License

Blogroll

Search

What I Learned Watching The Walking Dead

December 9, 2011 by and tagged , , , ,

Seriously, people, I really wanted to like this series. I like horror stuff, I like zombies and end of the world kinda themes. It’s like this series was made for me… except it is a gigantic pile of sexism and misogyny so far. I have watched all the episodes so far and let me share with you what I learned.

1. Bitches are bitchy

They are. I learned that in the very first scene, after the intro, where the two main cop dudes share their mutual doodly pain inflicted upon them by women. Rick, the future alpha male of the series, knows his marriage is collapsing and the bitch is SO cruel.

And you know why bitches are bitchy? Because, as Glenn helpfully explains to us, they have their periods. And he read somewhere that when many women get together for a long time, their cycles get in synch and they all get crazy at the same time. Because there can’t possibly be any other reason why he, lil’ virgin, no-date, Glenn can’t figure them out.

2. A collapsed world is a world where men can, finally, be men again

This is a trope I have discussed multiple times already. I was hoping this series would be different but no. In The Walking Dead, as with many collapsed world movies and series, once institutions that push men down, to the benefit of women and minorities (like education, workplace that equalize relationships), men can reclaim their “natural” leadership positions and women have to accept this leadership for their own good. The main group we follow is initially led by Shane. Once Rick finds them, he becomes the alpha male (which leads to conflicts of masculinities as the two of them compete for who gets to be the most hegemonically masculine). Of course, such leadership can only be exercises by white men (so, sorry T-Dog… because all black men have funny names like that, and sorry Glenn… or “Asian boy” as another hegemonic white male – Hershel – calls him).

And so, it is back to a natural order of things: men carry the big guns, stand guard and protect the groups while women wash clothes and cook.

BUT, there is such a thing as bad masculinity in The Walking Dead, and it is illustrated by white supremacists Daryl and Merrill and especially Ed Peletier, all of them get their comeuppance. All of them pushed hegemonic masculinity too far, through domestic violence and racism. So, when Merrill beats up on African-American T-Dog and forces Glenn (Asian American kid) and two women to submit to his authority, Rick shows up puts him back in his place and puts himself in leadership position.

3. Uppity women need to know their place

Look women are good at washing clothes but you always get one that gets all uppity. Take Andrea, for instance, college-educated Andrea (but that college education is now worth nothing, of course, as only masculine skills are useful… except cooking and washing clothes), who, after the death of her beloved younger sister, wants to learn to use a gun and to the protecting thing. Well, she cannot be allowed to even have a gun, as Dale makes a point in enforcing. But the bitch does not know her place. She gets a shotgun, uses it, and, of course, makes a terrible mistake (almost killing Daryl).

If only she had waited for one of the men to teach her, then she would have realized how great she would be once she accepted her subservience to more competent men.

4. Women’s ideas are irrelevant

Watch as almost every time a woman makes a suggestion, it is swiftly discarded. Lori does not like the idea of young Carl starting to use a gun. After all, if the men are so reluctant to let grown women use a gun, surely, they would not want a child using them either, right. WRONG! Carl is a boy, he can be taught to use guns, learning to respect the weapon. Which is opposite to Andrea who gets good with guns once she stops being emotional (cuz that’s how bitches are). So, Lori relents and later comes to see that the men were right, as they always are.

Not only are women’s ideas irrelevant, but their ideas about their lives also are. Take Andrea, for instance. After her sister’s death, she is quite despondent (which is, you know, normal). So, when the group gets to the CDC and the doctor them offers a painless suicide as opposed to a permanent race against time and walkers and ultimately a very possible painful death or becoming walkers, Andrea, decides to accept that. So does Jaqui, but she’s black, so, she does not count.

So, Dale takes it upon himself to convince Andrea to not kill herself and blackmails her into helping him get out. Jaqui, though, he is not interested in. So, her character dies in the explosion of the CDC. So long, black lady, we hardly knew you. Dale, incidentally, takes it upon himself to try to control everything about Andrea, treating her like a teenager in need of guidance and surveillance (and chastising Dale for their quickie in the woods because he’s also in charge of Andrea’s sexual life, apparently), but all in the name of caring about her.

5. Women’s trust is irrelevant

Once at Hershel’s farm, two women confide in to Glenn. Lori needs him to get her a pregnancy test (because the slut had sex with Shane when she thought Rick was dead, and, as we all know, the punishment for sluttiness is pregnancy). And Maggie Greene needs him to keep secret the presence of her relative and friends (who have now turned into walkers) in the barn. But Glenn decides, with the helpful advice from patriarch Dale, that these women’s trust is irrelevant and men can do what they want even if it involves betraying such trust.

5. Patriarchs make all the decisions, otherwise, bad things happen

It is in the order of things for alpha males and patriarchs to make all the decisions. If other group members accept it and let it happen, then, everything is fine. It is when some of them get it into their heads to do what they want that bad things happen. Which is why, throughout season 2 (so far), Rick (the alpha male of the transient group) spends quite a bit of time in negotiations with Hershel (the Bible-reading patriarch who is in absolute charge of his flock and has especially a bee in his bonnet about his stepdaughter getting it on with the “Asian boy”). All the important decisions are made between these two.

And the terrible ending of the last episode is because the other group members decide to override the decision progressively being worked out between hegemonic males and do what they want. Slaughter ensues, leaving it up to Rick to make the hard decision, because that is hegemonic man’s burden. And FSM knows that Andrew Lincoln’s (over)acting never lets you forget what a BIG and painful responsibility it is to be in charge. It’s lonely, at the top of the patriarchy.

And then, there’s Lori’s pregnancy. Sure she gets the morning after pill. And someone needs to tell the writers that the morning after pill is NOT an abortion, which is why it is so stupid when Rick, upon finding the pill box, yells at her “you’ve known for days, weeks??” Geez, If she had known for weeks, the morning after pill would have been useless, wouldn’t it. But this is the US, so, of course, Lori will go through the pregnancy. And you can bet that she will be lectured by one man after another regarding what she should and shouldn’t do. Heck, she has already been lectured by Glenn who was still a virgin until a couple of episodes ago.

I can’t wait for the rest of the series. But you gotta keep a sense of humor about the absurdity of certain scenes:

Posted in Gender, Media, My Life As A Feminist, Patriarchy, Sexism | 6 Comments »



6 Responses to “What I Learned Watching The Walking Dead”

  1.   omair Says:

    your commentary is spot-on. i can’t believe why other fans can’t see the blatant patriarchy… i suppose it’s all excused just because it’s the south and, well, apocalypse. sigh, when we will finally have a zombie apocalypse show that shows communitas rising from the ashes of patriarchal civilization. you’d imagine that in a post-apocalyptic world, people would be more dependent on each other.

    i’m gonna go off zombie apocalypse shows, i think. i’m starting to suspect that there’s something about zombie apocalypse that’s fertile ground for the patriarchal imagination. maybe the very idea of an apocalypse is a projection of the male anxiety over the loss of all the structures that perpetuate patriarchy.

    Reply

    •   SocProf Says:

      It think it is the civilization collapse that triggers patriarchal imaginations. Because institutions that are seen as restraining men (rather, conveniently, than institutions that bolster male privilege), preventing them from being men, no longer exist, then, men can reclaim their place. You see that over and over in “end of the world” type movies. Either way, it’s annoying because the Walking Dead could truly be great.

      Reply

  2.   Alex Says:

    I think you are cherry-picking your content. I don’t really want to try and make you see things differently, but I was just a little disturbed by all of your findings and interpretations. “We see things not as they are but as we are.” I have seen all episodes of the first two seasons and recently completed an in-depth content-analysis of the show for a qualitative research methods class. I do agree with some of your points and I specifically focused my paper on a few of the themes you have mentioned including patriarchy, masculinity, and depictions of women being weak. However, I feel that if you look at the larger picture of things there isn’t really as much wrong as you say.
    My main argument is about women and guns in the series. I believe the only woman who was ever denied having a gun was Andrea when Dale was worried about her committing suicide (which he later apologized for and said, “it was not his decision to make”). Also, you commented on how Andrea’s education was worthless and seemed upset by this, but then when she was educated how to use a gun you seemed upset by this as well- seemingly because a man taught her? Or is it because you think shooting a gun is a masculine trait? In a zombie apocalypse I do not think shooting should be considered masculine, but necessary for all- and really in general I don’t think shooting should be considered masculine. It is a learned skill that one does need practice and instruction on, and when the trained professionals (who do happen to be male, and yes it would’ve been nice if one of the deputies had been a woman) are training the survivors to shoot almost all of them are women.
    Do you shoot? If not, you should go to your local gun range and try it out. My girlfriend and I love shooting (especially together), it is empowering and if you think power and shooting is strictly for men well I’ve got a girlfriend that I know can watch my back when the zombies finally come!

    Reply

    •   SocProf Says:

      Well:

      We see things not as they are but as we are.

      And

      In a zombie apocalypse I do not think shooting should be considered masculine, but necessary for all- and really in general I don’t think shooting should be considered masculine. It is a learned skill that one does need practice and instruction on, and when the trained professionals (who do happen to be male, and yes it would’ve been nice if one of the deputies had been a woman) are training the survivors to shoot almost all of them are women.
      Do you shoot? If not, you should go to your local gun range and try it out. My girlfriend and I love shooting (especially together), it is empowering and if you think power and shooting is strictly for men well I’ve got a girlfriend that I know can watch my back when the zombies finally come!

      Pretty much sums up the gist of your entire comment and validates your own quote above.

      Reply

  3.   K. Alice Says:

    ALEX, the article writter is saying that the serie makes women play holes as dumb and bitches and u’re disagreeing wt her saying that shooting shouldn’t be considered male hole, so I didn’t get your point when u say u don’t agree lol.

    Reply

  4.   Yaba Says:

    Thank you for this! I just loved the exchange between Lori and Andrea when Andrea defends her role keeping watch and Lori gets on to her for not cutting tomatoes. Because, you know, the zombie apocalypse is on, so all your women are needed to put your best effort forward for survival and… cut tomatoes. “The men can handle that by themselves.” I was speechless. Have the writers ever met a woman? Particularly a SOUTHERN woman? We got grandmothers shooting snakes on their pond with shotguns. Good luck trying to convince Southern women to give up their guns when they actually need them for survival.

    Reply

Leave a Reply