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She Has No Head! – 10 Women Of The Walking Dead

In honor of the premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead last night, I’ve decided to take a look at the ladies of a book I love, and really the book that brought me back to comics this last time a few years back, The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead doesn’t get much coverage here, despite my affection for it, because while there are some fantastic female characters in TWD, I haven’t felt like the last two years have devoted much time to the female characters (much to my chagrin, although Andrea is perhaps the exception to that rule of late).  Regardless however, some amazing badass dames, and one of my favorite fictional comic book females of all time (MICHONNE!), exist in these pages as wonderfully fleshed out complicated believable characters.  Below are 10 great ones that I expect (and hope) to see in the television series.  Readers of The Walking Dead will note that several of the ladies listed are currently deceased – but I’ve done my best to leave those details out so that those not already intimately familiar with the series would not get any major spoilers reading this piece.

As for the premiere last night…overall I thought the horror and action parts were very good, and that most of the drama parts were not very good – trending toward the over wrought and overly earnest side, which, in fairness, is not something I bear well.  Some of the dialogue and performances felt really false to me, and the car chase scene made no sense and made Rick and the other officers look borderline incompetent. However the effects were brilliant – really exceptional gruesome work and I was surprised how graphic they got with it considering its TV, not HBO.  I’m not sure every gruesome scene was necessary to get the point across, and it may have been off putting to the average viewer that isn’t a hardcore zombie/horror/gore fan, but not one of those graphic scenes wasn’t excellent, so I really have no complaints.  Additionally, there were a few scenes, particularly the stairhall scene and the tank scene that were absolutely nail-biting, which makes for some damn fine TV.

While they were clearly going a long way toward establishing Shane as a bit of a sexist jerk, because so many scenes were Shane scenes (Shane with Rick, Shane with Lori, and Shane with Carl) the episode overall had a bit of an unfriendly toward women vibe that freaked me out.  In that same vein, in the comic it’s easy to believe why Lori would fall into heroic square-jawed Shane’s arms in a time of trauma and fear, here Darabont is going to have a really hard time convincing me that Lori would spend more than five minutes with Shane, let alone get romantically involved with him.

I talked last week about my hesitation with adaptations as I love them but find them really challenging and too often, giant failures.  I think The Walking Dead made good choices for the medium overall, but the melodrama really pulled it down. I’m optimistic that some of the scripting and acting will improve with time, as any pilot is arguably the roughest for a new show, so I expect it will only get tighter and stronger as we push forward.  Bottomline? For any fans of the series, or anyone that just loves zombie stories it’s definitely worth a look…and if twitter chatter is any judge…people are LOVING it so far.

Onto the ladies!

[minor spoilers]

01.  ALICE: Alice, a former interior design student turned amateur doctor, was an awesome addition to the group, not only because of her very necessary skills, particularly at a time when Lori was very pregnant, but also just because she was smart and no-nonsense at a time when a lot of Walking Dead ladies were driving me a bit batty with their craziness (I’m looking at you Carol, Patricia, and sometimes Maggie). Alice immediately dug in once in her new home, setting up the infirmary and surgical ward, working tirelessly to patch everyone back together (a constant and largely unrewarding job).  She also, whether you agree or not, made the first steps anyone has made in the series to try to determine what caused the roamers/biters to be the way they were, and if there were any actual solutions beyond basic survival.

Shining Moment: Alice helped Rick, Michonne, and Glenn escape Woodbury, which was only one of her first great moments that included delivering Lori’s baby and bringing some much needed medical assistance and practicality to the prison. 

Gruesome Fact: Alice convinced Doctor Stevens, her friend and mentor to come with her when escaping from Woodbury…and things did not end well for him. 

I love her no-nonsense bitchiness, followed immediately by an apology because she's not used to having people skills anymore. Awesome.

02.  AMY: Because Amy’s not with us long it’s hard to know much about her beyond her context and relationship to Andrea.  In fact, the most interesting thing about Amy is that in my opinion there was a screw up in the design of Amy and Andrea.  Initially Amy is drawn with freckles and “stringy-er” hair generally pulled back in a ponytail (see my chart below!), while Andrea is portrayed sans freckles and with hair usually down and in one solid mass.  After Amy dies, Andrea is suddenly the one with freckles and pulled back hair…I’ve re-read the section of The Walking Dead where this occurs a few times now and I’m convinced it’s a screw up…that there was confusion perhaps between Moore, Adlard, and Kirkman about which character design was which…and then they just stuck with the screwup, rather than correcting it, which might have been the right decision…but is a bit odd to see.  Weirdness I say!

And with that, super nerd analyzing time is over!

Shining Moment: I can’t help but like it when Amy tells Donna to “bite me”.  Girl had sass.  Even more evidence if you ask me that they switched it up and killed the wrong one accidentally and switched it back when realizing the mistake.

Gruesome Bits: I’m not gonna lie, Amy goes early and it’s brutal.

I know it was really nerdy and anal of me to make a visual for this...but I was having trouble describing it without...indulge me!

03.  ANDREA: Amy’s older sister, Andrea was a law clerk before the zombie infestation, and has since become a natural survivor and sometimes the only person who can hit the broadside of a barn.  In addition to becoming the most badass marksman of the group – including operating as a freaking sniper when necessary, Andrea has showed her nurturing side by helping to raise Allen and Donna’s twins and falling in love with the much older (and sometimes ailing) Dale.  Andrea has, over the last two years become one of the best Walking Dead characters regardless of gender.

Shining Moment: Andrea has a ton of great moments, especially since she became the obvious best shot, but she really turned the tide of battle a few times recently while acting as a sniper.  She also returned with Dale to the prison to rescue everyone from an attack, after she left the group in frustration/concern. 

Gruesome Bits: Andrea was attacked by a prison inmate that intended to behead her, as he had some other characters.  She escaped with a nasty wound to the face and a missing earlobe.  The scar actually looks pretty awesome…although I’m sure she doesn’t agree. 

Andrea to the rescue, no surprise there.

04.  CAROL: Carol was never my favorite character (was she anyone’s?) but she provided a nice counterpoint to some of the other ladies, and rounded out the personalities in a realistic way, i.e. not every woman can be an utter badass with a katana blade in a zombie apocalypse situation.  Carol had some frailties that helped lead to a mental breakdown, but that reality is one I feel would be all too present in such dire circumstances.  Under apocalyptic circumstances I’m sure I’d be more likely to end up a Carol than a Michonne or Andrea…no matter how much I’d like it not to be true.

Shining Moment: Honestly…it was hard thinking of one for Carol.  She was often a victim, and her craziness got super intense as more and more traumatic things happened to our characters.  She was a good friend early on, especially to Lori, and you had these moments where she looks like she’s going to be fine and suddenly not be this person that reeks of desperation and fragility, but then things would fall apart and it’d be all over.  For me I don’t think there is a true shining moment, but I did feel for her as she spiraled out of control, which is staying something as I generally didn’t connect to the character.

Gruesome Bits: Carol, who’s always been a bit unstable, fell pretty hard for Tyrese and later caught him cheating on her with Michonne.  It’s a reality that pushed her the rest of the way over the edge.  I thought she showed some backbone in breaking up with him, but she honestly never really recovered.

You can't help but feel for the woman.

05.  DONNA: Donna got a bad deal.  She’s totally unlikable for the majority of her screen time and is by far the most stereotypical and cliche of Kirkman’s early characters.  The feminist in me likes that she asks the question of why it’s three women doing the laundry while the men folk do the huntin’ and protectin’ and I wonder if found in the same situation if I’d be asking the same question.  However Kirkman pulls from the worst feminist stereotypes and she comes off as humorless, cold, bitchy, judgmental woman jealous of others younger and prettier than she.  Donna is also rendered to be the least “traditionally attractive” of the ladies.  I’m not sure what’s a lazier stereotype than the “ugly humorless feminist” but that’s mostly all Donna brings to the table for the bulk of her page time.  Eventually she does soften a bit and grow some dimension as a character, but she never really transcends it.  For most of her page time Donna’s sole redeeming quality is that her sons and husband seem quite devoted to her…so there must be something wonderful there…we just don’t ever get to see it.  

Shining Moment: When Donna cares for a bitten/dying member of the group that all the other ladies are afraid to go near, she shows her humanity and heart beneath the prickly stereotype.

Gruesome Bits: When Donna finally starts to come around, appearing happier and hopeful and less cold and bitchy, she’s almost immediately rewarded with only horror.  Donna is one of Kirkman’s big character misses as far as I’m concerned, and if he hadn’t redeemed himself along the way with great wonderfully explored female characters like Michonne and Andrea, it may have been enough to drive me away.

Donna finally shows her heart.

06.  LORI: As Rick’s wife Lori’s role often feels just that – “Rick’s wife”.  And while Rick is a great character and Lori’s not bad, she just gets a lot of the nagging lines, or the lines of panic about whatever crazy thing Rick’s done this time.  Because Rick is really the star of TWD it seems like it was hard to let Lori grow beyond him, while other characters that were less directly attached to Rick really spread their wings.  I will say that despite the frequent nagging tone and panic that comes with a lot of Lori’s dialogue, she often makes quite a bit of sense, and is a good touchstone for Rick in that way, bringing him back to his humanity when he starts to fall off the map. 

Shining Moment: It’s hard to find a specific moment for Lori, beyond singling out a few of the talks she has with Rick that bring him back to reality, but I guess on the whole, though it was perhaps overly harsh, one of Lori’s best moments was when she tried to shock Carol out of her strange fantasy world with some hard reality checks.  Ultimately (eventually) I suppose it backfired, but I appreciated Lori’s practical attitude and attempt to shake some sense into Carol.  The zombie apocalypse is not the time for indulging crazy fantasies.  

Gruesome Bits: It has never been definitively said in TWD whether Lori and Rick’s baby girl Judy really was Rick’s baby or not.  I think fans lean toward no (I know I do) but it’s one of the few times I think it might just be acceptable to keep the information that someone’s baby might not be theirs to yourself for the greater good.  Certainly Rick felt that way, and it’s a question that will never be answered for sure. 


07.  MAGGIE: From her first introduction, Maggie was a practical character, suggesting that she and Glenn have sex, because essentially, ‘hey, it’s the end of the world, why not?’…which honestly…makes a lot of sense to me.  People talk about grief and intense situations creating intimacy, and Glenn and Maggie’s relationship, though sometimes rough and unsure, is a great example of that in action.  Maggie is one of the only ladies that we get to see kind of going through the growing pains of leaving her family and youth behind and embracing love and independence, adulthood, and all the challenges that go with that.  Maggie and Glenn are also the resident bunnies…spending as much time hiding out in corners partially clothed and having sex as doing anything else.  It’s as if they’ve made it their own personal mission to make sure The Walking Dead has plenty of sex in it.  I can appreciate that.   

Shining Moment: When we first meet Maggie she straight up asks Glenn why he’s hung up on Carol and then offers to sleep with him.  I love the directness.  And it’s not a behavior we usually get to see women exhibit regarding sex in character driven pieces like this – a casual and aggressive attitude that’s generally perceived as more “male” in nature.  But I like the no nonsense practicality of Maggie.  And it serves her well, because Glenn is awesome. 

Gruesome Bits: Maggie, though totally unlike Carol in personality, also tried to kill herself, when all the horror became too much for her.  While it worked given the context of the story, in retrospect it does annoy me that the only two straight up suicide attempts have been female characters. What’s up with that Kirkman?

Maggie, getting to the point

08.  MICHONNE: Michonne’s awesomeness has never really let up from her opening introduction to series (see below) and she’s proved herself one of the best fighters and strongest survivors of the group.  I feel like the last couple years Kirkman has really pulled the spotlight from her, much to my dismay, and given attention to other characters, but she remains a solid player, and one of the only characters left that can hold her own both mentally and physically with Rick.  She’s also one of the only voices he’ll listen to at this point, which is huge. Originally Michonne would talk to herself and it was hinted at that she might have some kind of split personality, which was helping her to deal with her trauma, but Kirkman has at least for now seemed to drop the thread, whether that be because she no longer feels on her own, or needs it, or for some other reason it’s unclear, but as a reader I would like to see it more definitively dealt with, especially since Andrea is one of the characters who has most often witnessed Michonne talking to herself and questioned it, and they’re two of the strongest and most interesting ladies around these days.

Shining Moment: Michonne has done a lot of amazing stuff over the course of TWD, but her arrival was one of the single best character introductions I’ve ever read in comics.  A lone hooded woman with a katana blade making her way through a zombie infested world with her boyfriend and his best friend, jawless and armless zombies in tow, to throw the herd off her scent?  Is about as badass as it gets. 

Gruesome Bits: Michonne has perhaps one of the most gruesome tales of any character in The Walking Dead, which considering what has been done to these people, and what they have done themselves, is saying a lot.  It would be disingenuous to pretend there was anything more gruesome than the time Michonne spent being raped and tortured by The Governor.  It was a highly controversial storyline that really split fans (some left forever).  I felt conflicted about it myself, but when I examined it, though I’m not sure it’s the story I would have written, and there are parts that I think could have been done better, I can’t say that it wasn’t a realistic plot to explore for this kind of story.  These would be the likely harsh horrifying realities of a world overrun by zombies. 

Hello, my name is Michonne, I'm a complete badass, would you like your shovel back?

09.  ROSITA: We haven’t learned near enough about Rosita yet.  So far she’s been little more than arm candy to Abraham, but it’s nice to have some new blood in the group, and it’s also nice for it to be a woman of color.

Shining Moment: Honestly?  We haven’t seen one yet…but I’m ever optimistic that she’ll get her day in the spotlight…and that it won’t kill her. 

Gruesome Fact: Rosita’s led a pretty charmed life (from what we’ve seen so far) the worst thing that’s happened to her in TWD pages, is the betrayal by a friend in her group that devastated everyone about equally.  Whatever lucky charm she’s wearing, I hope she keeps it on.


10.  SOPHIA: Sophia, the young daughter of Carol and best friend to Carl got more screen time in the earlier issues of TWD (and if truth be told, a time when I preferred the book to the phase it’s in right now) but she’s always been an interesting character, showing an impressive resilience to the horror she’s been exposed to – whether it be zombies, her mother losing it, or everyone around her dying at a regular clip.  One of my favorite scenes of the book, and one more insightful than you get in most zombie tales was courtesy of Sophia as she observed the dead grouping outside the fence of the prison (a horrifying site to anyone with a pulse) and claimed she felt sorry for them…that they looked “sad”.  It was a childlike moment of insight that moved me.

Shining Moment: Proving that kids can survive just about anything, and not only survive, but still fall in love and have hope, even at the end of the world, Sophia doggedly pursued Carl (adorably) until he finally relented and asked her to be his girlfriend (but only holding hands!).

Gruesome Fact: Sophia’s mother Carol attempted to kill herself, and it was Sophia that found her.  Something surely damaging, but which Sophia has managed to weather surprisingly well thus far amongst all the other horror…time will tell if it holds….

I hope some of these ladies show up on the new television series, and some of them sooner rather than later.  I admit I was a bit disappointed to see literally no women in fundamental roles with the exception of one small scene in a one and a half hour premiere, but I reminded myself that, if staying close to the source material, Rick’s on his own for quite some time.  But I better see some more awesome ladies next episode Mr. Darabont, because they’re definitely in the book!

You can find The Walking Dead EVERYWHERE.  A comic by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard it’s available in beautiful hardcover omnibuses (I own the first two and can attest to their beauty – it’s a great way to read The Walking Dead – oversized and awesome, albeit a bit heavy).  Omnibus #1 contains the first 24 issues, Omnibus #2 contains an additional 24, and Omnibus #3, releasing on November 30th, 2010, brings the total to 72 issues.  They’re also available in both soft and hardcover trade collections (up to volume #12 for paperback and book #6 in hardcover ).  Additionally, rumor has it that Image will be re-releasing The Walking Dead in monthly floppies, if you prefer to read that way, though I’m not sure I get the point as that’s more expensive than reading in trade…but whatever, nobody asks me about these things.  The Walking Dead television show, written, directed (pilot only) and executive produced by Frank Darabont, premiered last night, October 31st 2010 at 10pm on AMC.  Future episodes will be airing Sundays at 10pm and details including trailers can be found at the link.

UPDATE:  If you missed the premiere or don’t have AMC, you can watch the first episode online in its entirety on AMC.com


*Apologies for the blurring on some of these scans…very hard to scan from giant omnibuses – I did my best!

52 Comments

Carol annoys the crap out of me!

Tons of love for Andrea and Alice though.

‘might of been”? Owie owie ow! It’s too early in the day to read that phrase…

You’ll have to tell me where it is Keith. It’s a 3500 word article with no editor to edit me…a little help?

Kelly, this is probably the most well rounded descriptions of ANY character from the Walking Dead outside of Rick and Carl and further proves that the book is much more about any one character. It is about a truly f’d up situation with no happy ending in sight.

This being said, I so see Rosita going the Amy route and when Sophia cracks (come on, to me this is obvious that the most “cheery” goes nuts at exactly the wrong time!), it is going to have to be Carl that puts her down….or stops her. Either or….

I am interested how Donna will translate to television though… she’ll either be Daria (best case) or Elaine from Seinfeld (say what you like, she WASN’T funny like 60% of that show).

Good stuff. I stopped reading this book a while ago, but it used to be my favorite. Reading about these ladies almost makes me want to read it again. Almost.

Keith’s “note” is in the AMY section.

Sorry, yes – Amy, at the end of the first paragraph. :)

The Ugly American

November 1, 2010 at 10:12 am

“it does annoy me that the only two straight up suicide attempts have been female characters.”

Umm, weren’t there a few male suicide successes, IIRC?

I guess the lesson that Kirkman is trying to teach is that female characters just can’t follow through.

@Keith: Thanks Keith. Fixed!

@The Ugly American: I can’t think of any in our core group…and in fact I should have included Julie and her nutso boyfriend, but that’s – #1 a little different than the others, and #2 another woman since he doesn’t actually go through with it.

Who am I forgetting?

I could have gone without the ‘I liked it better then than I do now’ tone of the article. If it’s a piece on the women of Walking Dead, let it be a piece on the women of Walking Dead. If it’s meant to be a commentary on the stae of Walking Dead with comparrison/contrast of earlier volumes, then let it be that. Don’t bleed the two.

@Reuel: Well, it’s a piece about the women of The Walking Dead, but part of that is that I think a lot of them, with the exception of perhaps Andrea, have been pushed to the back burner for the last two years and it’s both not something I like, and something VERY relevant to a discussion of the female characters and their roles in the book.

In fact I think it would be disingenuous of me to write a piece about interesting female characters in a long running series and not acknowledge that there hasn’t been much for them to do for a couple years. I’m not saying its sexist, it’s where Kirkman wants to take his story and that’s his prerogative, but I’m not going to pretend as a reader that I like it or that i haven’t noticed it.

Yes yes yes! Your review was spot-on–and most welcome to my eyes as I was beginning to think I was the only person who found the dramatic moments overdone.

Your character analyses of the female characters are equally spot-on.

I really enjoyed reading this; it made me see certain characters/actions in new ways.

finally I find someone else who noticed the amy and andrea freckles thing, id have to say it was a detail lost in the changeover of artists but personally id put it down to subtlty on the part of Kirkman…the girls are sisters so they have a strong bond so upon amys death andrea starts tying her hair back and painting freckles on herself as a mark of respect for the dead. at least that was my first thought anyway

About suicide, Hershell almost shoot himself on the head, but Rick stopped him. I don’t know if that counts.

I just read the first 48 issues for the first time a month ago so I’m hardly a TWD expert, but didn’t Tyrese try to kill himself? I remember a scene where he ran out of bullets and ran in to a pack of zombies with a hammer, like it was a suicide mission. It turned out that he was fine but they acted like he was gone until they learned otherwise.

@Wilerson. I to think Hershel is a “sorta/almost”. In the case of all the women in question they actually succeeded in their act (including Julie now that we’ve added her) but were revived/resuscitated/whatever (except Julie) later.

@Annoyed Grunt: Hmm. I don’t know if I’d call that a suicide attempt. I mean, I agree he was definitely in a similar/suicidal state of mind, and he definitely took what was supposed to be a relatively group manageable task and turned it into a suicide mission…but I’m not sure that’s the same as slitting your wrists or hanging yourself (or shooting yourself).

[spoilers]

Although, if we want to broaden the category to include Hershel and Tyrese as attempts, we should also add in Andrew the prison inmate and boyfriend of prison inmate Dexter that ran off into the woods – definitely a suicidal act (though we don’t ultimately know his fate) after the failed prison takeover and death of his boyfriend.

I heard lots of females recommend this title, so I recently read the first issue and liked the concept and art (can’t say much about the story yet, since making a non-cliche zombie/apocalypse story is a very tall order). I watched the show last night.

The metric ton of sexism in the show? At every mention of a female character? I actually walked out of the room multiple times, and if I hadn’t been watching it with friends, I would have turned it off completely. As it is I will NEVER watch another episode of that show again, and none of my friends or fiancee liked the tone of it either! I get we’re supposed to hate the partner (and by all accounts, his opening monologue was freaking disgusting), but the “hero” follows that up with his own musings about his wife (which we are to take as “all women are like…and men would not…” since it’s a response to the light switch comments). Then the part about how women are so dumb, they take photos instead of supplies (My mother and other female family members never did that when we had to evac for hurricanes). Or the return of the partner and his abusive and patronizing treatment of the wife/girlfriend character. Just, NO. It’s obvious the show writers don’t give a crap about their female audience thus far, so I’ll return the favor.

If you say the comic is good then I’ll probably continue to check that out.

@Mirana:

I definitely say to continue reading the series, which though it also has some red flags (like my discussion of Donna above) also has some wonderfully explored female characters.

As for the show. My knee-jerk reaction was very similar to yours and I was fairly pissed. While discussing it with my boyfriend he pointed out that all the of the truly sexist scenes involved Shane and were driven by Shane, and on reflection, I agree. I think the writers/creators/whatevers are going to extremes to make him a “villain” which I personally think is a big mistake, but whatever, they’ve clearly picked that path. I had a very hard time sitting through Shane’s disgusting first speech, and yelled at the TV when he was lecturing Lori about EVERYTHING including how she should feel about stuff, behave, and the suggestion that because she wants to be proactive she’s a shit mother. Also, the idea that ANY woman would reward that speech with a kiss is more science fiction to me than zombies and does suggest a serious misjudgment by the writers/directors (in this case I have to lay that on Darabont). However, Shane is officially a villain so far as I can tell, so I assume that I’m supposed to hate him. And I do.

There were some other frustrating moments that I didn’t appreciate, but I attribute more to the show being more sentimental than I tend to like things, more than trying to outright insult anyone.

For example I took Rick’s comment about Lori being good with the lights being a joke, and his best attempt to not talk about something he viewed as ridiculous with Shane. However, I hated that whole scene in the car (on multiple levels) so it’s hard for me to justify any of it.

I don’t think anyone meant anything terrible about the photos, and in fact, given that at the end Morgan was tearfully going through the photos, I think he would say in retrospect that his wife had far more foresight than he did – she knew what was important emotionally – that those touchstones would be worth their weight in gold – and packed accordingly. I also think that Rick was not implying that Lori didn’t also pack necessities, but that she took photo albums too…which I don’t think anyone was judging as a positive or negative. All that said, I get while it riled you up, I felt similar in the bulk of all the “dramatic” scenes. There was a lot here to suggest women as inconsequential, emotional, and unreliable while men seemed more like practical survivors and heroes. But it’s a first episode and I’m willing to give it a shot as we finally get exposure to some female characters…time will tell.

Tom Fitzpatrick

November 1, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Michonne and Andrea are my favorite female characters in TWD, just cuz’ they both can kind seven kinds of @$$3$. ;-)

Makes one wonder who’d win in a one-on-one fight against each other.

By the way, Ms. Thompson, did you happen to forget the TWD Compendium vol. 1 which collects TWD # 1-48? One HEFTY tome, there, that. Maybe Mr. Kirkman should send one to you for such as highly praised column. What do you think?

[...] tal om The Walking Dead så är denna artikel intressant läsning. De analyserar kvinnorna i serien. Med fina meningar som ”Maggie and [...]

Continuing the thread of the conversation: yeah, I think Shane and Lori were the weak link of the first episode, and I think that’s a real problem. It’s important that they be sympathetic, even if we don’t agree with what they do — hell, that’s pretty much the core of the book, right there, people doing desperate, horrible things and the audience still caring about them.

As for the main article: good stuff; not much to add. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of Michonne soon. Frankly the TV show made me want to see more of Morgan, too, but that doesn’t really fit the “10 women” theme.

Funny thing here, the females that everyone seems to like most (Michonne and Andrea) are the two with the most ‘masculine’ qualities (not that there is anything wrong with it).

Maybe with women involved in the show more feminine characteristics can show through the cast, both men and women.

To complain about the show showing women in a bad light without a female cast member getting any real screen time though is a bit redundant, wait until you have seen more than one before saying the show is sexist/mysoginist.

I feel the show has great potential and can’t wait for next weeks.

PS – Minor spoilers? Major in some cases, however I doubt you;d have read this if you didn;t know the books.
PPS – Glad you are also a fan of the hardbacks, on ly 4 weeks to number 3 :D

Thanks for responding, Kelly. :)

@Matt: Perhaps those characters are most liked because they reflect actual women, rather than the constant “feminine” stereotype? I haven’t read the book, but saying those characters have more “masculine” qualities is bizarre. Women come in all types, just as men do.

A show can most certainly be sexist without female characters, and it’s confusing that you think that’s not the case. If a show is being repeatedly, horribly, unquestionably sexist in the first episode, then why the HELL would I come back for more? Why would I subject myself to something offensive to “see if it gets better”?? It should have done better from the first episode! Would I tell a non-white person to give a racist show another chance? NO.

@ mirana – The Walking Dead (comics version) has some of the best, most interesting female characters in all of comics, especially Michonne. And yes, Michonne displays stereotypically “masculine” traits – she doesn’t talk much, keeps her emotions firmly in check, is more “solution-oriented” as opposed to “consensus-building” – and add to that the fact that she kicks major a$$. If you like strong female characters, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not reading the books upon which this show is based.

And if you stop watching now, you’ll miss the introduction and development of the ENTIRE female cast. Which, if the comics are anything to go by, is wide and diverse and most of all, well-developed. I get that Shane’s comments offended you – they were supposed to, I would argue , as much as to provide a contrast between Rick and Shane – I get that there weren’t many female characters at all in the pilot episode. I think you’re being a bit disingenous in dismissing this show as misogynist drivel or “sexist”, since I would say it’s clearly not. And anyhow, what would your “solution” be to this dilemna? For every act of bravery a man displays, a woman gets an equal moment? That might appeal to some but it kinda kills any dramatic tension.

I enjoyed the show. I thought it was a bit slow paced but visually stunning. I’ll be back for more. And Kelly, I enjoyed this look at the female characters of Walking Dead. About the suicides, though – I’m surprised MORE characters, male and female haven’t either attempted or succeeded. It’s a pretty bleak world Kirkman’s built.

I enjoyed these portraits of the different women from Walking Dead. Personally, I’m inclined to be a little less generous when it comes to Kirkman’s representation of women. I find there’s a lot more sexism in those comics than this article accounts for, but it was interesting to read a well balanced and nuanced take on it. When you’re focusing on the sexism (as I was doing), it’s easy to overlook some redeeming qualities in the characters.

(Shameless self-promotion coming up…)

I thought you might be interested in my attempt to summarize the discussion on sexism in Walking Dead, which I posted on my blog. http://irrelevantcomics.blogspot.com/2010/11/sexism-in-walking-dead-ongoing.html

@Mirena: Of course. I shared some of your concerns, and am anxious to see if the second episode will be an improvement. I can only look at Shane as a villain at this point, which is a shame because it’s much less nuanced than the original work, but if they’re going for anything other than straight up villain they missed the mark. The only reason I would suggest you give the show another chance is because (in my opinion) the vast bulk of the sexism and misogyny was coming from Shane, and I think we ARE supposed to hate him. But time will tell if the attitude is going to invade the whole show, or just that character.

@Tom: I’m inclined to say that though I love Andrea, Michonne would beat her ten ways from Sunday in every scenario except one in which Andrea is acting as a sniper and MIchonne’s on the ground weaponless…and knowing Michonne…she’d find a way anyway. What can I say, I’m a superfan. :)

@Thad: Agreed re: Shane/Lori.

I’m not sure on Michonne though for “season one”…unless they’re playing their cards very close, she’s not showing up on the website or anything under cast. I’ll have to hope for a season 2. In fairness Michonne doesn’t show up until issue 19 in the comics…so if they stick to the original material at all…it will be a while.

And I also agree regarding Morgan. I think the best performances in that entire hour and a half were by Lennie James (by a country mile).

@Matt/Patrick: Regarding “masculine characteristics”. I understand where you’re going with this, and I’m sure you don’t see the harm, but it’s pretty frustrating as a woman (in my case one that grew up playing sports, reading comics, and watching/reading violent action stories instead of romantic stories) to be told that things you like or characteristics you have are “masculine”.

Am I and women like me an exception to a long held “rule”, or to society at large from your perspective? Perhaps, but you have to look at why. Is it really because one thing is feminine and one thing is masculine and that women really prefer pink to blue and romance to action and vice versa, or is it part of a long socialized history where we’re all TOLD that’s what we like and that’s what we’re supposed to do/be etc.

The line to gender blurs more and more everyday, and it really is more just about people…about human beings than about male/female, black/white, gay/straight, etc. And I for one couldn’t be happier, in part because I don’t see my love of comic books as something “masculine”. I just see it as something “kelly”.

@Basque: I actually read your article this morning and thought it was great.

I think I was a bit easy on Kirkman’s portrayal of women in my article (and in my mind). On re-reading over the weekend, I was bothered by a lot of things, but I tried to look at the women one by one in the hopes that I could suss out their strengths and weaknesses and true character independent of a rising feeling that women are not getting as a great a deal as I’d perceived on first read a few years ago.

Regardless, Kirkman still managed to create two of my favorite fictional comics women – and Michonne is probably in my top 10 of all time – so I have to give him some credit for that – and believe that he is capable of more.

SPOILERS

@Patrick: Regarding suicide: Yes, it’s a totally bleak world, one in which I have no problem believing someone commits suicide, or attempts it, I’m just not sure why it seems to be mostly women…and technically only women that have been successful (Carol and Julie). For women so far we’ve got Carol and Julie and Maggie, attempting…and all of them attempting to the point that they die (although Maggie was brought back).

But in the case of Hershl, Tyrese, and Andrew, none of them were successful or even, and with the exception of Hershl’s attempt were not clear cut as suicide attempts. And Hershl, the only more obvious attempt was stopped. So these don’t see the same to me, or equal.

@ Kelly – Regarding Michonne, I believe I’ve read somewhere (either an interview with Kirkman or with Darabont) that she’s not in Season One (which is only six episodes, anyway). But with the astounding ratings the pilot received, Season Two is all but guaranteed. And if Mirana thought it was bad in the pilot, wait’ll she meets the Governor.

Also, in regards to “masculine” (if you’ll read back what I wrote, I called them ‘sterotypical quote-”masculine”-unquote traits’ -) hey, I like showtunes and Hollywood musicals. I grew up watching the Wizard of Oz, An American In Paris, Singin’ In The Rain and many more, so many times, I can quote dialogue till the clouds roll by. (See what I did there?) I never played sports (well, softball but that’s not exactly he-man stuff) and yes, I played with dolls but we called them “action figures”. (My female contemporaries used to swipe my G.I. Joes because Ken was such a milquetoast.) I watched every war movie I could but also stuff like Rosalind Russell movies, Bette Davis movies, Ginger and Fred, things where the female protagonist wasn’t just arm candy. Yes, I believe there are quote “masculine” unquote and quote “feminine” unquote traits IN ALL OF US. Strong men do cry, Mr. Lebowski. Strong men DO cry.

re suicide and Kirkman’s treatment of women – some people are more prone to suicide than others. I’m NOT saying “Them womens is weak hurr hurr hurr”, I’m saying that life can be overwhelming to EVERYONE. I’ve always felt that Kirkman’s treatment of women, while not perfect, at least gave them as many positive qualities as flaws, especially Andrea who started out as a bit of a cypher but has grown into one of my favorite characters. And Michonne is pure awesome, total badass and every tiny bit of character development she receives (did they ever follow up on her back-story in detail? She used to be a lawyer, she’s good with a sword, she used to talk to her dead boyfriend … does she still do that?) makes her a better character. (Although I thought her treatment at the hands of the Governor bordered on exploitation and may have revealed some of Kirkman’s limitations as a writer.) Kirkman’s also written more than one male character as an out-and-out coward (Eugene, the Reverend) and most every male character as a monster to rival the zombies in the title.

I know we don’t always see eye-to-eye, Kelly but I hope you dig what I’m (trying to )get at.

Bill Reed on the AVClub

November 2, 2010 at 6:15 pm

This comic is sexist.

@ Kelly
(And really everyone else)
As a frequent visitor to this blog, I can’t say that I always agree with what you say but I can respect and see your point of view. That said, I wonder where do you, if at all, draw the line between sexism and characterization? @mirana stated that she wouldn’t recommend a racist show to a non-white person but does that apply, for example, to the Sopranos? A critically and fan lauded show but almost every main character could easily be defined as being, at best, apathetic when it comes to racial issues. So where is the line between Shane being a sexist character and the show itself being sexist? If one character you feel is an unrepentant sexist does that taint the entire show? And on the flip side if a show/movie has nothing but negative male characters does that bother you as much as say (I’m assuming) a Jim Balent comic?

Great article as always. My WALKING DEAD reading is way behind, so I will refrain from commenting on the specifics.

On the subject of suicide, it is an area in which there appears to be a real, measurable difference between the genders. Women report much higher rates of depression than men and, as a result, attempt suicide at twice the rate men do. However, attempts are not suicides. Men actually die by their own hand at four times the rate of women.

Those are big numbers and a huge swing. Women apparently tend to use methods that enable second thoughts and rescue. Men tend to use methods that do not. Why that might be is not something for which I have ever seen a fully satisfying explanation.

I read somewhere that Michonne would be in the TV show earlier than she was in the book, probably season 2. My only beef with the show is that in the book, Lori and Shane had one moment on the way to Atlanta, not a relationship. Even with Rick believed dead, Lori didn’t continue with Shane, he just hoped she would.
Also, TWD is basically a book about Rick. I would argue that Michonne and Andrea have as much screen time as any other characters that are not Rick. Even Glenn, Tyreese and Dale (the more fleshed out male characters) don’t get a lot of time. Hershell was used as a counter point to Rick. Abraham is basically a one-note character and even Carl is Rick’s ‘mini-me’. I think that the book will eventually take Rick down into a spiral where his actions cannot be justified and he will either die or become the villain. At that point it will be interesting how the other characters, male or female, evolve.
To defend Lori, like you said, she kept Rick in check. Without her, Rick has no one to stop the crazy that is showing up in the book. Not a small task for her to accomplish

I really wasn’t going to comment on this as I haven’t read the series nor seen the TV show, but it’s been such an interesting discussion here and elsewhere (starting at Basque’s blog) that I felt compelled (not in an exorcist manner, that’s a different horror branch!) to comment. (This is an extended/modified version of what I posted in Basque’s board.)

Yet again, from reading Kelly’s perceptions I’m more interested about reading the series (and while I haven’t always embraced things as avidly as she, I’ve never been sorry to take her up on a suggestion so far). The Walking Dead really sounds more interesting now than at first glance (I mean, c’mon – an open-ended series about flesh-eating zombies? Really?) :)

I find it interesting that what seems to be an unrealistic societal structure within the book is being defended as the natural order. Some of the women I know might sit back and let others (men) make decisions, but they’re certainly not going to let things go without input or tolerate something they blatently disagree with, regardless of their feminist stance, and they certainly aren’t going to let what they perceive as bad decisions or structure stand in the way of doing something they think they need. Most of the women I know would be far more proactive in the situation.

Except in an exasperated “okay, fall on your face” sort of way. ;) And yeah, I know women and men who would completely fall apart in an apocalypse. As for myself, I’m willing and able to do things, but my normal skill sets are not necessarily conducive to survival situations, so I would largely, voluntarily, take a backseat, but I wouldn’t be too shy of expressing an opinion.

The kind of general malaise that I see described (here and elsewhere) seems to belong to a ’50s frontier fantasy. I’m sure this is an overstatement (as I said, I haven’t read any of the series yet), but it seems to be the foundation of the complaints and specifically defended by some.

I have not yet seen TWD’s TV premier, and my reading of the series is behind, but I really enjoyed this article, and I agree with much of your assessment of potential sexism in the comic. I actually think you’ve been easy on Kirkland. If I’d written this article, it would have been more like “Top 10… uhhh, well there’s really not 10 awesome-enough female characters for me to write about, so how about Top 4 and some honorable mentions…?” Your comments did cause me to reconsider Maggie, whom I’d basically written off as one of the brainless-sometimes-crazy-sex-crazed ones. (My standards for character-awesomeness are pretty high, and one of the things that I dislike about Kirkland’s female characters is that they all seem so much more one-dimensional than the men. This is what makes Andrea and Michonne stand out as great characters- they are complex, especially in comparison with the majority of the other females in the series.)

Not having seen the TV premier, I can only wonder about the reason for what sounds like a heavy-handed juxtaposition of Shane’s and Rick’s characters. In the comic, I got the impression that (pre-zombie-apocalypse) Rick tended towards being an in-his-head and passive participant in his marriage, while Shane was a more demonstrative, open type of person. I could understand why Lori might have taken a chance on Shane for a brief time because of this. Unfortunately, it sounds like the TV show characterizations will lead to viewers being more alienated from Lori, especially if Rick continues as the white knight it sounds like people are describing. (“How could she cheat on him- he’s so perfect!” = demonization of Lori.)

Ugh. As I said, I prefer my characters more nuanced.

First of all, good article. Thank you.

When Donna makes her comments about the roles the men and women are taking, I think Lori’s response sums it up nicely. She basically says that she doesn’t know how to shoot a gun and would probably suck at hunting and that she wouldn’t trust Rick to do her laundry with a machine, never mind in a stream. It seems to me to be more a case of using people’s strengths to their advantage. Rick and Shane are trained to use guns, so they do the hunting. When they realize what a crackshot Andrea is with a rifle, she becomes their favored sentry. I don’t think any of them would dare to tell Michonne to wash clothes.

I’m a guy, so maybe I’m looking at this through a bit of privlege. It just seems like more common sense among the group, even if not everybody was happy with it. Maybe it’s just me. I thought it was explained away just fine.

The argument that they’re just using people’s strengths falls apart when you look at Lori’s dialogue in that scene: “I don’t know about you but I can’t shoot a gun… I’ve never even tried. To be honest… I wouldn’t trust any of those guys to wash my clothes. Rick couldn’t do it with a washing machine… He’d be lost out here.” I can buy that those specific women happen to not know how to shoot a gun. But that dialogue is about broad generalizations more than it is about specific characters. She assumes that since she doesn’t know how to use a gun, all women must be in the same boat. And because her husband doesn’t know how to use a washing machine, then clearly that must mean that no man knows how to wash clothes. (I’d be curious to know how many adult men in this thread don’t know how to use an electric washing machine. I don’t think I’ve ever met one.)

Again, as I’ve been arguing elsewhere, if this were just one isolated scene within a generally progressive work, it would be easy to dismiss the sexism in it as being that of the characters and not of the author. But this is the view of gender roles that goes pretty much unchallenged throughout most of the series. Yes, there are exceptions. One woman turns out to be a great shot, and one man turns out to be a very bad one. But exceptions don’t disprove the rule. Think about this statement: “Although there are exceptions, generally speaking women are better at domestic tasks, while men are better leaders.” Is that not a sexist statement?

@Kelly, I in no way meant to offend anybody with my post. I would prefer better roels for women (and am having this same discussion about lack of female comics on TV in the UK – a whole conversation in itself over here).

I hope this show is a huge success (which it is looking to be) and as such AMC then look to adapt other comic stories, especially ‘Y:The Last Man’. A comic that has, I hope you’ll agree, women of every type of personality. With the only male being a bit of a dick (at least to begin with) and the two main women 355 and Dr Mann being strong, intelligent and as stubborn as any male would be in the same role and yet also have a vunerable and sensitive side, which Yorrick does get.

In regards to the Walking Dead, maybe because I have read the novels the TV show didn’t seem as sexist to me because I know the characters better than shown in the brief screen time they get. In this case maybe a little knowledge is blinding me to what new comers are seeing.

By the way, it’s not specifically mentioned but in TPB1 Days Gone By, Lori says the Shane that now Rick is back they have to stop, implying they had more than one night together.

@Basque, I can see your point about Lori’s assumption about women and guns. I didn’t see it as a generalization either. Maybe if she said “WE don’t know how to shoot guns.” I think it was supposed to pertain to that particular group. Even given the little we see of Donna before she dies, I don’t think she would have hesitated to speak up if she could shoot. That’s not a “humorless feminist” impression(You didn’t accuse me of that, I’m just clarifying a statement that could be taken wrong), but rather my impression that she speaks her mind. I just felt that picking that line out without including Lori’s response changed the context.

Speaking for myself and laundry/domestic chores. I know how to use an electric washing machine. I’m married, and wouldn’t dream of making my wife wash my clothes. I also cook, clean, and do windows. We both do. I think grown men should have to know how to do these basic chores. That said, if I could get out washing clothes by going hunting and pretending I even know how to fire a gun I would.

You see sexism. I see practicality in the face of adversity. Your end statement/example was dripping with sexism. Hope I didn’t sound like that. I just didn’t read the scene as sounding like that either.

Regarding Tyreese’s daughter and her boyfriend, I find it interesting that no one has mentioned the fact that it was a suicide pact, and that they were supposed to shoot each other. If he hadn’t been so quick on the draw (pun intended) he probably would have been killed as well.

@Raze: I mentioned it. Not as explicitly as you did, but I talked about it in my second comment on this post.

My apologies. I guess I was a bit confused by your wording (“…he doesn’t actually go through with it.”).

I haven’t watched the pilot yet. (I have it lined up for today, but obviously don’t care much about being spoiled). I had actually been hoping that the tv series would even out the problems I had with the book. I had stopped reading the comic because of how the women were characterized, the characters’ sexism and the melodrama. I could probably have handled any of those more easily had the book not been so intent on being realistic. It’s kind of disheartening to read that Shane is outright misogynist in the show. I’ll still give it a chance. My experience is that shows often improve radically from their pilots. But I’ll be ready to fast forward. On the other hand, you do make me think I should pick the book up again and I appreciate reading a discussion of its problems. I had thought I was the only one bothered by them.

I have to say that I don’t really agree with the line of thought that the suicide attempts are evidence of sexism. Especially if you take into account the events leading up to them.

The only reason Julie died and her boyfriend didn’t is because one of them didn’t pull the trigger at the right moment. Otherwise they would both be dead. In this case, both sexes were equally stupid.

It could easily be argued that Carol and Maggie have suffered more personal and intimate losses than any other members of the group. Keep in mind that Carol’s husband (and Sophia’s father) was killed right before the series started. It is implied that he was abusive and completely in control of their relationship (which I am in no way endorsing, mind you), so when he died she suddenly had to think for herself and her daughter instead of following her husband’s lead.

Again, I’m not in any way, shape, or form saying that she was in a good situation with her deceased husband. It was the exact opposite of good. I’m simply saying that, for her, the abrupt switch from follower to independent (with a child) must have been a complete shock.

She first attempted to cling to Tyreese, and as you know, that didn’t work out well. From there she tried to become a part of Lori and Rick’s relationship, and she was rejected there as well. Every time she turned around she was finding herself alone. I can only imagine what it would be like to feel like you’ve been cut off from all intimate human (adult) connection. Every single time she thought that she had found happiness or even just some small comfort, it was taken away from her.

Maggie certainly seemed more resilient, but keep in mind that, with the exception of her father, she had lost every single member of her family, the majority (if not ALL) of which she had witnessed being brutally killed. Yes, she attempted to start a new life with Glenn, but that sort of horror…you can’t just shut that out or keep it locked up somewhere. Hershel went through the same thing, of course, but his rock-solid belief in God and his duty to his daughter kept him going, even allowing himself to be talked out of a suicide attempt. Maggie didn’t share his belief system or perspective of the world around her, so suicide seemed like the only way to make it all stop.

So, personally, I think it’s more a case of Carol and Maggie having far more pain and suffering to deal with rather than them committing suicide because they are women.

I think that the fact that Michone and Andrea are the two strongest characters (if not physically, then certainly mentally) in the series speaks volumes for the series as a whole.

I think I’m going to love this TVseries, especially since it’s based on a comic book series that I love. I hate that every time there is a good scifi or horror series for whatever reason they get cancelled, so I’m pleased to see that this series is on cable because I know it will survive. Up till now I am happy with both, TV and comic book series and I do not need stronger female roles in neither of the two maybe because I read this series (and now watching the TV series) for pure entertainment purpose. Probably if I were not entirely comfortable in my own skin or completely secure in my femine gender I would not feel like this. I am tired of the snipping and griping about every series having x amount of strong female role models, sterotyping or whatever political correct bs is in vogue. . .enough is enough.

TheWalkingDeath

October 23, 2011 at 5:39 pm

I really miss Alice, she was the greatest female character T.T

I really miss Alice, she was the greatest female character T.T

EDIT: At lees she dindt become a Zombie because she was hit in the head.

I really enjoyed your article and you really seem to love the series, but really Michonne? I honestly feel that this character is the biggest screw up Kirkland has done with the series. It’s very PC and frankly pandering to have the black woman be this supreme badass fighter with the cool weapon, as well as the smart and wise one, that the leader will confide with. Not just that, but the huge amount of time the series spent making sure you KNEW that she was soo “great” just reeks of “being hip”

For me personally, anytime a character makes a “big entrance” that’s my que that the writer wants you to pay attention to them, and acknowledge that they are sooo awesome. It’s cheap. Furthermore, the characters’ cred, to me, was shot when she gave tyreese a blowjob. Real classy progressive thing to do, steal the black man from the white woman. To me that action defined her character.

I equate this character with one from the Simpsons. The episode where Homer voiced the dog character on the Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, Poochy. A character the writers tried to so hard to make the coolest hipest thing on the planet but just ended up with a transparent mess.

Why Kirkland and so many fans love her is beyond me. It’s not like any of us a getting blowjobs from her.

In the Amy-Andrea visual comparison provided above “Original Amy” is Aldard’s version of Amy (not Moore’s), which is compared to the “Original Andrea” drawn by Moore. Aldard’s versions of each sister will look similar. Though your exampled does illustrate the point, an accurate presentation would use Amy and Andrea as drawn by Moore in Vol. 1 (as the third image does) and compare them to Andrea (and Amy) drawn by Aldard.

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