I’m not going to talk much about zombies, I’m afraid. Zombies aren’t the problem.

Post credits Walking Dead opens on Andrew Lincoln’s Sheriff’s Deputy chomping on hamburgers with his partner, Shane, played by Jon Bernthal, and shooting the shit about their marriages. Both men badmouth their wives, Shane makes some huge and rather unpleasant generalisations about women, and Lincoln goes on to describe his wife as cruel and a bad mother. What Darabont seems to be going for is Tarantino, what he comes up with is charmless dialogue peppered with misogyny. Unfortunately the show goes on like that.

All the female characters are either shit-talked, absent, evil zombies/bad mothers, and/or reckless. Men? They’re gun wielding, authoritarian, tough and very much in charge. There’s a scene late on where Shane tells off his wife for wanting to help other people, accuses her of jeopardizing the life of their child, and not only does she come round to his way of thinking, she also decides that this is in fact a very sexy moment*.

Whether the show continues in this vein or not remains to be seen. There’s a lot of room for it to paint a picture of women as human beings. It’s also worth bearing in mind that while Lincoln describes his wife as a bad mother, the possibility that he will be plagued by guilt for being absent when the zombies came leaves the door open for a more thorough examination of masculinity and the male role. So at this very early stage I’m willing to give Walking Dead the benefit of the doubt, but the fact that there is precisely one scene where the show demonstrates what could be construed as a positive view of women doesn’t bode well.

There’s no doubt that Darabont can direct, the plot is strong, and the show does understand what’s nasty about zombies, but we’ve come to expect compelling dialogue and a nuanced approach to gender politics from our quality US dramas. So far Walking Dead exhibits little of either.

*ADDENDUM: It’s been noted in the comments that I have mistaken Rick’s family for Shane’s (thanks, Basque). While I’m embarrassed by my lack of perceptiveness I have to say that adding infidelity to the list of sins committed by women doesn’t exactly weaken my case.

38 Responses to “notcomics: Walking Dead episode 1”

  1. bobsy Says:

    For the hundredth time, it’s not ‘Andrew Lincoln’, it’s

    EGG!

  2. Zom Says:

    True

  3. James W Says:

    Egg can’t really do an American accent, can he? Heck, he can’t really do an English one, nowadays.

  4. Zom Says:

    His accent was fine. I thought he was fine generally

  5. James W Says:

    (To clarify: that was a genuine ask as I’ve not seen this.)

  6. Zom Says:

    It wasn’t brilliant, but I’ve heard much worse.

  7. It Burns Says:

    Does the comic contain the same sort of convo/generalizations about women? I haven’t read a single issue.

  8. Zom Says:

    Don’t remember, tbh. Read the first couple of trades yonks ago.

  9. Bill Reed Says:

    “we’ve come to expect compelling dialogue and a nuanced approach to gender politics from our quality US dramas.”

    … You have? I sort of expect that thing from the quality BBC stuff we get shipped over here, but not vice versa.

  10. amypoodle Says:

    i’m not sure what you mean, bill. so, we can expect quality american dramas if they’re on the bbc, because they wouldn’t make it to the bbc if they weren’t good, but…

    vice versa?

    if you mean that we shouldn’t expect an american drama to be good if its not airing on the bbc, then, yeah, maybe. i don’t know though. american drama has picked up a lot post hbo’s inception and i imagine amc would like another top biller to match mad men. s’just capitalism at work, isn’t it? supply and demand. and there obviously *is* a demand in america for good drama – it exists and its popular.

  11. Zom Says:

    The key word here is “quality”.

    Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Mad Men (oh, Mad Men!), Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire, In Treatment, even lesser shows like Dexter, Breaking Bad and Rome… all demonstrate a sensitivity to gender and gender politics. Some more than others, for sure (Mad Men we love you), but it’s there in a way that it wasn’t even 10 years ago.

  12. It Burns Says:

    The Wire. I know no one was excluding/forgot it but it needs to be on the list.

    Worst American drama on gender politics? Sons of Anarchy.

  13. Jones, one of the Jones boys Says:

    I stopped reading the comic after…I don’t know, five? six?…volumes in, because of the consistently anti-progressive subtext. (Politically progressive, that is). As to views on women: there’s a scene in a later volume where a group of survivors is forming its own kind of government. The women essentially decide that they don’t want to have to vote on stuff; they’d rather leave the decision-making to the menfolk.

    Yowsa.

  14. Zom Says:

    Wow!

  15. The Beast Must Die Says:

    Jinkies!

    That sounds pretty colosally stupid. I stopped reading partly becuase of my own apathy, and partly because of all that bloody monologuing! Kevin Smith-syndrome we calls it.

    Grand Verbalizer what time is it?

    Time to get a fucking editor and read some Raymond Carver.

  16. zoombie Says:

    Isn’t it Lincolns wife with Shane and the survivors?

  17. Zom Says:

    Wasn’t sure. Maybe. I’ve only read a few issues of the comic and that was ages ago, and I didn’t get a really clear look at his wife and kid.

  18. Zom Says:

    Could someone confirm? If they are at the survivors camp I’m thinking that’s a waste of a good quest narrative (unless of course it’s replaced by something better)

  19. bobsy Says:

    EGG!

  20. Basque Says:

    You’ve got the characters all mixed up in your review.

    At the camp, that’s The Sheriff’s Deputy’s (whose name is Rick) wife, Lori, and son, Carl.

    Shane, Rick’s partner, left with them while he was in the coma. He and Rick’s wife are having an affair, obviously. That’s why they don’t want the boy (Carl) to see them kissing when they’re in the tent.

    I am 100% sure of this, as it’s the same as in the comics.

    Otherwise, yeah, I agree, the portrayal of women in show is repulsive. I have huge problems with the way gender roles/relations are portrayed in the comic as well, but this was even more blatant.

  21. amypoodle Says:

    yeah, i noticed he got that wrong as well.

    but, yeah, bad sexism obvs.

  22. Zom Says:

    Er, the only character I got wrong was Rick’s wife.

  23. Zom Says:

    Glad I’m not alone in my reading

  24. Basque Says:

    Well, you asked for someone to confirm, I confirmed. No need to get defensive about it.

  25. amypoodle Says:

    touchy isn’t he?

    CUGGLES!

  26. zoombie Says:

    # Zom Says:
    October 30th, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Er, the only character I got wrong was Rick’s wife.

    And his wee boy! Sorry!

  27. Zom Says:

    Okay, yeah. This new news just makes my case stronger methinks

  28. Moo Says:

    I’m so glad that what somebody else thinks only makes what you think stronger!

  29. Zom Says:

    Not as a general rule, just in instances where it seems to.

    This is a comments thread based upon my opinion piece, so I don’t think noting that new information reinforces my position (i.e. it adds infidelity to the list of sins committed by women) is too egomaniacal. It’s also worth noting that Basque agrees with my critique.

    My aforementioned defensiveness, which I’m happy to cop to, was borne of the accusation that I was getting the characters “all wrong”, which, taken in conjunction with the detailed breakdown laid out by Basque, seemed to me to imply that I didn’t have a clue who anyone was. I appreciate that Basque probably didn’t intend for what he had so helpfully written to be read that way, but such are the vagueries of written communication.

  30. Chris Eckert Says:

    Breaking Bad is the lesser of NO PROGRAM!

  31. The Beast Must Die Says:

    Coincimentally…

    http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/11/01/she-has-no-head-10-women-of-the-walking-dead/

  32. Zom Says:

    Yeah, Curt Purcell gets into it on his blog too http://groovyageofhorror.blogspot.com/2010/11/amcs-walking-dead-first-impressions.html

  33. The Walking Dead thoughts « Attentiondeficitdisorderly by Sean T. Collins Says:

    [...] I think the accusations of sexism or misogyny over the opening conversation between Rick and Shane are much ado about [...]

  34. The Walking Dead, S1, Ep1 – “Days Gone By” « Jules Verne and The Madhouse of Sensation Says:

    [...] credit scene flashes back to a poorly written (“Royale with Cheese,” this ain’t)  and, yes, undeniably misogynistic conversation between Rick and his fellow police partner and best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal)  that [...]

  35. Josh Says:

    I don’t mean to come off as negative but it seems you’re missing the entire point of the dialogue between the characters. This isn’t supposed to transcend dialogue to any sort of level that is witty and “charming” such as Tarintinos work…
    Instead its just two people talking like regular joes (regardless of the context) that’s supposed to feel like a more realistic portrayal of people living in that situation. Sure, Shane is sexist as hell but that’s how his character is written and that’s how darabont wanted the scene to be shown. If the entire series, or 6 ep, showed every man taking lead and talking trash about women then id have to agree with you but seeing as how you seem really upset about this one scene makes it seem like you’re looking for sexism. Its like saying oh the only asian kid is small weak and skinny they must be stereotyping them all as inferior to caucasians.
    If anything, the walking dead was always about realistic, flawed characters put into a shitty situation.

  36. Zom Says:

    Fuck, I’m getting fed up with blokes rushing to this episode’s defence. Do you honestly think I didn’t think through everything you’ve written before I posted? I’m not fucking stupid.

    It’s late. I’m tired and irritable. I’ll come back and unpack tomorrow.

  37. grant Says:

    I’ve neither read the comic nor seen the show (yet), but did just read io9.com’s review and came away with the opposite impression.

    The review here:
    http://io9.com/5686018/everything-you-need-to-know-about-the-walking-dead

    Underlines this character:
    http://tonymooreillustration.com/v-web/gallery/albums/album01/wd_19_cov.jpg

    Who, apparently, is the only one worth remembering because everyone else the story introduces has a tendency to die without warning.

    I dunno – just passing this along. Potentially SPOILERY, I guess.

  38. joel Says:

    i only just saw episode one, but i am in agreement with this post. it begins as an embarrassing masculinist fantasia/female-less dystopia, to which women can then be reintroduced on the basis that THE TERMS HAVE BEEN SET: this is a world unashamedly framed by men and their mutual distrust, brought to the fore by the real of zombiepocalypse (or their overcoming of distrust through violence and the absence of women – cool!).

    of course there is then the possibility of infinite subversion within this violent masculine world, yes there will be many plot twists and perhaps delightful points of characterization; but that is a matter of its ongoing serial nature. it is worth stressing that all of these fixes will be framed by – or made possible through! – this original misanthropic imagining and organization of post-apocalyptic social relations.

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