The Female Perspective: Feminism on “The Walking Dead”

Welcome! This blog is written by author J.L. Metcalf and will chat about comics, movies, garden gnomes, ghosts or even books and daily life. It is a place where I offer my ladylike perspective on anything and everything my brain can think of. 

Can there be equal rights during the zombie apocalypse?
Can there be equal rights during the zombie apocalypse?

I want to start by being totally honest, I love The Walking Dead. It is one of my favorite TV shows. I read the comic and love it as well although this article is going to focus on the TV show only (the comic is an entire other kettle of monkeys). I have a Rick Grimes action figure somewhere. So when I write this article, I admit to maybe being slightly biased, but in the name of blog integrity I am going to be as fair as I can.

I was researching a few things on the internet and came across a few articles discussing feminism in the Walking Dead universe. Some of the articles are like, “yeah! go ladies!” and others poo-poo the writing of the show and say that it portrays women as weak and nagging. It made me think, how do the writers on Walking Dead portray women? Do they portray them as weak, annoying, nagging women or do they portray them as strong, intelligent and brave?

Let’s take a look at some of the ladies in Walking Dead and see what we come up with.

Michonne and her "pets"
Michonne and her “pets”

First off, we have Michonne (played by Danai Gurira). In the comics, Michonne is a bad ass with a sword and some killer fighting skills. When we first see her, she has two zombie “pets” to keep herself safe from other zombies, which is both a disgusting and brilliant way to keep yourself from being eaten. She starts off quiet, cold, and unsure of the people she has met. On the show, she first meets Andrea and they become fast friends. When the group is eventually reunited and Michonne is accepted as a part of that group (it takes awhile) she becomes both an integral and trusted member of the group. Eventually we get to see her back story and see that not only is she a warrior, she was a Mom, she was a woman with love in her heart but, as with everyone, the zombie apocalypse changes all of that. It hardens her after her child is killed. It creates a wall around her that takes quite a while for anyone to break through. But once she trusts Rick and the group, she is open and all-around awesome. She is portrayed as intelligent, tough and damn sexy without being overtly so.  So far, I’d say that the Walking Dead writers are doing pretty well.

Oh Lori...
Oh Lori…

Next, let’s take a look at Lori (played by Sarah Wayne Callies). Oh, Lori. Lori was never one of my favorites. I always found her whiney and weak in a weird sort of way (I mean, for pete’s sake, she flipped a car on an empty road!). I never faulted her for having a relationship with Shane, in that type of situation, you cling to the familiar wherever you can. She thought Rick was dead, so I always understood her choice. The problem came when she was reunited with Rick and she was constantly berating and judging him for his choices and even though his choices weren’t always right, they were as right as they could be given the situation they were in. When Rick finally has to kill Shane, she shuns Rick like he’s a monster. Even though, she had been telling him he needed to kill Shane! To me, Lori was always acting like they weren’t in the midst of the zombie apocalypse and that frustrated me. At the same time, she added a wonderful level of complexity to Ricks character while also frustrating the holy heck out of you so I’d have to say that the Walking Dead did a good job there. Any writing (and acting) that causes you to feel passion for it (one way or another) is good writing, in my opinion.

The marvelous Carol.
The marvelous Carol.

Finally, let’s take a look at my favorite character out of the women, Carol (played awesomely by Melissa McBride). Carol started off as the wife of an abusive jerk. Then he was killed and her life began to turn around. After her daughter is killed, she begins to befriend Daryl and you start to see a change in Carol. She isn’t always perfect.  She’s as flawed as any of the other characters, but she begins to grow stronger. She starts helping to make decisions, she can fight off zombies as well (or better) than the men and becomes a valued member of the group. By the time the current season rolls around, she has been kicked out of the group, survived on her own for months and then she goes and saves the bunch from cannibals. The reason I like Carol is that she can take care of herself, rescue others (including the menfolk, hello!) and contribute to the group. Sure, she murders two sick people because she doesn’t want a deadly virus to spread and while she should have brought it up with the group, she ultimately did the right thing. Carol has been through a lot of tough stuff and she comes out damaged, but stronger than ever.

I cannot possibly go through all the female characters that have come and gone on Walking Dead but what I can say is that I don’t see a weak group of females. Sure, some start out that way, some make bad decisions (can we say Andrea! She could have killed the Governor and saved everyone a lot of grief but she couldn’t/wouldn’t do it) but they all adapt to their surroundings with strength, beauty and intelligence. As a feminist, I cannot see an issue with this, all I see are strong, powerful women standing shoulder-to-shoulder with strong, powerful men. I say bravo Walking Dead writers, way to go and keep the powerful women coming.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

The Walking Dead, saison 1

2 thoughts on “The Female Perspective: Feminism on “The Walking Dead”

  1. I totally agree with you on every level. I have to say, Carol has been a breakout character and has now become my favorite femme Walker Slayer.

    I’m excited to see where she goes in the future.

    I disliked Lori when she was on the show. Only because I felt she was Ricks antagonist. She never supported him, and even when she said she did, she would question his decisions. But when you think about it, she is that maternal character that has to deal with family issues while trying to deal with an apocalypse. So in retrospect I gave her a pass. But she did need to go.

  2. […] few weeks ago, I did a post about feminism on The Walking Dead. After last nights powerful and female-centric-ish episode, I wanted to take a look at that a […]

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