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The Walking Dead – Still Awfully Misogynistic

March 1, 2012 by and tagged , , ,

So, the second half of Season two is now on the way and it is getting from bad to worse in the misogyny department. Everything I wrote in my previous post on the subject still holds and I would not retract anything. And last Sunday’s episode was especially awful in that respect.

The earlier post is reproduced below.

The latest episode – 18 Miles Out – was neatly gender segregated with two highly gendered storylines. In the first one, Rick reasserts his alpha male status against Shane. Apparently, Jon Bernthal has such an infinite range of submissive postures, I expected him to roll on his back and expose his belly at some point while Rick was browbeating him. Said browbeating was only interrupted by a bunch of walkers. Then Rick saves Shane and Shane accepts his lower status in the wolf pack the group.

The other storyline  consists in Lori reasserting her alpha female status against Andrea. At this point in the series, Lori is pregnant with no choice thanks to the fact that Glenn betrayed her trust, affirming his loyalty to the men of the group. In this episode, she browbeats Andrea for not properly fulfilling her gender role. Andrea has been taking shifts guarding the farm, something the men usually do, because it involves handling guns and rifles, which, as we all know, women can’t do (and as Andrea has already proven).  Lori lectures Andrea, telling her that she is not needed in these shifts. The men can handle it. She should be doing women stuff: washing, cleaning, keeping things together, you know, the whole homemaking and nurturing thing.

The other reason that Lori is complaining to Andrea is that Andrea thinks women and girls should have choices whereas Lori thinks they should not. Young Beth has decided that, after the barn slaughter, she does not want to live. A rational position to have in this context. Andrea thinks it should be her choice. Lori does not think so and berates Andrea for even suggesting otherwise. Andrea then makes that choice available to Beth. Beth does not kill herself. The other women yell at Andrea.

I swear, why don’t they get Tony Perkins and Michelle Bachmann to play Rick and Lori.

Why do I keep on harping about this. Well, (1) those amounts of rank sexism and misogyny are just vile, and (2) this is a show that could / should be great and it sucks instead because of terrible writing and character development.

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, Patriarchy, Sexism | 4 Comments »

4 Responses to “The Walking Dead – Still Awfully Misogynistic”

  1.   abby Says:

    I’m so glad to have found this post! I’ve only made it to episode three and I already had a “I’m never watching this again!” moment followed by a “But I really want to know what happens” conflict. The laundry scene, omg, the laundry scene.

    Another thing in the series that has bothered me so far is the racism. It’s exciting to me how many people of color have been featured so far, but unfortunately, up until episode three at least, I know the hopes, dreams, and fears of a lot of characters, and all of them are white (with the exception of the guy who wants to kill his zombie wife, but he seems to be out of the story). Take the subplot with the racist guy. I imagine his invention going something like this: “There needs to be a bad guy…how can I make sure the audience knows to hate him….I know make him a racist!…that means I need a black guy.” From there, Theodore was invented to exist only in relation to the racist guy. That’s why his character is so effing flat. Basically all I know about him is he’s black and doesn’t like racists. Oh and he’s klutzy.


  2.   Michelle Says:

    I love Zombie movies. I love The Walking Dead. But my inner feminist has been dying to turn the TV off for ages. I recently marathoned all of the second season in preparation for the season 3 and all I could think was did Hitchcock rise from the dead to direct this show?!? It reminds me so much of The Birds when everytime a woman steps out her traditional gender role something awful happens. Andrea has the potential to be such an awesome character and instead the audience spends a lot of time annoyed with her. I have hope for the 3rd season though because at least we are not fawning over Lori anymore. One thing that you didn’t really talk about that killed me the whole season was the fact that Rick and Shane were both fighting over Lori whose only personality traits seem to be directly tied to her role as wife and mother. It is the homemaker that is appealing to the men not Andrea who is more intelligent and ambitious and let’s face it just plain cooler. I think this point is particularly driven home when Andrea has sex with Shane and then Dale looks at her with pity and so the audience looks at her with pity. Andrea doesn’t particularly seem to be in love with Shane. It seems like she just wants to get laid. The instinct to pity her comes from her being a woman that a man isn’t in love with. As if that’s were her value lies! It sends the message to women watching this show that women who are alone should be pitied. This love of a man as a status thing kills me because it puts a woman’s romantic life ahead of everything else taking away her ability to make herself happy! And to make matter worse it is Lori that gets the attention for being the docile housewife. It teaches men to want that and women to want to be that. But I do really have hope for season 3. Maggie is going out on hunts and being treated like an equal; Andrea seems to have a found the most badass woman (of color!!) to team up with; and Rick seems to have as much contempt for Lori as I do. I know it could be argued that he’s punishing her for making her own decisions about her body but they’re married and have a son together. They are supposed to be partners. He absolutely should respect whatever decison she makes but in his position I would feel betrayed that she didn’t come to me first.

    I didn’t realize I had so many feelings about this.


  3.   jordan Says:

    I’m waiting for comments on the most recent show, which in my opinion jumped the shark for this series. I love zombies, and well done zombie stuff, and I want to love this show, but I have to make a decision between not hating myself for being a woman and watching this show to see why really I should hate myself for my desire for autonomy. Is this really what will happen at the end of the world, or is it just what male writers imagine will happen?

    If someone has to go, let it be a male character, so the show could become very interesting, to see how the others would scramble to fill the lead position. And poor Andrea has been stripped of any of her former independence; let the psychotic leader of this new tribe take care of her now. When that guy turned to her, after she said, “Never say never,” and looked her in the eye and said in his soft psychotic voice: “Never,” it told me everything I needed to know about him, and any woman should recognize that attitude. No bitch ever controls a man.

    Rant over, depression beginning. I’ll miss that show. But I watch shows because I become invested in characters, and if Lori goes, I go, too. Now we have a powerful male and his son left to bring up the infant girl and protect her helpless little self. Finally, the tiniest of females, a few hours old, totally dependent on paternal control, without a thought of her own.

    The perfect woman.


    •   SocProf Says:

      I have not yet watched a single episode of this season because I have a long transatlantic flight coming up and I’ll watch them then, so, I will keep your comment in mind although it makes me dread the whole thing (Andrea?? nooooooooooo)

      I have to confess that at the end of the last season, I just wanted Rick, his lady McBeth of a wife and Carl and his stupid hat to die. :-P




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