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:43 PM on November 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure what else the show has to do to telegraph that Michonne and Andrea are lovers. It's not even subtle.

I'm going to go ahead and play the devil's advocate for a minute and say that a) it is not that obvious and b) it's a visual medium so the show does not have to telegraph anything. I mean, we have already passed the point were we can watch same sex couples talk about their relationship haven't we?

Yes. The new one. The new black guy on the show.

Yeah, T-Dog was the token black guy. I was upset when he died because just earlier in the very same show they let his character open up a bit and I was like "finally we get to learn about him", and then they killed him.

Also, the plot point where the guy comes back without a scratch is totally weak. Really? Escapes the zombies, escapes from a prison, doesn't have any food, hangs out in the woods for a few days, and his final master plan was to - let the zombies back in and turn on the alarm? Brilliant. Not that I'm nitpicking on that specific character over others because The Governor does not seem to have any kind of cogent or even discernible logic to what he does either.
So I guess I'm looking forward to more sociopathic characters that have unmitigated support for no apparent reason other than they are sociopathic.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:54 PM on November 11, 2012


I'm not sure what else the show has to do to telegraph that Michonne and Andrea are lovers. It's not even subtle.

It's 2012. If a show wants to present two women as lovers, they don't have to rely on telegraphing.

I think it would be a different kind of objectionable stereotyping to assume that two women are lovers for no other reason that they take care of each other.
posted by Egg Shen at 5:01 PM on November 11, 2012 [15 favorites]


Isn't the show deliberately shallow and crude? Not saying that absolves it of racism, which in my opinion is there. Just, if they stopped the characters from being cartoon characters, then you would also expect more realism on every level. That coma Rick goes into at the beginning: how long could he actually have lasted without life support? Even the week or so suggested by the condition of the flowers at his bedside would be medically unlikely. But the spread of the zombification suggests a longer period of time. I really think there is no logic in this show; it's all about keeping you watching with the effects, despite the fact that it makes no sense.
posted by BibiRose at 5:11 PM on November 11, 2012


I DEMAND that my zombie apocalypse fiction represent all genders, races, and orientations as equals.
posted by hellslinger at 5:19 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Lorraine Berry is firm in her conviction of the value of racial diversity. That is why she has made her home in the Finger Lakes region. (92.3% White, 4.4% Black and 2.6% Hispanic)
posted by Tanizaki at 5:30 PM on November 11, 2012


What is that even supposed to mean
posted by shakespeherian at 5:32 PM on November 11, 2012


I will say this about the show. I read all, I'm not sure, 72 or 78 issues of the comic that were out by the time the show aired. I tuned in to the pilot. I fell asleep halfway through and never turned it on again.

Ass-kicking girls, for example, are just WAY more awesome. Or so it seems to me. So why not more of them?

Man, you are not even looking, seriously. Where have you even been for the last, what, fifteen years? Unless you mean on this one piece of media, specifically, in which case ok.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:40 PM on November 11, 2012


I dunno about racist and sexist. I like the show a lot, but it does seem to have a problem with giving supporting characters something to do. Daryl and Carol and Andrea had family members wrenched from them, so there is always a background tension to them--you know their story. The black woman from the first season who chose to die in the CDC I thought acted well and was interesting.

T-Dog, though...if there is a criticism to be leveled at this show, it's about T-Dog. If I was the actor playing him I'd be pissed--locked into a show for years with almost nothing to show for it in a reel except your ability to be a soldier in a platoon. He didn't come with a family and didn't have an obvious social role to play (like Dale, pacifist and elder), but heck, they made Glenn interesting by riffing off his bravery, speed, and ingenuity. Then they gave him a love interest. Not for T-Dog. He was an utterly reliable, physically powerful, courageous member of the group. That's as worthy of character development as Glenn was, and it has been frustrating to see him left one-dimensional.

Maybe the writers and directors didn't think he was particularly versatile actor and didn't know what to do with him. Maybe there were set issues. That happens. But to labor in the background for three seasons, get one interesting scene, and die that episode--I would find that frustrating as heck.

Back to sexism--I dunno, the women to me seem pretty powerful. Lori was controlling her reproductive destiny from the moment she figured she was pregnant. She put Shane in his place. Andrea rebelled, Carol got Daryl back in the group, and did not totally dissolve while horrible things happened to her girl, Maggie controlled the pace of the relationship with Glenn and got tough in a hurry. Glenn often looks to her for permission to go on dangerous missions.

Sure, the women do "women's work"--unless they insist on coming along for the killing, in which case they are generally allowed, while Carl and Glenn are often told to stay put--but as Martha Nussbaum wrote, women's work is only demeaning or inferior if you think it is inferior work. It is necessary, and women's work is often a source of social power that men do not have access to. The women in the show certainly talk about meaningful things while they do the washing.
posted by oneironaut at 5:48 PM on November 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


I DEMAND that my zombie apocalypse fiction represent all genders, races, and orientations as equals.

I like how you've taken a desire that media not reinforce sexism and racism and rephrased it as a horribly unreasonable demand made by horribly unreasonable people. Wait, no, the other thing. Opposite of that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:10 PM on November 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


I like how you've taken a desire that media not reinforce sexism and racism and rephrased it as a horribly unreasonable demand made by horribly unreasonable people. Wait, no, the other thing. Opposite of that.

What do you think reinforces racism more, a fictional television series or the real-life behavior of people like Berry who resume to lecture on racial issues from her house in a disproportionately white neighborhood? Her behavior makes it clear that she thinks the worst thing to call a black person is the n-word: "neighbor".
posted by Tanizaki at 6:22 PM on November 11, 2012


What is that even supposed to mean

It was an attempt at a tu quoque argument fallacy, but managed to fail at even being an argument.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:24 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


All this serious discussion about the race and gender realism and/or equality on the show proves at least one thing: people are interested enough in the idea of a zombie apocalypse that they want narrative representations of such an event to reflect reality. However, as such an event is as far as we know not possible, narrative representations of it will fail to conform to any reality-based racial or gender relations model.

In other words, it is only a popular tv show based on a comic.
posted by vrakatar at 6:24 PM on November 11, 2012


What do you think reinforces racism more, a fictional television series or the real-life behavior of people like Berry who resume to lecture on racial issues from her house in a disproportionately white neighborhood? Her behavior makes it clear that she thinks the worst thing to call a black person is the n-word: "neighbor".

This is idiotic. No one needs special lifetime qualifications to judge whether a television show may have problematic dimensions, and to be blunt google-stalking a TV critic is kind of fucking weird and creepy and I think you need to knock this off.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:25 PM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Tanazaki, your attempt to reframe the discussion to be about the personal failings of the author is not a welcome derail. Please stop.]
posted by restless_nomad at 6:26 PM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


From the Salon comments: No one is saying this is the way the world *should* be though... The show is not glorifying anything it is portraying or trying to take a particular stance on political issues. Stop looking for the social commentary in every aspect of life. Sometimes things just are. Nothing more to it.

This is the second time in the past few days I've seen people say "well, this couldn't have been written any other way because it's set in a fictional world where things are this way".

Not sure if this betrays a misunderstanding of what fiction is, or if it's a way of saying "stop putting meaning in the things I watch for meaning", or what.

It appears to be happening in these comments too. I wouldn't mind an explanation.
posted by tychotesla at 6:40 PM on November 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I hate zombies so I've never watched the Walking Dead, but I did come across this article a couple weeks ago that makes it sound really racist and sexist vs the comic.

But while we’re looking forward to the introduction of Michonne, we are worried about the changes showrunners will make to her in comparison to the comics. Especially after we have seen the shifts they have made in the previous seasons of The Walking Dead, when it comes to marginalized characters.

We’ve already mentioned T-Dog replacing Tyrese[a black character from the comics]. T-Dog has no role in the show. He may as well be called Token Black Inclusion No.1. He hangs around in the crowd scenes, basically serving only to make them less white. Contrast that with Tyrese, who was as much of a leader and fighter for the group as Rick. His role was divided between Shane and Daryl (A character who, to add insult to injury, is painted as a redneck racist). Shane had a relatively brief role in the comics before dying, and Daryl didn’t exist in the comics at all. Both are white men.

Similarly, Andrea, a white woman, suffered some severe changes from the comics to the TV series. In the comics, she is the best shot of the group. She is the sniper–the one who would give you covering fire in even the most dangerous situation. When it came to front-line warriors at the beginning of the comics, it was Andrea, Tyrese, and Rick, without question. She is deeply involved in the group, connected emotionally to the other characters and a major asset to all of their survival.

Then look at Andrea of the TV series. She’s a passable shot at best. She’s a partial outsider and, while she does argue against the men getting the guns while the women clean, she manages to shoot one of her group by mistake, which almost seems like a cautionary tale: “See what happens when women get guns? Get her back in the kitchen before she kills someone!” Again, Daryl and Shane (two white men) replace Andrea as the group’s warriors.

In the cases of the Andrea and Tyrese characters, the traits that made them linchpins of the group were stripped off and given to a brand new white male character or white male characters with expanded roles, while the black man and the white woman took a lesser, background position. We fear the same will happen to Michonne. How much of the powerful character we have come to know from the comics is going to stay with her and how much will be passed on to an unnecessary white male stand-in?

posted by nooneyouknow at 6:46 PM on November 11, 2012 [7 favorites]


people are interested enough in the idea of a zombie apocalypse that they want narrative representations of such an event to reflect reality. However, as such an event is as far as we know not possible, narrative representations of it will fail to conform to any reality-based racial or gender relations model.

Because the event itself is impossible does not mean that the aftermath has to be portrayed in unrealistic fashion; in fact doing so undermines the suspension of disbelief that every good work of fiction should be trying to create for its audience. If you're going to start from an implausiable premise, you should be doing everything possible to make the rest of it seem as plausible as possible. Because the bigger your What If scenario, the better you can support it be making everything else about the world seem right. The Walking Dead should feature not only survivors that reflect the diversity of the area, it should also feature zombies that are diverse as well.

Another case in point: Cloverfield. Implausible scenario, and one of the larger follow-on implausibilities that I saw was an utter lack of children, seniors, and anyone with a disability during the evacuation. I spend some time working on disaster response scenarios as part of my job, and the time spent thinking about those groups is significant - their absence was notable to me, and further undermined the suspension of disbelief.

Shorter me: Just because it is a work of fiction does not mean it gets to take easy shortcuts in depicting the world.
posted by never used baby shoes at 7:00 PM on November 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


Speaking just about the comics, it was the gender stuff in issue #3 that turned me off.

So the men go hunting, and the women go down to the river to wash the clothes. Women 1 and 2 talk excitedly about the new detergent they've gotten. Woman 3, who happens to look a bit butch, complains that that they're exited about a detergent, and Woman 1 (our hero's wife) defends it. Upon Woman 3 pointing out the hunting/washing asymmetry, Woman 1 says, "I don't know about you, but I can't shoot a gun. I never tried, to be honest.... I wouldn't trust any of those guys to wash my clothes. Rick couldn't do it with a washing machine. He'd be lost out here. This isn't about women's rights. It's about being realistic and doing what needs to be done."

So that triggered my gag reflex, though perhaps I am too sensitive. Apart from everything else, they're living in a zombie post-apocalypse, and she's never even tried to shoot a gun?

Then the three women make nice by making sure this opportunity to pass the Bechdel test is lost, by talking about their menfolk. (It was so sweet; he finished college, and she didn't even finish the year!)

And then: zombie attack. Women 1 and 2 sensibly run, but that problematic Woman 3, for some reason, is paralyzed with fear. The men with guns can't even shoot the zombie because she is standing in the way. Luckily, the day is saved by the geezer with an axe. "I couldn't... I couldn't... you saved my life" Woman 3 says. "Don't mention it," says the old but still manly man. And then there are literally a half-dozen panels of women and children clinging to their men. "Everything's okay now, hon" says the guy who just arrived to his wife who has been here all along though never bothered to pick up a gun.

So that's when I stopped reading. As I said, I'm probably too sensitive.
posted by chortly at 7:21 PM on November 11, 2012 [20 favorites]


Compare either the comic or the TV show to Night of the Living Dead, and it's pretty evident how unimaginative the series is. The final scene of Night of the Living Dead seems to address pretty well the fate of minorities in zombieland. There's never been another zombie movie like it.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:24 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've got to admit that the lack of black characters, both in the main cast and in the zombies, has been a bit off putting. Coming from a pretty white mixed with mostly asian and first nation minorities part of Canada the large percentage of black people in the southern US is really noticeable to me every time I'm down there. But featured zombies are almost never black. Logistically I can't imagine any reason for it; there can't be a lack of black talent for such bit parts.

Women can also be counted on to need constant reassurance — always from men — that this life they’re now living is worth surviving for.
This is a bit unfair if only because of the suicide bit at the farm.

AdamCSnider writes "I still don't get the tremendous popularity of the series. It's not bad, certainly, but the acting isn't all that impressive outside a handful of the primary characters, and virtually everyone else you meet is a walking stereotype."

A few things. First the general populatiry of zombies at the moment. Second, and this is arguable of course, the low quality level of TV today in general. So much reality TV dreck. I mean I guess if you like reality TV it's fine but if you don't it's a huge hole in the schedule for people to talk about.
posted by Mitheral at 8:30 PM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because god forbid we just enjoy some fun escapist t.v. without analyzing it into the ground for no good reason other than to grind whatever axes we got in college.

White people: determined to prevent everyone from having fun, liking stuff, or just generally being goofy without the application of lots of pointless guilt.
posted by gsh at 8:37 PM on November 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


You're overthinking this discussion a bit, gsh. Just relax and don't worry about it.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:46 PM on November 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


Because god forbid we just enjoy some fun escapist t.v. without analyzing it into the ground for no good reason other than to grind whatever axes we got in college.

White people: determined to prevent everyone from having fun, liking stuff, or just generally being goofy without the application of lots of pointless guilt.


Yeah, god, why can't media just reinforce sexual and racial stereotypes and contribute to the normalization of racist and sexist power structures without people getting all upset about it? Shut up and passively absorb hateful attitudes, everybody!
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:54 PM on November 11, 2012 [22 favorites]


In the video game, the main character and his unofficially-adopted-daughter don't seem to be white and (at least for me, and the end of episode 4) the majority of survivors are non-white. You do encounter a disproportionate amount of white people in the show, but they mostly are jerks or die gruesomely (or, most often, both).
posted by wheloc at 10:34 PM on November 11, 2012


I add another voice to the chorus of "The comic is pretty sexist, too." chortly points out the first (and most blatant) inklings of it. There's that whole torture porn scene that goes on (anyone who's reached it knows what I'm talking about). Classic Women In Refrigerators moment. And even now the women remain pretty peripheral to the men, acting as agents in conflict rather than as center to the conflict themselves.
posted by schroedinger at 2:10 AM on November 12, 2012


Call me crazy, but aren't white writers generally going to tend to write white characters? This was based on a comic series which they probably never imagined would make it to TV. Yes, the TV writers have changed the story some, but if the comics feature mostly white characters then isn't the show going to do the same?

If I were a writer and I started writing a book/comic book, I would almost be terrified to even bring up the race of my characters, for fear that every little thing I wrote about races which I am not would be "wrong" or torn apart as racist. I'm not saying it's right to shy away from including characters of other races. But what if I accidentally (say) have a black character happen to eat some watermelon, not knowing that's a stereotype belief that whites hold about blacks (because it really sounds innocent if you don't know), and OMG now I'm the worst writer who ever lived?

And then you have The Hunger Games, which when the movie came out, despite the books CLEARLY describing Rue as having dark skin, people were throwing complete fits that Rue was black. (I read the books after seeing the movie and I thought Rue was perfectly adorable.) They wanted her to be white even though that was never the author's intention. Suzanne Collins wrote a black character and people still just imagined whatever they wanted.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:37 AM on November 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I tend to think that identity is more than identifying as white or black, and then writing about that experience. In this case, the writers have an opportunity to create something much more than a plot-driven escapist fantasy, but they didn't and I suppose it bothers some people that something so shallow as become so popular (both the comics and the show).

Personally, the rape fantasies and revenge fantasies got to be a bit much...
posted by KokuRyu at 3:07 AM on November 12, 2012


Call me crazy, but aren't white writers generally going to tend to write white characters?

This is at least somewhat true, though obviously isn't going to be accurate 100% of the time. The argument could be made, however, that good writers can step outside themselves.

But, again, I tend to agree with your comment.
posted by Malice at 3:13 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Personally, the rape fantasies and revenge fantasies got to be a bit much...

I thought for a second there I was in the James Bond thread.
posted by Malice at 3:14 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Shut up and passively absorb hateful attitudes, everybody!

Walking Dead portrays a world gone to hell in a zombie apocalypse. The racial makeup of the protagonists does not inherently portray "hateful attitudes", aside from the hateful characters (Marl, for example). If you can't spend 45 minutes watching a zombie themed show without getting all worked up about racism and the patriarchy, perhaps you should step away from the TV.
posted by ellF at 3:47 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you can't spend 45 minutes watching a zombie themed show without getting all worked up about racism and the patriarchy, perhaps you should step away from the TV.

The media we create embodies the attitudes and prejudices and stereotypes and so on that live in our minds, and the media we consume either reinforces or challenges them. Media that reinforces harmful and prejudicial attitudes does harm to us when we consume it uncritically. That a particular bit of media is zombie-themed does not prevent it from communicating hateful attitudes and ideas, nor does it magically exempt it from analysis or from a responsibility to not contribute to the generally shitty state of our cultural attitudes toward each other.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:11 AM on November 12, 2012 [16 favorites]


If you can't spend 45 minutes watching a zombie themed show without getting all worked up about racism and the patriarchy, perhaps you should step away from the TV.

During that 45 minutes I really get all worked up about how STUPIDLY the characters behave, but I also can't ignore the way that women and minorities are portrayed (or not portrayed).
posted by orme at 4:27 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you can't spend 45 minutes watching a zombie themed show without getting all worked up about racism and the patriarchy, perhaps you should step away from the TV.

Yeah! Go and wash the dishes or something!
posted by KokuRyu at 4:43 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Because god forbid we just enjoy some fun escapist t.v. without analyzing it into the ground for no good reason other than to grind whatever axes we got in college.

In dreams begin responsibility.
posted by Egg Shen at 5:07 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm always a little shocked and surprised when something like this comes out. Normally I start asking questions like "why are you making a big deal about this?" and it always ends in an argument.

Apparently my complete and absolute disregard to the racial assignments of characters in shows and movies has made me racist.
posted by jcterminal at 5:40 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can imagine that the lack of black zombies is over-compensation: the creators thinking "well, they can't call is racist if the bad guys are all white." But the lack of black protagonists (and poor development of what black characters they have) is racism (possibly unconscious but still real) - and not very believable given where the show is set.

That said, they clearly know nothing about men and women re laundry -- as my SO shows, men are specifically adapted to do laundry (and ironing) well. It must be the greater upper body strength.
posted by jb at 5:46 AM on November 12, 2012


Apparently my complete and absolute disregard to the racial assignments of characters in shows and movies has made me racist.

I would posit that a version of Walking Dead with all the cast members as black people except for a badass sword-wielding white chick named Becky, an Asian guy, and a white dude named, I dunno, Carlton, who never had any lines until the episode where he was suddenly eaten not long after another white dude was introduced...I'm not saying that would get your attention, but I'm willing to bet a lot of people who think now that they have an absolute disregard for the racial assignment of characters in shows and movies would soon discover that they really didn't.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:30 AM on November 12, 2012 [14 favorites]


ellF writes "If you can't spend 45 minutes watching a zombie themed show without getting all worked up about racism and the patriarchy, perhaps you should step away from the TV."

Well into the third season it's a lot more than 45 minutes. Maybe that's where it becomes more obvious; I watched season one and then season two both on netflicks over a couple days. It might be more obvious concentrated that way without commercial break.
posted by Mitheral at 6:45 AM on November 12, 2012


ecause god forbid we just enjoy some fun escapist t.v. without analyzing it into the ground for no good reason other than to grind whatever axes we got in college.

Okay but here's the thing: Yeah it's escapist, yeah it's fantastic and fakey fakey, sure. But when I say 'Oh a show about zombies, I will watch that,' I am signing up for the fantastical premise: zombies. I am not signing up for the fantastical premise that women exist only in relationship to men while men exist independent of women; I am not signing up for the fantastical premise that black people are uninteresting as individuals. But the show presents both of those things as reality, which is distracting. And sure, I'm a white dude, so it's easy for me to ignore that the women on the show always only react to the men (and typically that reaction is to act worried and insane and ultimately be proven irrational by the men's actions). It's easy for me to ignore that the black character mostly hangs around in the background and has never received any characterization except the name T-Dog. But if I imagine being a woman and watching this show-- if I imagine being black and watching this show-- if I imagine my daughter watching this show, I wonder what lessons it'll teach her about how women behave, whether women can ever be heroes, whether black guys can ever be protagonists, or whether white dudes are always the most important and most interesting people around. I wonder what it would teach my daughter that two women in the show, alone against a world of zombies, is too boring and needs to be complicated by the presence of an interesting white dude whom they will now talk about. It's easy not to think about these things, but they are on their face crazy and far-fetched notions of reality that don't match up to my experience so sometimes I notice them and it's hard not to wonder.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:14 AM on November 12, 2012 [13 favorites]


Apparently my complete and absolute disregard to the racial assignments of characters in shows and movies has made me racist.

Have you considered the possibility that you've mixed up the cause and effect there?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:15 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to design posters for various campus groups. Rallies, meetings, special events: if you needed it in a hurry, you came to me. So I am a complete expert in drawing the white man, the Hispanic woman, and the African-American man doing stuff together. Or else the white man, the African-American woman, and the Hispanic guy. Or, if it was a big poster, there could also be the Asian-American woman and the two gay guys. The problem for me was that the only combination I couldn't exclude was the white guy. If I excluded the white guy, he wouldn't come to the meeting, based on some vague undefinable unease he got from looking at the poster. Every other sort of person would come to the meeting and then complain to me about the poster being lame.

As an artist, I found this type of poster boring to draw. All I can say is that college campuses today often look in reality like the imaginary college campuses I was drawing back then, so I'm OK with it.
posted by acrasis at 7:22 AM on November 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


I would posit that a version of Walking Dead with all the cast members as black people except for a badass sword-wielding white chick named Becky, an Asian guy, and a white dude named, I dunno, Carlton, who never had any lines until the episode where he was suddenly eaten not long after another white dude was introduced...I'm not saying that would get your attention, but I'm willing to bet a lot of people who think now that they have an absolute disregard for the racial assignment of characters in shows and movies would soon discover that they really didn't.

There is a channel full of shows with cast like that. It is called BET. While I have to consult a reference to know what shows run on that network, I do not begrudge their directors casting their shows however they damn well please. I have to wonder if Berry was distressed by the racial makeup in the casts of "Coming to America", "Precious", or anything Tyler Perry has ever done.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:02 AM on November 12, 2012


I would posit that a version of Walking Dead with all the cast members as black people except for a badass sword-wielding white chick named Becky, an Asian guy, and a white dude named, I dunno, Carlton, who never had any lines until the episode where he was suddenly eaten not long after another white dude was introduced...

We need this show. The white guy should only wear sweater vests.
posted by jb at 8:09 AM on November 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


His name should be Thurston Howell IV.
posted by elizardbits at 8:14 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to wonder if Berry was distressed by the racial makeup in the casts of "Coming to America", "Precious", or anything Tyler Perry has ever done.

If this show were set in North Dakota or Utah, or even upstate Maine, it would be appropriate. But it's not -- it's set in Atlanta. I would also not set a show in Montreal and have no French Canadian characters.

That said, I remember watching Northern Exposure, and (as much as I loved that show) being pretty annoyed that there was only one native character who wasn't a cypher and even he was played by a white actor. The Canadian drama North of 60 wasn't as well written, but at least there the native characters had character. The first season started out very much from a white perspective (via the main character, coming from the outside), but (if I recall correctly) I think it got to the point where the few white characters had been sidelined in favour of the much more interesting native characters.
posted by jb at 8:17 AM on November 12, 2012


His name should be Thurston Howell IV.

hey, don't stereotype. "Brad" would be much more realistic.
posted by jb at 8:18 AM on November 12, 2012


I submit that the Governor (coincidence? I think not) is the writers' straw-man tee-up to dismantling the white patriarchal rule on TWD. I have no doubt that Michonne will return and prevail! Also, Maggie! We just have to get rid of the other wimpy sister-wife-daughter of Hershel's, she's next.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:30 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Count me as one of the people who thought that the reinforcement of gender roles was part of the primitive & survivalist horror setting. I've only read the entire comic book series, not the TV show.

In other news, geez - people seem to get a thrill when they get to cry "white patriarchy" on something.
posted by Evernix at 8:30 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because of this thread I scanned the crowd at the Governor's party last night. I would say that while there wasn't quite as many blacks as there should have been, there were quite a few. And wasn't the guy that Merle kicked the crap out of Hispanic?

Regardless, the post-zombie world would be a lot better if Daryl Dixon were the king.
posted by Ber at 8:34 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


If this show were set in North Dakota or Utah, or even upstate Maine, it would be appropriate. But it's not -- it's set in Atlanta. I would also not set a show in Montreal and have no French Canadian characters.

I spent five years in Atlanta. I regret to inform you that even in Atlanta, whites and blacks don't eat lunch together very often. Atlanta, as many other large cities, is highly segregated. See also. I find it realistic that this would continue in the post-apocalypse.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:35 AM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Count me as one of the people who thought that the reinforcement of gender roles was part of the primitive & survivalist horror setting. I've only read the entire comic book series, not the TV show.

I've read all of TWD to date, too, and I think the book's treatment of gender is way more questionable than its treatment of race; the cast of the graphic novels has always been very racially diverse. The problem I have with the notion that it's realistic that "traditional" gender roles would be reinforced in a zombie apocalypse is that there really is no realistic zombie apocalypse, because zombies aren't real. So a person's notions of what looks like realism in that scenario pretty much come back to that person and how they look at the world. This is not to say that the creator of such a scenario is sexist at all, but rather to say that if he thinks that such a scenario would necessarily play out in a sexist fashion, then that's on him (or her) and his POV on life, because we literally have no way whatsoever of knowing how the world would react to a scenario that is utterly without precedent due to the fact of its complete and total patent impossibility.

In other news, geez - people seem to get a thrill when they get to cry "white patriarchy" on something.

I think it's noticeable on the show because (a) the comic isn't like that, and (b) the comic wouldn't exist without the inspiration of George Romero, and those films are basically the total opposite of that, and on purpose.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:45 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


How To Be a Fan of Problematic Things

This should probably be linked in every discussion about race, gender, and sexuality in speculative fiction on this site.

It feels like whenever we have these sorts of threads, there is an immediate reaction of "Shields up and power all weapons!" on the part of the fans who do not feel that the properties under discussion are mishandling race, gender, and sexuality. From my perspective, it seems like the thought process is something like this: "Hmm, they're saying that the show isn't PC...which means they think the writers are bad people...which means they think I'm a bad person because I enjoy it, like this is some Birth of a Nation shit or something and I'm going to run out and burn a cross on some minorities lawn after watching the show. Fuck that!"

In most cases, women and PoC aren't criticizing these properties because we hate the writers or fans -- we're angry at them because we're fans and writers ourselves, and we know the shows, comics, and games should be better about it.

The excuse given for Tolkien, CS Lewis, and many other Important Names who wrote in decades past when they mishandle these issues is that these men (almost always men) are products of their time, so of course they portray women and religious/ethnic minorities like that. Well, what's the excuse now?

Is it, as someone said upthread, that creators are scared of putting members of marginalized groups in their work because if they assign them any negative traits or, even worse, stereotypical traits, they'll face anger and criticism? I'm sorry, but I think that's weak sauce. Take a goddamned chance, and then learn from the feedback you get.

For example, I think I did an okay job with portraying people who are members of groups to which I do not belong in my own stuff, but I would not at all be surprised if someone who is a member of one of those groups read my stories and said, "Say, LW, you kinda effed up in the way you handled gay characters. I found it upsetting that you chose the gay man as the one who suffered this catastrophe and did this thing etc etc."

I hope -- I don't know for certain because it hasn't happened yet -- that should something like this ever occur, I will be able to squash my initial desire to reply, "Nuh uh! Plus I have this one gay friend who read it and he didn't have any problem with what happened to that character! And, also, reasons!" and instead say, "Fan, thanks for pointing that out. I tried hard to be even handed, but obviously I've got some work to do. Cheers!"

I say this because I don't think we're in a situation where we fans must wait humbly for our favorite creators to deliver their works to us from on high, works which we must then uncritically receive. I think that the fans have both the right and obligation to help our favorite writers and owners of beloved properties tighten up their game. And I think that in the 21st century, I have the right to aim a little bit higher than just being happy that Glenn is not a martial arts expert or computer whiz and that a quick scan of a crowd scene shows some brown faces.
posted by lord_wolf at 9:00 AM on November 12, 2012 [12 favorites]


Why does all fiction have to appeal to all people? Can't their be fiction that certain segments of the population find more appealing than others?

Fiction designed by a single creator has a risk of being bias. But the counter argument is that fiction is one of the times people can imagine themselves in another person's shoes and how they see the world.

And it's okay to analyze it and point it out, but I'm also okay with a creator saying "I acknowledge the bias's, but I have a unique vision and I'd like to continue on that."
posted by FJT at 9:20 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Firstly, acknowledge that the thing you like is problematic and do not attempt to make excuses for it.

But people who don't want to discuss it in those terms are going to stop reading right there.

I wonder if this is a situation where you are either minded one way, or another. To me, almost all artistic expression is apt to be biased on some level, because people just are biased by nature. It's a matter of degree and there is a point where the bias becomes offensive to me, and I recognize that that point is personal and apt to change. For other people, bias is not a given and it's up to the critic to prove that it exists. You can have disagreements about degree that can maybe be resolved or negotiated, but you can't really argue with someone who's not prepared to believe it exists.
posted by BibiRose at 9:22 AM on November 12, 2012


Call me crazy, but aren't white writers generally going to tend to write white characters?

And this is another part of the problem: when tv writers are mostly white men (as they are now).

Why does all fiction have to appeal to all people? Can't their be fiction that certain segments of the population find more appealing than others?

Why does "fiction that is aimed at everyone" mean "fiction that stars white men", though?
posted by jeather at 9:50 AM on November 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Why does "fiction that is aimed at everyone" mean "fiction that stars white men", though?

Does Walking Dead claim to be fiction that is aimed at everyone?
posted by FJT at 10:02 AM on November 12, 2012


Does Walking Dead claim to be fiction that is aimed at everyone?

I'm pretty sure AMC would not be comfortable going on record that it is fiction aimed at white men?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:05 AM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I now have my brain repeatedly saying, in perfect imitation of the AMC announcer's voice and intonation, "Previously...on AMC's 'White Men'..." I'm pretty sure it's going to overlay the actual announcer for those bits going forward, in much the same way I now cannot not hear the lyrics to Game of Fuckin' Thrones over the opening credits of that show.

re: Michonne's role in things. I'm pretty sure it was prior Mefi-sourced snark about the show (most likely the lamentable second season, in which they forgot that in order to have interesting character drama when there was no action you do actually need to have interesting characters) that, paraphrased, "Women in the Walking Dead are either idiots or action heroes." Michonne's the latter.

What with the katana, it's also struck me that she's two-thirds of the tabletop rpg world's lesbianstripperninja archetype.
posted by Drastic at 10:17 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure AMC would not be comfortable going on record that it is fiction aimed at white men?

Of course, because that would be the Wrong Kind of Market to publicly acknowledge. The closest a channel can come to this is Spike TV, which it can get away with because the programming is frivolous reality shows and pro wrestling/MMA.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:20 AM on November 12, 2012


I'm pretty sure AMC would not be comfortable going on record that it is fiction aimed at white men?

No, but they may also not state to be for "everyone" because that could come with certain assumptions like it would be wholesome entertainment for the whole family. They may just show enough of their hand in who they're advertising to that they don't need to say outright who the is show is for at all.
posted by FJT at 10:26 AM on November 12, 2012


"Previously...on AMC's 'White Men'..."

Oh, you mean Mad Men.
posted by Malice at 11:07 AM on November 12, 2012


At least Lost had good charactor development in flashbacks. This show is super overrated.
posted by joseppi7 at 11:48 AM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tanizaki writes " Atlanta, as many other large cities, is highly segregated. See also. I find it realistic that this would continue in the post-apocalypse."

Zombies can't handle door knobs; hard to imagine they are going to observe socitial guidelines on segregation. And if they did, given the local population percentages, half the zombie hordes should be exclusively black. Which also isn't happening.

lord_wolf writes "Is it, as someone said upthread, that creators are scared of putting members of marginalized groups in their work because if they assign them any negative traits or, even worse, stereotypical traits, they'll face anger and criticism? I'm sorry, but I think that's weak sauce. Take a goddamned chance, and then learn from the feedback you get. "

Listening to movie commentaries this happens for sure or at least the directors think they are being monitored and pressured by assorted minority over watch groups. As long as the guys making movies think this is happening, whether it does or not, then at least some of the time they are going to side step the issue.
posted by Mitheral at 12:23 PM on November 12, 2012


without analyzing it into the ground for no good reason other than to grind whatever axes we got in college.

What's with the assumption that everyone upset about TWD's issues with race is white?
posted by toerinishuman at 12:45 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey, the Asian guy really stepped up and took a leadership role last episode when the white guy snapped. Maybe it's just a dumb zombie show after all, eh?
posted by Burhanistan at 12:46 PM on November 12, 2012


Remind me please to never, ever write anything anyone on Metafilter might ever see.
posted by digitalprimate at 1:24 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will attest that I think it is perfectly alright to say "I like this thing but there are some other things that are wrong and it would be great if they at least tried to do something about those other things so that I can really enjoy and talk about the thing without internal conflict turning it into sour grapes."

If anyone needs hugs or hand-holding to get through such a daunting task, I'll be available.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:54 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Zombies can't handle door knobs; hard to imagine they are going to observe socitial guidelines on segregation. And if they did, given the local population percentages, half the zombie hordes should be exclusively black. Which also isn't happening.

I was speaking to the living bands of survivors, not the zombies who only get two sentences of discussion in the linked article. Of course, the zombies of TWD do seem to exhibit some behaviors from their living days, such as when Morgan's wife tries to enter the house where she died. So, if people "kept to their own" while living (which most do), it is plausible that this would carry over when zombified. In fairness, I must admit that the scenes in downtown Atlanta were filmed in a location that is not as white as those zombie mobs would suggest.

For an example of racially segregated survivor groups, one only has to go a few episodes into the first season to find "Vatos", where a Hispanic group of survivors kidnaps Glenn. It later turns out this group of minority survivors was running, apparently competently, a makeshift nursing home for elderly survivors. I did not notice any black women or Asian men in the Vatos refuge, and I wouldn't expect there to be. This episode was apparently forgotten or ignored by Berry.

*and frankly, not a few of the zombies are sufficiently weathered and decomposed that they are racially ambiguous. I've seen a few that are pretty ashy.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:06 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


IMO, it's OK for characters to be whatever-ist without calling out the show itself as being so. White fictional men can be racist without revealing a pathos of the writers. Black characters can be portrayed shooting other black guys without being Uncle Toms. It isn't necessarily a misogynist director who shows women calling each other bitches, whores, or whatever. Etc., etc.

I don't want to see some balanced set of feminist, post-racial, anti-gender-binary characters in every show, where the only use for anyone who doesn't reflect those characteristics being to serve as an object lesson in why you shouldn't behave that way. Flawed characters can exist in media spaces without harming anyone. Despite the argument that the Walking Dead somehow reflects social norms, I hope that I'm smart enough distinguish between behavior exhibited within a story, and not need a moral authority to step in and help me understand what is Acceptable and what is Not Acceptable.

In other words: it's a damned television show about zombies in the south. It isn't a parable of the patriarchy.
posted by ellF at 4:21 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


ellF: I don't want to see some balanced set of feminist, post-racial, anti-gender-binary characters in every show, where the only use for anyone who doesn't reflect those characteristics being to serve as an object lesson in why you shouldn't behave that way. [emphasis mine]

I'd rather not see a set of patriarchal, racial-hierarchy-enforcing, gender-binary characters in every show, where the only use for anyone who doesn't reflect those values is to serve as an object lesson in why you should conform to them.

But that's just me.
posted by Len at 6:41 PM on November 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


Can someone position the character Michonne in this vision of Walking Dead as racist/sexist?

I like Michonne, but the failure to develop her character on the TV show so far strengthens my suspicion that there are no black members of the Walking Dead writing staff.
posted by mediated self at 7:37 PM on November 12, 2012


With the way our entertainment has been going in the last twenty years, what with more channels, more mediums, and more ways of slicing, boiling down,repackaging, and narrowcasting content I expect we'll be able to have a show that both satisfies ellF and Len at the same time. With zombies no less.
posted by FJT at 8:05 PM on November 12, 2012


IMO, it's OK for characters to be whatever-ist without calling out the show itself as being so. White fictional men can be racist without revealing a pathos of the writers. Black characters can be portrayed shooting other black guys without being Uncle Toms. It isn't necessarily a misogynist director who shows women calling each other bitches, whores, or whatever. Etc., etc.

There is a difference between portraying characters as having particular attitudes and writing those attitudes into the text.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:16 PM on November 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Disclaimer: I have neither seen the show nor the comics whatsoever. So why am I in this thread? I wondered what it was talking about and...

"The problem I have with the notion that it's realistic that "traditional" gender roles would be reinforced in a zombie apocalypse is that there really is no realistic zombie apocalypse, because zombies aren't real. So a person's notions of what looks like realism in that scenario pretty much come back to that person and how they look at the world. This is not to say that the creator of such a scenario is sexist at all, but rather to say that if he thinks that such a scenario would necessarily play out in a sexist fashion, then that's on him (or her) and his POV on life, because we literally have no way whatsoever of knowing how the world would react to a scenario that is utterly without precedent due to the fact of its complete and total patent impossibility."

This is a good point. Back in the dark ages, men ran the show and women were stuck in the kitchen making babies with no power. I think in our culture, we always assume that if anything goes wrong, women will be back in that place of weakness again. Which may very well be true if we no longer have birth control available, if physical strength becomes a huge priority to have in order to survive, stuff like that. We haven't been through such a major apocalypse-y thing to know for sure, and that may depend on situation anyway, but these things seem to tend to happen if something happens somewhere to make the overall culture regress rather than advance.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:09 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Back in the dark ages, men ran the show and women were stuck in the kitchen making babies with no power."

Citation needed.
posted by wheloc at 4:19 AM on November 13, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is not to say that the creator of such a scenario is sexist at all, but rather to say that if he thinks that such a scenario would necessarily play out in a sexist fashion, then that's on him (or her) and his POV on life

See, I disagree. If his "POV on life" leads him to decide that in his creation, after a zombie apocalypse the world will return to "traditional" gender roles for no reason other than that he decides it should be so, then I do think I can be annoyed that he is injecting sexism into the creation.

jenfullmoon says: I think in our culture, we always assume that if anything goes wrong, women will be back in that place of weakness again. Which may very well be true if we no longer have birth control available, if physical strength becomes a huge priority to have in order to survive, stuff like that.

Perhaps. The problem is that, in this show, there is nothing showing us why women would suddenly have reverted back to that "place of weakness." Physical strength isn't represented as necessary to survival from the zombies - the survivors have guns and other weapons. One of the characters got pregnant, so okay it makes sense for her to hang back and be protected more I suppose, but why would that influence all the other women to just do laundry all day?
posted by coupdefoudre at 5:48 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is a good point.

It's not really a good point at all. It's basically the last bastion of defense when talking about something. "Hey, it's just a book/movie/tv show!" In other words your opinion doesn't matter because it's fictional and anything can happen in fictionland, and therefore shut up and stop talking about this thing I like. It's a stupid and ridiculous way to try to shut down a conversation.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:54 AM on November 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Back in the dark ages, men ran the show and women were stuck in the kitchen making babies with no power."

Citation needed.


While they were by no means equal, women apparently did have more legal rights (eg to divorce) in the Dark Ages in England than they did in the High Middle Ages or Early Modern periods. Or so says my friend with a PhD in Anglo-Saxon studies.

I think we need a new marketing campaign: The Dark Ages: not as Dark as you thought.
posted by jb at 12:44 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think we need a new marketing campaign: The Dark Ages: not as Dark as you thought.

Will this do?

posted by Sys Rq at 1:42 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love The Walking Dead. The characters aren't as complex and wonderful as those on Breaking Bad or Boardwalk Empire, but I still enjoy the show.

My son has read the graphic novels, as has his girlfriend (I haven't, because he gave her his copies to read), and we were all talking about TWD last night.

We agree that T-Dog had been woefully mishandled as a character, and that the actor playing him deserved better. He got a raw deal in that show, basically only speaking up when his character was endangered. I was surprised when he spoke in the last episode, because the writers have consistently had him play this background role that I forgot he was even there.

Anyway, we hope that Oscar, who the kids believe is taking the place of Tyrell from the graphic novels, gets a nice, juicy role. Why they couldn't have more than one strong male black character I don't know. If the decision was laziness on the behalf of mostly white writers? That sucks.

As far as gender roles in The Walking Dead go, I also don't like them, but honestly it's mostly because I frickin' hate doing laundry and I wouldn't want to be stuck doing it.

The gender roles make sense when you take the backgrounds of the characters into account, though! Lori is a SAHM. She is used to doing the laundry and cooking and taking care of their child; she falls into that role out of habit. Should she learn to shoot? Absolutely, in my opinion, but it's hard to have both parents shooting stuff when one of them has to look out for the kid. And Rick knows how to shoot a gun because he is the sheriff in their town, which is why he has a weapon, as did Shane, his deputy, and why they naturally assumed the leadership of the group. That all follows a logical progression.

We've also got Carol. Expecting Carol to rebel against gender roles is unrealistic; she has come to accept the way things are because she's trapped in an abusive relationship, and ironically it is only after both her husband and her daughter die that she becomes a really strong character and person.

That also follows logically. Sophia, the daughter, is woefully unprepared to survive a zombie apocalypse. Her abusive Dad and abused Mom kept her sheltered as a way of "protecting" her from the evils of the world, ironically making her ideal zombie bait. No way was Sophia going to survive unless someone protected her while teaching her how to be self-sufficient. I don't know how that works in the books, where I'm told Sophia survives, but Darryl would have been an awesome role model for her. He's really grown as a character and I like him best of anyone on the show now, other than maybe Glenn and Maggie.

So, anyway, it makes logical sense that both of those women would go for the traditional gender roles the way they did.

It also makes sense that Andrea, unmarried, not a parent, and with no family left once her sister died, would chafe at those same roles. She demands that Shane teach her how to shoot. Yay! I was really irritated when they had her mistakenly shoot Darryl. I would have loved her as a badass sniper! I hope they still go there.

The gender roles in The Walking Dead also makes sense when you consider the notion of "lifeboat rules".

It was once just the accepted practice that in a disaster, women and children had first call to the lifeboats. I know some of you are already about to type out how that is because we live in a patriarchal society, it's an example of white knighting, etc. Correlation does not, as we are so fond of pointing out here on Mefi, equal causation.

There's logic behind those rules as well. A ship is going down. People are panicking. There are lifeboats, but not enough. Who gets the seats? There's a woman nursing a baby. You give a seat in the lifeboat to her. Is that because you feel that women are inherently weaker then men? Or because you know you are capable of treading water and have a better chance of survival than a woman who is attempting to do that AND nurse a baby at the same time? And that the nursing baby can't tread water at all, and needs Mom to survive? It doesn't matter, because the result is the same. The Mom and the baby go together into the lifeboat. Then, say the nursing woman's baby has siblings. Do you give those kids seats in the lifeboat and keep them all together? That seems to make sense...

Now you have a system going. That system becomes codified into "women and children go first". Is that sexist? Maybe. Is it wrong? I don't think so.

The system serves as a starting point. Now, when you have the luxury of time and the safety of security, maybe you look around you and you think, "Hmm. There's a better way to do this." You can see the flaws, and hopefully revise as necessary.

That's why I think The Walking Dead works for me. I don't like everything they do, but I can understand why they do it.
posted by misha at 1:50 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now you have a system going. That system becomes codified into "women and children go first". Is that sexist? Maybe. Is it wrong? I don't think so.

The women and children system was incredibly sexist, as most male non-crew survivors of the Titanic found out. Many faced accusations of having stolen seats from women. And a higher percentage of first class men died than 3rd class women.

These days, we say "children first," and then we pretty much save people as we can. Yes, a nursing mother would be saved before the father, but not a random woman before a man. We would be - rightfully - up in arms if during a disaster we insisted on all women evacuating before we let any men evacuate (as happened on the Titanic).

The fact that so many of the characters already fit into traditional gender roles doesn't justify the sexism, it just shows how from the very first conception of the story the creators weren't particularly progressive.

and for the record: My SO is the laundry and dishes God of our house. He's also better at ironing.
posted by jb at 2:11 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


also: it may not be unrealistic that, in a breakdown of civilization, many people are pushed into traditional gender roles. But for a lot of us, that's part of the horror.

I like the way BSG handled it: they acknowledged that it probably would happen, and talked about it.
posted by jb at 2:12 PM on November 13, 2012


Women and children first on the scale of the Titanic disaster is foolish white knighting IMO. However TWD isn't that scale of disaster. Rather it's a 99.999% (maybe more?) population reduction. In that scenario and at a tribal level you want to preserve women first because they are the future. 10 men and 50 women your tribe can bounce back. 50 men and 10 women and your tribe is doomed (IE where ever the numbers break out a tribe can survive a population crisis long term if the crisis falls more heavily on the men rather than the women.)
posted by Mitheral at 2:33 PM on November 13, 2012


Also, I don't like the Salon article, because it cherry picks, and is so obvious about it, it really seems like the author has an axe to grind.

For just an instant, it was as if the writers acknowledged that this world wasn’t working for those who had been turned into domestic servants, and that in a previous world where men could be replaced by vibrators, women had led happier lives.

The author feels that "Men could be replaced by vibrators" = happier lives?! I think it was more, "Hey, I don't have to worry about being attacked and eaten by a zombie today!" that made their lives happier.

Not to mention that, in those happier times? Carol was repeatedly beaten by her spouse. I don't think she was very happy.

The author says Shane is acting like women can't take care of themselves when he intervenes after Ed slaps Carol. That sounds like victim blaming. As I recall, the other women DID stand up to him, though. That's why Shane says "the women" and not just Carol. Ed didn't listen to them, but Shane had the guns. That made him the biggest physical threat, and that's what got the guy to back down. Also, Shane was a sociopath. Loved his character, though! He made the show a lot more interesting.

Andrea  confronts Dale for intervening when she tried to kill herself. Dale can’t hear what she’s saying: He actually resorts to mansplaining to Andrea that he’s convinced that he’s done the right thing for her, that he expects gratitude from her for forcing her hand in making her choose to live in order to save him. Men overrule women whenever they make choices.

This argument conveniently overlooks Jacqui, the other woman at the CDC (an actual black woman from Atlanta, for a nice change) whose choice to die was respected.

Andrea is right to be angry at Dale for emotionally manipulating her. In the graphic novel, however, Dale and Andrea are romantically involved. It's less paternalistic wise old man knowing what's best for her and more, "I want to live with you-- or die with you--because I believe you and I have something together."

It also overlooks the fact that Andrea was emotionally distraught, stil reeling from her sister's death, and not really thinking very clearly, as opposed to Jacqui, who made a clear case that she was sane and firm in her resolution to die.

But then Dale discovers that T-Dog is delusional because of a high fever, thus rendering the very real discussion of race to nothing more than the ramblings of a febrile mind.

Nope, that's not why the discussion of race ends! The brother of the Maryl "white trash" guy, Darryl, who was raised to be a racist jerk, has now come to value the people in the group as individuals, and THAT'S why T-Dog's fears are, as Dale reassures him, groundless. It is Darryl who comes up with an ingenious way to save T-Dog from an oncoming zombie horde after T-dog injures himself (the infection resulting from that injury is the cause of T-Dog's high fever). Darryl is also the person to get the antibiotics T-Dog needs to cure that infection.

Race is also alluded to without the characters discussing it at any length, with regard to Glenn, the Asian-American man. He is frequently used by the others as an errand boy — sent into town to get supplies, sent down a well to lure a walker — as if his life is less valuable than others. His new girlfriend, Maggie, is the one to point out to him that he  is “walker bait.” But she doesn’t say that he’s being treated this way because he is Asian — that is our assumption to make.

Wait, what? I hate that Glenn is taken for granted as well, and volunteering to lower himself down into the well was crazy. I never saw it as anti-Asian, though, and I still don't. Glenn is the youngest of the men, and there is definitely an "Older is wiser" thing going on in the camp and the show. Sometimes, that makes me grit my teeth as well; I'm glad to see Carl has been taught to shoot, has learned survival skills, and actively works with the group to take out the threat of the Walkers this season.

To say race is "alluded to without the characters discussing it at any length" is really projecting.

But she does imply that he needs to stand up for himself, be more manly, if he is to keep her love.

No, no no. Just no. Maggie doesn't want Glen to be reckless because she loves him and doesn't want him doing something sloppy and stupid that could cost him his life.

She dies giving birth, sacrificing her own body for that of her child. It is, after all, the only way for women to be heroes in this world in which the patriarchy has been reinstated.

Lori considered aborting the baby early on, then rejected that choice. Once you get to be nine months pregnant, you can't really choose not to give birth. The possibility of her having to deliver by C-section was mentioned as a distinct possibility earlier in the season. No easy way to make that happen without her dying, considering they didn't even have thread or a needle to sew her back up. Even with vaginal childbirth, an infection would be pretty much guaranteed, given the lack of sanitary conditions. These people live in filth. Seems to me that Lori made rational choices at the end, given the situation. I don't see that as a statement on the patriarchy. Being pro-choice means respecting the choices even when you don't agree with them.

Andrea did what women do: She betrayed her old group to the governor, and to the resurrected Merle.

Andrea told Merle where the farmhouse was, knowing that the group wasn't there any more, as it burned down when the zombie horde attacked. Even then, she told Merle because he's Darryl's brother, and she lost her own sister, not because she loves the Governor. I agree she seems to like the Governor's place way too much, but it isn't just the Governor she has a crush on, it's his way of life. She was deathly ill and barely hanging on to survival with Mishonne, and the Governor's encampment offers protection, food, lodging, even showers. I can see that being seductive. Hell, the filthiness gets to me, and I'm just watching the show!

Realistically, baby wipes should be currency in TWD world.
posted by misha at 2:41 PM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


The gender roles make sense when you take the backgrounds of the characters into account, though!

But these aren't real people. Sure, given the backgrounds maybe the fact that they all just so happen to fall into stereotypical roles makes sense, but it's not like these are real people who actually had these real histories that had to be made into a story: this is fiction, and the writers (of the comic and/or tv show as appropriate) chose to create people with such backgrounds.
posted by jeather at 6:27 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, what? I hate that Glenn is taken for granted as well, and volunteering to lower himself down into the well was crazy. I never saw it as anti-Asian, though, and I still don't.

Actually from pretty much the first episode I thought the way Glenn was written was a bit racist, and I wasn't even looking for anything like that - at ALL.

So I'd venture a guess that he kind of is written that way, all be it unintentionally.
posted by Malice at 12:22 AM on November 14, 2012


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