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Think The Walking Dead Has a Woman Problem? Here's the Source.

Think <i>The Walking Dead</i> Has a Woman Problem? Here's the Source.
As in the comics, Lori provided Rick with a sense of normalcy rather than with anything like, say, practical aid.

Four years ago, on assignment for The Comics Journal, I asked Robert Kirkman a tough question about his Walking Dead comic series, a question that now, after the TV adaptation's third season finale, is still resonant: Why are all the strong female characters either crazy or dead?

His response, from issue No. 289 of The Comics Journal: "I don't mean to sound sexist, but as far as women have come over the last 40 years, you don't really see a lot of women hunters. They're still in the minority in the military, and there's not a lot of female construction workers. I hope that's not taken the wrong way. I think women are as smart, resourceful, and capable in most things as any man could be … but they are generally physically weaker. That's science."

While the TV drama has generally been more even-handed than the comics in the amount of time it gives to which characters, after season three's finale--well, spoilers ahead.

Apart from the sad fact that so much of season three's drama was decided by Andrea's relationship with a psychopath, her death leaves the show less one more strong, independent woman.
Apart from the sad fact that so much of season three's drama was decided by Andrea's relationship with a psychopath, her death leaves the show less one more strong, independent woman.
Maggie wasn't given much to do after the Governor nearly raped her.
Maggie wasn't given much to do after the Governor nearly raped her.

Before we get to Andrea, let's consider whether Kirkman's answer bears on the show before Sunday's episode. In the comics, Carol (Melissa McBride) tries to kill herself twice, and propositions Rick and his wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), for a threesome. This can't happen in the show now, of course, as Lori is dead. As in the comics, Lori provided Rick with a sense of normalcy rather than with anything like, say, practical aid. That's just the kind of role that the women played throughout season one, especially when the female survivors kibbitzed about their men and pleasuring themselves while doing the group's laundry. Rick's hallucinated conversations with Lori on the prison's phone after her death proved his ongoing need for her-- not for her skills or intelligence but because he gets unsettled without his woman by his side.

Now, Andrea's death promises to be similarly destabilizing for Rick. She has been the biggest link between season three's focus on the inevitable confrontation between Rick and the Governor; Andrew had brought Rick to the Governor's attention, and vice versa.

As the Governor's lover, Andrea also needed to decide whether or not to stay with him, and her choice was the catalyst for the Governor's first attack on Rick's group. But apart from the sad fact that so much of season three's drama was decided by Andrea's relationship with a psychopath, her death leaves the show less one more strong, independent woman in a show that already had so few of them. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) wasn't given much to do after the Governor nearly raped her. Carol's opinion on the fate of the group haven't carried much weight with Rick.

This leaves Michonne. inarguably the biggest badass on the show, who first appeared armed with a katana and two jawless zombies on a leash. She's also been largely peripheral to the story. This is by design, and speaks to the way that Kirkman and the show's writers have painted themselves into a corner with that "science"-based conception of male and female characteristics from that Comics Journal interview.

Kirkman's ideas of hunter/gatherer/provider societal norms seem to govern the show's characters. Michonne doesn't talk and doesn't get along with Rick's group, making her a marginal loner, like Daryl. Though Daryl's character was greatly expanded in season two, he already had a backstory: We knew him as the brother of Merle (Michael Rooker), the racist whom the group left for dead in the first season. Despite appearing in nearly every episode of season three, Michonne remains a cipher.

Viewers of AMC's show should at least be grateful that Michonne wasn't raped by the Governor like she was in the comics, a development that led her to get revenge on her attacker by sodomizing him with a spoon.

So much of season three revolved around male community leaders making decisions, leaving the women to be companions at best, and accessories at worst. Rick is only more emotionally balanced than the Governor because he listens to Hershel and Daryl first, and his group's less powerful members second. He's sane because he's got a village of friends supporting him, which makes that village's old-fashioned gender divisions that much more distressing. So while Kirkman's comics series has been, to some extent, organically exclusive the whole time, that doesn't mean that that exclusivity is a good or even a necessary part of the show.

 
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120 comments
Binkconn
Binkconn

Michon is so one-dimensional (scowling black woman) she barely qualifies as a cartoon.

mademoiselle_n_
mademoiselle_n_

@fvsch y'a d'autres bd dans la vie. le voyeurisme de l'horreur et du désespoir, qui plus est sexiste, c'est pas mon truc.

mademoiselle_n_
mademoiselle_n_

@fvsch le tome avec le viol de Michone par le Gouverneur et le tome 17 m'avaient bien échaudée, les propos finissent de me dégoûter.

LanzAlentzia
LanzAlentzia

@Sci_Phile Christ, Kirkman. Fucking Christ. "Nope, not possibly social barriers keeping women out of these roles, they're just weaker!"

dvs
dvs

@laura_hudson AMC writing is horrible with both women and POC. The comic is no peach, but it feels like he tried.

dvs
dvs

@laura_hudson Andrea in the comic DID offer practical aid. She's one of the best shots among other things.

dvs
dvs

@laura_hudson Kirkman seems to be stuck defending the poorly adapted characters on AMC. Comic had better written women.

Leopold Bloom
Leopold Bloom

this is revenge, or "blowback" if you will for all of the years of male abuse on television (homer simpson, that king of queens guy etc...) AMC are the only ones with the guts to show women in the same light. Betty Draper, Skylar White and the broads on Walking dead: genius.

_AshleyMoore
_AshleyMoore

@laura_hudson As a hunter myself, who also happens to be a woman, this article offends me. I would kick zombie ass.

gabetjones
gabetjones

Its a fact people according to my anatomy book an adult male body mass is 40% muscle a woman's is 25%. Oh yeah by the way a woman still does need a man for child birth unless other is a new way I do not know about. Weak article,poor argument. Stop trying to rationalize fiction people. It's an entertaining show, if you don't like it change the channel stop whining!

pauljholden
pauljholden

@laura_hudson that's a surprisingly idiotic answer (it sounds flippant rather than a straight answer though)

just_float
just_float

.@laura_hudson uhhhhhh, not to handle the weak ass zombies he writes. His writing is so 1 dimensional, I'm not surprised he's prejudicial.

ryan_w_enslow
ryan_w_enslow

@laura_hudson Ugh, I didn't want to read that. Especially since I think Andrea and Michonne are great (in a world filled with madness)

jillithd
jillithd

@blushandmumble the first book has them meet a black man and his son, later a black man and his daughter. But majority is white, yes.

ParanoidMike
ParanoidMike

@dvs @laura_hudson I’m about to disagree with a total stranger which is a dick move, but Kirkman didn’t write *any* 2-D characters well.

Jesus
Jesus

@Leopold Bloom For Christ's sake, there are tons of strong male characters in the media to counterbalance the "male abuse" of these characters.  They were written by men themselves.  Female characters are usually weak because nearly all the writers of TV shows are MEN. 

ariannahiggins
ariannahiggins

@leighjwebb @laura_hudson  I've often considered that the emotionally disordered (before the world went to shit) characters he writes are reflections of his own copious inner demons.

blushandmumble
blushandmumble

@jillithd yeah, doesn't sound like Atlanta. I mean I'm sure there are white people in Atlanta and all.

ariannahiggins
ariannahiggins

@Jesus  White men in fact, who write in almost entirely white men as heroes. 

cellogant
cellogant

Georgia is full of white people especially in the rural areas. Atlanta though as of 2010 was by a slight majority african american.  But Atlanta being mostly black is a new thing really.  Overall about 30% of the US population is black.  It is a comic book and maybe shouldn't be taken so seriously but I think the point really is that if people have a problem with this story they should look to our society that has oppressed women and has oppressed black people who are a minority.  So look to the society for changes not a show or a comic book. 


 

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