So, the second half of Season two is now on the way and it is getting from bad to worse in the misogyny department. Everything I wrote in my previous post on the subject still holds and I would not retract anything. And last Sunday’s episode was especially awful in that respect.
The earlier post is reproduced below.
The latest episode – 18 Miles Out – was neatly gender segregated with two highly gendered storylines. In the first one, Rick reasserts his alpha male status against Shane. Apparently, Jon Bernthal has such an infinite range of submissive postures, I expected him to roll on his back and expose his belly at some point while Rick was browbeating him. Said browbeating was only interrupted by a bunch of walkers. Then Rick saves Shane and Shane accepts his lower status in the
wolf pack the group.
The other storyline consists in Lori reasserting her alpha female status against Andrea. At this point in the series, Lori is pregnant with no choice thanks to the fact that Glenn betrayed her trust, affirming his loyalty to the men of the group. In this episode, she browbeats Andrea for not properly fulfilling her gender role. Andrea has been taking shifts guarding the farm, something the men usually do, because it involves handling guns and rifles, which, as we all know, women can’t do (and as Andrea has already proven). Lori lectures Andrea, telling her that she is not needed in these shifts. The men can handle it. She should be doing women stuff: washing, cleaning, keeping things together, you know, the whole homemaking and nurturing thing.
The other reason that Lori is complaining to Andrea is that Andrea thinks women and girls should have choices whereas Lori thinks they should not. Young Beth has decided that, after the barn slaughter, she does not want to live. A rational position to have in this context. Andrea thinks it should be her choice. Lori does not think so and berates Andrea for even suggesting otherwise. Andrea then makes that choice available to Beth. Beth does not kill herself. The other women yell at Andrea.
I swear, why don’t they get Tony Perkins and Michelle Bachmann to play Rick and Lori.
Why do I keep on harping about this. Well, (1) those amounts of rank sexism and misogyny are just vile, and (2) this is a show that could / should be great and it sucks instead because of terrible writing and character development.
Seriously, people, I really wanted to like this series. I like horror stuff, I like zombies and end of the world kinda themes. It’s like this series was made for me… except it is a gigantic pile of sexism and misogyny so far. I have watched all the episodes so far and let me share with you what I learned.
1. Bitches are bitchy
They are. I learned that in the very first scene, after the intro, where the two main cop dudes share their mutual doodly pain inflicted upon them by women. Rick, the future alpha male of the series, knows his marriage is collapsing and the bitch is SO cruel.
And you know why bitches are bitchy? Because, as Glenn helpfully explains to us, they have their periods. And he read somewhere that when many women get together for a long time, their cycles get in synch and they all get crazy at the same time. Because there can’t possibly be any other reason why he, lil’ virgin, no-date, Glenn can’t figure them out.
2. A collapsed world is a world where men can, finally, be men again
This is a trope I have discussed multiple times already. I was hoping this series would be different but no. In The Walking Dead, as with many collapsed world movies and series, once institutions that push men down, to the benefit of women and minorities (like education, workplace that equalize relationships), men can reclaim their “natural” leadership positions and women have to accept this leadership for their own good. The main group we follow is initially led by Shane. Once Rick finds them, he becomes the alpha male (which leads to conflicts of masculinities as the two of them compete for who gets to be the most hegemonically masculine). Of course, such leadership can only be exercises by white men (so, sorry T-Dog… because all black men have funny names like that, and sorry Glenn… or “Asian boy” as another hegemonic white male – Hershel – calls him).
And so, it is back to a natural order of things: men carry the big guns, stand guard and protect the groups while women wash clothes and cook.
BUT, there is such a thing as bad masculinity in The Walking Dead, and it is illustrated by white supremacists Daryl and Merrill and especially Ed Peletier, all of them get their comeuppance. All of them pushed hegemonic masculinity too far, through domestic violence and racism. So, when Merrill beats up on African-American T-Dog and forces Glenn (Asian American kid) and two women to submit to his authority, Rick shows up puts him back in his place and puts himself in leadership position.
3. Uppity women need to know their place
Look women are good at washing clothes but you always get one that gets all uppity. Take Andrea, for instance, college-educated Andrea (but that college education is now worth nothing, of course, as only masculine skills are useful… except cooking and washing clothes), who, after the death of her beloved younger sister, wants to learn to use a gun and to the protecting thing. Well, she cannot be allowed to even have a gun, as Dale makes a point in enforcing. But the bitch does not know her place. She gets a shotgun, uses it, and, of course, makes a terrible mistake (almost killing Daryl).
If only she had waited for one of the men to teach her, then she would have realized how great she would be once she accepted her subservience to more competent men.
4. Women’s ideas are irrelevant
Watch as almost every time a woman makes a suggestion, it is swiftly discarded. Lori does not like the idea of young Carl starting to use a gun. After all, if the men are so reluctant to let grown women use a gun, surely, they would not want a child using them either, right. WRONG! Carl is a boy, he can be taught to use guns, learning to respect the weapon. Which is opposite to Andrea who gets good with guns once she stops being emotional (cuz that’s how bitches are). So, Lori relents and later comes to see that the men were right, as they always are.
Not only are women’s ideas irrelevant, but their ideas about their lives also are. Take Andrea, for instance. After her sister’s death, she is quite despondent (which is, you know, normal). So, when the group gets to the CDC and the doctor them offers a painless suicide as opposed to a permanent race against time and walkers and ultimately a very possible painful death or becoming walkers, Andrea, decides to accept that. So does Jaqui, but she’s black, so, she does not count.
So, Dale takes it upon himself to convince Andrea to not kill herself and blackmails her into helping him get out. Jaqui, though, he is not interested in. So, her character dies in the explosion of the CDC. So long, black lady, we hardly knew you. Dale, incidentally, takes it upon himself to try to control everything about Andrea, treating her like a teenager in need of guidance and surveillance (and chastising Dale for their quickie in the woods because he’s also in charge of Andrea’s sexual life, apparently), but all in the name of caring about her.
5. Women’s trust is irrelevant
Once at Hershel’s farm, two women confide in to Glenn. Lori needs him to get her a pregnancy test (because the slut had sex with Shane when she thought Rick was dead, and, as we all know, the punishment for sluttiness is pregnancy). And Maggie Greene needs him to keep secret the presence of her relative and friends (who have now turned into walkers) in the barn. But Glenn decides, with the helpful advice from patriarch Dale, that these women’s trust is irrelevant and men can do what they want even if it involves betraying such trust.
5. Patriarchs make all the decisions, otherwise, bad things happen
It is in the order of things for alpha males and patriarchs to make all the decisions. If other group members accept it and let it happen, then, everything is fine. It is when some of them get it into their heads to do what they want that bad things happen. Which is why, throughout season 2 (so far), Rick (the alpha male of the transient group) spends quite a bit of time in negotiations with Hershel (the Bible-reading patriarch who is in absolute charge of his flock and has especially a bee in his bonnet about his stepdaughter getting it on with the “Asian boy”). All the important decisions are made between these two.
And the terrible ending of the last episode is because the other group members decide to override the decision progressively being worked out between hegemonic males and do what they want. Slaughter ensues, leaving it up to Rick to make the hard decision, because that is hegemonic man’s burden. And FSM knows that Andrew Lincoln’s (over)acting never lets you forget what a BIG and painful responsibility it is to be in charge. It’s lonely, at the top of the patriarchy.
And then, there’s Lori’s pregnancy. Sure she gets the morning after pill. And someone needs to tell the writers that the morning after pill is NOT an abortion, which is why it is so stupid when Rick, upon finding the pill box, yells at her “you’ve known for days, weeks??” Geez, If she had known for weeks, the morning after pill would have been useless, wouldn’t it. But this is the US, so, of course, Lori will go through the pregnancy. And you can bet that she will be lectured by one man after another regarding what she should and shouldn’t do. Heck, she has already been lectured by Glenn who was still a virgin until a couple of episodes ago.
I can’t wait for the rest of the series. But you gotta keep a sense of humor about the absurdity of certain scenes: