The Gap: Why The Walking Dead Might Lose Me
Spoiler Warning: Argh, there be spoilers in these here waters. If ye’re behind on Walking Dead, get ye gone, ye scurvy dogs.
Some of you will recall that last year I wrote a long post about the women on The Walking Dead. Some of you will wonder why I bother to qualify that as “long” when that’s about all I ever do. To that some of you, I say, “Touche.”
I almost stopped watching after all the “Andrea-do-some-laundry” references last season. This season, things got a lot better. The whole team seemed to be working as a cohesive group, Michonne showed up like a BOSS, and I never once saw anyone complaining that Maggie ought to stick to cooking and laundry. Plus, Darryl looked adorable with Baby Ass-Kicker.
But last night (Sunday’s episode), something happened that got my pulse racing from anger and had me yelling at the screen. And now I am so pissed at the writers I might not watch more of this season. Does that sound overly dramatic? Maybe if I hadn’t seen more rape and sexual humiliation than I could already bear this year in films and shows, from the godawful scene in The Hills Have Eyes (which I also blogged about here) to the most disturbing and protracted rape scene I’ve ever had the displeasure of subjecting myself to in The Last House On The Left.
I am over it.
I’m over seeing women draw that straw every time.
Last night, Glenn and Maggie, who are two of my favourite characters on The Walking Dead, were separated and questioned. Merl beat the living shit out of Glenn and then sicced a walker on him. Glenn, duct taped to a chair managed to fight off the walker and kill him with the remnants of the chair he bashed against a wall.
And Maggie? The Governor made her strip in front of him. Bent her over the table. Humiliated her.
And of course, of course, the writers made sure it was Maggie who gave up the prison.
Because writers in Hollywood wouldn’t dream of reversing those roles, it seems. Someone prove me wrong. Someone show me examples, and show me more than one. Show me that there are writers and directors out there who believe women are more than just an empty vessel to be stripped down and violated to push their men into heroism.
Even Joss has failed me there. Buffy‘s attempted rape, her near-violation at the hands of Spike was used to make Spike into a champion.
And I’m over it.
I’m so over it that I am regretting even touching on the subject in my current book, and seething-glad my new WIP goes nowhere near it.
Why couldn’t it have been Maggie getting beaten up? That might sound awful, but in this case, the beating was a catalyst for strength, a symbol of endurance. Not something that would break a character. Taking a beating and coming out stronger — that’s something that’s almost always reserved for men.
If women take a beating, it beats them down. Just look at Carol in season one.
I am so tired, tired, tired to the point of exhaustion at seeing this played out over and over again.
Women are more than that. We are more than that. There is more to us than victimhood, more to us than sexual humiliation.
To the credit of Chris Hardwick, the first thing he said on the subject implied that he felt the same. He said he started thinking, “No, no, no, don’t go there, don’t do that to her” and in passing let it slip that he felt betrayed by the writers. For that I feel like I’m not alone in thinking that the trope of violating strong women to make strong men stronger isn’t just sickening to me.
I feel betrayed by the writers.
Maybe that’s how things would be in an apocalypse. Hell, rape and sexual assault affect one in three women on the planet now, so why not after an apocalypse drowns the world’s public morals in a cesspool of violence?
I’ll tell you why not.
Scenes like that have enormous power. It’s affecting me as I write even now. And the rape scene in Buffy still triggers me after almost ten years. When writers portray things this way, with such a slicing clean dichotomy of What Happens to Men and What Happens to Women, it tells the public that this is how things are. This is how women are treated. This is how to break them.
Notice that Glenn’s ordeal made him stronger. Notice that Maggie’s broke her.
When writers portray things like that, they are subconsciously sending a message that women are weaker. They are sending a message that this is Just The Way Things Are. They are buttressing the status quo and eons of rape culture. Because I don’t think it ever occurred to them to flip the roles in those scenes — allow Maggie to be the one to fight off a walker with a chair she was tied to. Or have the male be the one to give away the information. Or, heaven forbid, no one gets sexually humiliated or broken.
It shows they don’t believe it could happen any other way.
And for that, I have to mourn the fact that we have a long, long way to go.
Writers, please stop failing women. You build culture. Build it better. If you depict stronger women, if you stop resorting to sexual violence as a way to shock an audience or “develop” your female characters — you will start ridding the world of some of its most damaging imagery.
And if I see Michonne go through what Maggie did at the hands of the Governor, this show will be over for me.
- The Walking Dead, S3 E7: “When the Dead Come Knocking” (tor.com)
- Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ episode 3.7, ‘When the Dead Come Knocking’ (examiner.com)
- Rape and Revenge on The Walking Dead (comicbooked.com)
Posted on November 28, 2012, in television reviews, The Walking Dead and tagged Chris Hardwick, emmie mears, fiction, gender in fiction, Glenn, Hills Have Eyes, Last House On The Left, Maggie, Rape, sexual violence, urban fantasy, Walking Dead, writing, zombies. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.