Men, Women and the Walking Dead
For a show I enjoy so much, THE WALKING DEAD is really hacking me off.
The taut premiere of season two was a boulder between the eyes as our alleged heroes survive a herd attack and search the woods for a lost little girl. The scene where two men come across a zombie and must gut it to find out if it’s eaten the girl is the most grossifying thing I’ve seen on network television.
Even more scary is the woman trapped in an RV bathroom trying to hide from a zombie, eventually dispatching it with a screwdriver to the eye.
I have not been turned off by the significant changes from the comic book. The comic is the most emotionally vicious story currently in print, and filled with real, three-dimensional characters that belie their spare, black-and-white art. I felt the TV show was true to the spirit of the comic, if not the letter, and adored them both equally.
But on the convention circuit these past few weeks, a fan pointed something out to me that I had not noticed: Unlike the comic, on TV, the women never carry guns.
In the comic, everyone is armed. Yes, shooting a zombie tends to draw more zombies, so you have to be judicious in their use. But still everyone is armed, including the children. The hero's seven-year-old son (who looks about eleven on TV) gets a quick lesson in rifle shooting, and it comes in handy.
Now, I get why AMC might insist that children do not get guns in the TV show. Never mind the end of the world, watch the parents’ groups sue the hell out of them when some kid (who shouldn’t be watching this show anyway) picks up a pistol and shoots a trick-or-treater.
But the issue of women and guns comes to a head in the season premiere. Andrea, who just proved her mettle by dispatching the zombie with a goddamn screwdriver, has her gun confiscated by the older Dale because HE’S not comfortable with her having the gun her father gave her.
And then when they go in search of the little girl, three men are carrying. Despite Andrea’s wish to carry, she is not deemed “trained” enough to carry. At least she gets the chance to call Dale on his overly paternalistic attitude toward her. While I might disagree with her suicidal bent, she’s the only voice so far for women who make their own damn choices and don’t blindly follow the men.
I have no doubt that equal opportunity and women’s rights would take a bit of a ding in the post-apocalypse. But it is the attitude of the showrunners that irks me, this “natural” order falling into place that the women deal with the children, supplies, food and laundry, and the men handle the hunting, protection and – of course – leadership responsibilities.
Even in the confrontation over Andrea’s gun, she calls on the second-in-command – a man – to arbitrate. When he rules against her, she stomps off.
Personally, I’d have decked them both and taken my goddamn gun. I’d rather be out there on my own and armed than following these sexist numbnuts who think I’m too girlified to know when it’s a good time to shoot a zombie.
Finally someone handed Laurie a gun – the only one who truly shouldn’t have one, as she’s pretty helpless – but it was too little, too late. Andrea’s belated show of strength was jarring because the women had fallen into such a passive state that any self-determination beyond suicide seemed out of place.
Don’t get me wrong: It’s still incredibly powerful television and a fine example of character-driven horror. Nor do I think that every piece of genre fiction needs to be a billboard for equal rights in every denomination. Frankly, if it was from a lesser comic book, I might not even have noticed; I mean, we’re not talking about SUPERNATURAL-level misogyny here. That’s like comparing a hangnail to a gunshot wound.
I just expect better of a series based on a comic book that took human beings and made them equal in the eyes of God and zombies. Because when the shit goes down, everyone better grab a gun – man or woman.
Great article and I do agree with you on almost every point. I'm sure you are aware of my pop culture geekyness and I would like to go on record as saying these are just my observations about this show. This does not in ANY way reflect how I feel about women, their rights, abilities with firearms or the capacities to cook venison. NOW- I have noticed that despite how the comic is written, the producers have played out certain "Roles" for the series, despite what the comic was lacking or already had. Daryl and Merle aren't even in the book but you and I know Rednecks kill Zombies dead. So I have to say that while I don't think it was wise to take Andreas' gun away I can understand that Dale wanted that "Role" of the father/husband she mentioned earlier because when the world was going to hell I think he needed something to hold on to and he holds sway with the group. Therefore Shane took his words for wisdom and kept her gun. Dale had selfish reasons for wanting her to keep from harming herself initially but I think he was still holding onto that. In a real situation like this all people will have to arm and become proficient. It is not a question. It is a statement.
Posted by: Eric Czynszak | 10/17/2011 at 09:17 PM
well said, first thing I'm doing for the zombocalypse is loading every gun I have. Women, if it comes to a point where all the men feel they have to have a gun, you should too. (or at least a good long pointy stick)
Posted by: scott cousins | 10/17/2011 at 11:18 PM