Women in AMC’s The Walking Dead
It was a dreary morning toward the end of November, and I was looking for a good show to watch on Netflix. As I scrolled through the list of “Suggestions for You,” I came across a particular program that my good friend Stephanie had mentioned in the past. Opening up the show, I began to watch and was almost instantaneously hooked. The Walking Dead takes place in Georgia in a post-apocalyptic world that has been overrun by flesh-devouring zombies, colloquially known as “walkers,” who have been infected with a horrible virus and prey on the still living humans who have been able to survive the devastation of the disease. The group of survivors that the show follows originally starts off with about 18-20 members, and over the course of the show, the members are one-by-one killed off until there is a group of about 10 members remaining in the third, current season. The group is led by Rick, a strong-willed, natural leader and former sheriff, and consists of about a fifty-fifty mix of men and women. However, while I watched the show, I began to realize that I did not perceive the women of the group in the same manner that I saw the men. Even in this post-apocalyptic world where every remaining survivor, black, white, or other, must join together simply to continue living and maintain some resemblance of a normal life, the women, for some reason, seem to be reduced to a subservient role that is a common prejudice present even in the modern world we live in today.
Take the likeable character Carol, for example. Carol appears in the show in the first season with her innocent daughter, Jane, and her brutish husband, Ed. Right from the start as a new viewer of the program, I was bewildered by the portrayal of Carol. Unlike many of the other survivors who are rough and rugged and willing to kill some “walkers” at any moment, Carol is a simple housewife: washing the clothes, preparing the meals, doing the dishes, etc. Carol is also extremely subservient to her abusive husband, Ed. The odd aspect about Carol is that even in the current season after she lost Jane and Ed, she is still portrayed as this “fragile butterfly,” well put in the words of Daryl. In the current season, the group has found refuge in an abandoned prison and is engaged in a quasi-turf war with another group led by a mysterious, seductive leader, simply known as the Governor. When almost everyone man is out on what they call “runs” for supplies or scouting the Governor’s troops, Carol is quite simply “in the kitchen” preparing a fresh meal for when the men return from their journey, or she is seen taking care of Rick’s newborn daughter since Rick’s wife died in childbirth. In the new season, she almost dies not because of a bite from a walker, which happens to one of the men in the group forcing Rick to severe his leg at the knee (a very bloody, masculine scene), but rather from simple heat exhaustion and dehydration. The ruffian outdoorsman, Daryl, saves her and literally carries her like a baby to safety. It seems that after the lost of her dominant patriarch, Carol has become even more dependent on the men and has almost taken over Rick’s wife role as a mother. Carol is little more than the simple housewife of the group and seems to be quite happy with her role.
For the other primary women of the show, their roles are a tad more complicated than Carol’s. Maggie is first seen as an innocent, know-nothing farm girl; however, in the new season, she has developed into more of a strong-minded young woman. Do not think for one second, however, that she is among the dominant male leaders of the group. In fact, the one time that she does go out on a “run” with a young man named Glenn, she ends up being forcibly kidnapped by the Governor’s troops and taken back to their camp along with Glenn. Brutally beaten and even threatened with a captured“walker,” Glenn is interrogated about the whereabouts of the prison. On the other hand, the Governor never even questions Maggie about the rest of her group; instead, he chooses to sexually abuse her by making her remove her shirt and bra before forcing himself on her. Maggie is never viewed as a real threat and is basically just a pawn that the Governor uses to draw in the rest of the group. After this traumatic incident, she almost becomes a helpless, little farm girl again afraid to venture out on any more “runs.”
What makes the women’s portrayal so obvious is the contrasting roles of the men in the show. The leader of the group, Rick, is a man who relies on other men, Glenn, Daryl, and T-Dog, to help him fight the men under the Governor’s regime. Even Herschel, the oldest member of the group who had his leg severed due to a bite, takes on the role basically as the “grandfather” of the group, providing much needed advice and insight in certain situations for the group. Indeed, all the men are forces to be reckoned with and have considerable control over the affairs of the group. Even in the latest episodes when Rick has really gone off the deep end because of the devastating loss of his wife, his authority is still respected more than that of any of the women. According to the Walking Dead, even in what seems to be the end of times, the old prejudice that women nurture and care for the children and handle menial household chores while men hunt, fight, and make the decisions still holds true.
He got an A+ on the paper and I don't think I've been this proud for any reason in quite some time. I really needed it. I picked him up last Saturday and we spent the day laughing and attempting to kill ourselves with a Krispy Kreme burger. That's right. Angus beef, BBQ sauce, carmelized onions, bacon, cheddar cheese and 2 grilled Krispy Kreme doughnuts brilliantly used as buns. It was incredible! Anyways, for those of you who have followed my blog over the years, you know I'm always waiting for Superboy to tire of my antics. So far he just turned 17 and I think we get along better than ever. Next up- we're going to see Big Boi in June before he leaves for a six week stint at Valdosta University. I think I can safely say that I've got him until he leaves for college in the Fall of 2014 but hopefully, he'll never outgrow me.