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View Diary: Is Tyreese "Made to Suffer"? In The Walking Dead TV Show There Can Be Only One Black Male Character (342 comments)

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  •  Reading way too much into it (10+ / 0-)

    Fraid to say. The most questionable thing may be the one male black character portion. They quite literally replace themselves nearly immediately. Especially when T-Dog was such a fan favorite, although granted, only a tv character from the series.

    Nearly veering related to Michonne is reaching for imaginary straws to settle any grievances you may personally feel in all due respect.

    a little bit of this, a little bit of that

    by MWV on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 11:03:22 AM PST

    •  never too much reading into it (19+ / 0-)

      that is how the power and the politics of popular culture work. always read more into it. interrogate; do not be passive.

      "settle any grievances you may personally feel in all due respect."

      what are these grievances? angry black and brown people cartoon character grievances? be critical, reflective, and ask yourself how can race and gender, two of the major organizational categories in our society, not be present in popular culture?

      •  You do run the risk (6+ / 0-)

        of reading more than the author has written.

        Of course race and gender are present in popular culture. That is not to say that they decide, or even inform, every action. Tyreese and his group would have been treated exactly the same had they been white.

        into the blue again, after the money's gone

        by Prof Haley on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 05:43:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  i am not a modernist, texts take on a life of (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          FindingMyVoice, bumbi, SuWho, Prof Haley

          their own. I wonder if the author of the Clansmen thought it was racist...to choose an example that is extreme to prove a point. We especially cannot trust the dominant or preferred narrative when said writers are part of the same society--and subject to its socialization, values, priors, etc.--as the audience.

          Re: Tyrese. But the social meaning and context would different. That is the art of interpretation and textual analysis by realizing that the object itself has context (as well as meaning) and is dependent on it for its contextual cues, signals, codes, etc.

          •  You're kidding, right? (5+ / 0-)

            Thomas Dixon Jr., the author of The Clansman, knew exactly what he was doing.

            The real problem with elevating subjective perceptions of a text or work to equal significance with the intent of the author is that there are as many different "readings" as there are "readers". Since the logical conclusion of this approach is that there are no fixed meanings, only various competing narratives, you end up with no criteria for assessing a text or work other than whatever suits a particular fancy or bias.

            Yes, I know, you believe in a collective unconscious, or perhaps you prefer a different term. For myself I've yet to see a compelling proof of this concept, In fact, my reading of history leads me to entirely different conclusions.

            Nothing human is alien to me.

            by WB Reeves on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 12:59:00 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I am a post structuralist and student of Hall (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Bob Guyer, SuWho

              Butler, Hooks, Foucault and others. I here you on questions about tests of empirical truth regarding qualitative analysis. there it comes down to the voice, skill set, training, theoretic frameworks, writing, and broader knowledge at play. This separates the good and solid from the day players. Not all interpretations are created equal.

              As a historian, I would hope you are sympathetic to these questions of interpretation, especially regarding different approaches to historicism and historiography...I would hope.

              I am sure you know that there is not one reading of historical events...or the field would be dead. We likely have much in common.

              •  Sorry to respond tardily (0+ / 0-)

                Illness and work have taken my time and energy. Your point about historical interpretations is well taken.

                However, all valid historical interpretations are just that: interpretations of objectively verifiable events. One may dispute the significance and weight of the American Revolution, the Slave trade, the Civil War,  etc. but one cannot deny that they are historical fact. They are objective events that any interpretation must account for.

                Cultural artifacts are something all together different, particularly in the realm of popular culture. Here, you are in the realm of image and symbol rather than objective events.

                I've no doubt that we have much in common but the devil is in the details.

                Nothing human is alien to me.

                by WB Reeves on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 12:42:44 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  and again (0+ / 0-)

                  "the realm of image and symbol rather than objective events."

                  that is what interpretivism is about, and the many approaches to it. as i said there is a whole literature on their on the subject. even if you may disagree with it, you will likely learn a great deal of value. as i said, history is full of such debates too around the various schools of "new" historicism etc.  and how theory and different frameworks influence the interpretation of events.

                  •  But in history, interpretations are (0+ / 0-)

                    secondary to the events themselves. Can the same be said for cultural interpretation? Are cultural interpretations secondary to the images and symbols themselves or the intent behind them? Can images and symbols be said to possess objective content?

                    Just asking.

                    Nothing human is alien to me.

                    by WB Reeves on Sat Dec 08, 2012 at 10:14:40 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  interesting (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      WB Reeves

                      maybe it depends on who trained you and what school of thought you subscribe to. for the historians i know interpretation of events is the whole point. unless you come upon new documents, evidence, archives, etc. much of the to and fro, in my experience is on the former. the texts are part of the interpretive process and the foundation.

                      for your second question, it depends. i am a post structuralist and a post modern. i am familiar with modern/"old school" approaches. i appreciate them.

                      Intent can be very helpful.

                      But it does not override context, history, etc. as we said before, there are many folks whose "intent" may be contrary to how a text is received. moreover, once you start talking about questions of collective subconscious and the like, a person's "intent" often falls away.

                      think about the power of the subconscious mind on a mass scale.

                      have you read Barthes' mythologies or works on post structuralism or sociolinguistics? Zizek, Lacan, Foucault, Lakoff, Butler, etc? That is where I am coming from. As I said, you may enjoy some of it. Part of our differences may just be those of training and generations.

                      We can learn to complement and help each other.

          •  Yet by calling interpretation an art (0+ / 0-)

            you make it easy to infer that the meaning you assert is your own creation.

            into the blue again, after the money's gone

            by Prof Haley on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:42:15 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  can you clarify? there are multiple meanings (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Prof Haley

              to a cultural text. the fun comes in arbitrating those claims.

              •  I thought that was clear enough (0+ / 0-)

                The meaning installed by the writer is primary. The meaning asserted by anyone else is secondary, because the reader is not the author and because readers disagree, as this comment trail makes clear.

                into the blue again, after the money's gone

                by Prof Haley on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 11:06:32 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  authors may not be mindful of their own intent (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  grollen

                  or its reception or the meaning that a given piece of work will take when it is circulated among a public. there are many many examples of such happenings where a song, movie, film, poetry, etc. was meant as X by the author and became understood to mean Y by the public.

                  authors and creators are part of the collective consciousness of a society. as such, they reproduce its norms intentionally and unintentionally. as i said i am not a modernist--although i appreciate its foundations. i am more a populist who tends to read against Power by using a critical framework.

                  If you are curious about this approach check out some of Henry Giroux's early stuff, or even more foundation work by Fiske and others. I think I mentioned it earlier, stuart hall has some good stuff on Youtube from his Manchester lectures (I believe).

                  There is also a BBC series that should still be online called Ways of Seeing that does a great job of getting into matters of representation, perspective, and power by considering art history in Modern Europe.

                •  That presumes a single author work with a very (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Prof Haley

                  self-conscious author. In works that have multiple people with claims to authorship that doesn't work very well. In a tv show, multiple script writers, the director, and the actors all collaborate (or at times even compete) to create a work. Whose intent gets to trump?

                  But more than that, authors are not always (I'd go so far as to say rarely) self-conscious enough to be aware of how their writing and plotting is impacted by racist images and themes in society. That doesn't mean that it's not. What appears on screen is what matters; not what an author thinks or hopes appears on screen.

                  Ultimately, we all come to our own interpretations of a work, but we should be able to support it with clear examples. The strength of an interpretation comes from its textual support.

                  •  and (0+ / 0-)

                    in terms of evidence there is much here. but again, don't separate a text from the social and cultural context that produced. it. once more, given our society it would be like arguing against gravity to somehow assume a text would not embody the racism, sexism, and classism of this society.

        •  The author may not even realize (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Nulwee, SuWho

          The full depth of what they are saying.

        •  Agreed. (8+ / 0-)

          So Carl locks them in a cell.  So what?  Unlike the suggestion made by the diarist, the group was not just one black man.  There were several white adults in that cell as well.  It had nothing to do with race.  

          Carl was simply protecting the group the same way Rick did when he locked the inmates (also made of of several different races in another part of the prison to keep them away form his group.

          Carl's actions had nothing to do with race.  It had everything to do with the group he was protecting being made up of the weakest members of the group and being faced with a group of armed outsiders who may or may not pose a threat.

          In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

          by Cixelsyd on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 07:46:00 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Televisionwithoutpity.com board posters last night (4+ / 0-)

        noticed this also about the series

        "Did they really think that we wouldn't notice? Nice try-- but we got you!" Rev. Al Sharpton

        by growingMajorityMN on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 06:18:13 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  As did we ... (13+ / 0-)

          My son and I are huge fans of the show. Neither of us have read the comic books, so this is all new to us. We don't know the characters as they're introduced, so we have no idea their relevance/importance.  Although from what I  understand, like most tv shows born of books, etc., the show has veered off with respect to characters.

          We were both really pissed that they killed Tdog.  He would have been a good catalyst between Merle and Daryl, and he was good character and he was good within the group.  To me, that was senseless. I get the whole shock value and that "no character is safe" but there were other characters that were expendable and wouldn't have been missed.

          But my son and I both said, Oscar is going to die.  We knew as soon as the decision was made as to who would go to Woodbury.  It reminded me of watching Star Trek as a kid. You know who was going to be sacrificed by who went on the land party and beamed down to whatever planet they had encountered.

          I didn't realize who Tyrese was until other friends who are fans but who have read the books/comics said that he's an important character.

          But we wonder too why the black characters are so underdeveloped and underused.  From what I understand of Michonne, she's a very important, central character from the series, and for the first few eps this season, she basically was relegated to looking pissed off and like a pressure cooker who's lid was about to blow off.  It really began to irk me because her character as introduced and initially portrayed is far too important and powerful to just have her standing around uttering the occasional sentence and being extremely pissed off with the same expression on her face for the duration of an episode.

          I love the show, I do.  But I agree about the cultural stereotypes being played out.  

          Will we ever see that father/son that Rick encountered in the premiere episode?

          •  I've been disappointed (11+ / 0-)

            in the Michonne character. I keep waiting for her to interact with the other characters.  Tdogg never really spoke or did anything until just before they  killed him off. I think what many of the people who disagree with the premise of this diary don't get is that the Black characters seem to just be there to show the show is multicultural or something. They don't get to be real people. The other characters have actual dialogue and relationships. The Black characters, not so much. I hope this changes because I am starting to not like the show so much.

            ~*-:¦:-jennybravo-:¦:-*~

            by jennybravo on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 08:10:51 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  The very few times T-Dog did speak, they (8+ / 0-)

              actually did a decent job of writing him, too.

              When he expressed to Dale that he was afraid they left "the black guy and the old dude" behind?  That was real.

              T-Dog wasn't a prejudiced guy, (farthest thing  from it), but it was pretty clear that he felt awkward in a group full of people who had very different life experiences than he did...and who, after all, went back for Merle not just to save him but to keep him in the group knowing what a violent racist POS he was.

              That's fine - but you don't stop exploring it after one conversation, and then kill the character just so the audience will think the female lead is going to survive pregnancy.

              The actor, btw, was originally only expecting to be in two episodes.  They kept him because of his talent.  Which is to say, as far as I can tell, they were planing to have no African American characters at all for one season.

              "the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared material at these facilities and LOFs."

              by JesseCW on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 01:38:49 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  The show is set in Georgia. There's no (8+ / 0-)

            no getting around the massive shortage of African Americans.

            We should be looking at one face in three, not one in twenty.

            If we were, it's possible there would be less temptation to read huge messages of white imperialism into each scene.

            The comic, while not perfect, is much better in this regard.

            Michonne is fucking crazy in the Comic.  It's a defense mechanism - it's how she stayed alive - but she's nuts.

            The writers of the TV show seem to be afraid to actually write the character.  They've wedged themselves into a corner by avoiding African American characters for so long that it's as if they fear being criticised if let Michonne be who she is in the comic.

            Having excluded "normal" African American characters, they've built that box for themselves.

            "the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared material at these facilities and LOFs."

            by JesseCW on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 01:32:58 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  I Think White TV Writers Don't Know How (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            jds1978, bumbi, SuWho, Nulwee

            to write black characters. Actually, there's no true way to write a black character, but in the writers' minds they have to do it the "right" way for fear of alienating the audience. I think the fear is imaginary but the comic book can take liberties because it's not for a mass audience like the TV.

            "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

            by Aspe4 on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 06:34:55 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It's not the writers. It's AMC. The western (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Prof Haley

              channel that for years played Eastwood and John Wayne marathons before original programming - and still do. This is the channel of Mad Men. No one should be surprised at how badly black characters are drawn on ANY of their programming.

              If I knew it was going to be that kind of party, I'd have stuck my ---- in the mashed potatoes! - Paul's Boutique

              by DoctorWho on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 02:32:58 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Though on Mad Men (0+ / 0-)

                the black characters seem to be fully realized people, fully aware of their circumscribed roles in a society still full of racism. Granted, the show isn't focused on any of them, but they're not cartoons the way they are in, say Hell on Wheels.

                into the blue again, after the money's gone

                by Prof Haley on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 02:54:50 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  What black characters on Mad Men? (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Prof Haley

                  "It strikes me as gruesome and comical that in our culture we have an expectation that a man can always solve his problems" - Kurt Vonnegut

                  by jazzence on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 04:30:11 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  None are in the foreground (0+ / 0-)

                    As early as season 1 we have Hollis the elevator operator and Carla, the Drapers' nanny. Later we get Dawn, Don's secretary. There's also Paul Kinsey's girlfriend, who dumps him while they're in the South working for civil rights. In fact, the very first scene of the first episode shows Don asking a rather elderly busboy how he chooses what cigarettes to buy. These are not large parts [Carla has the most screen time], but they're not thoughtless throw-aways either.

                    into the blue again, after the money's gone

                    by Prof Haley on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 05:04:35 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  the street robber too (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Prof Haley
                    •  they are peripheral to the white gaze of (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Prof Haley, jazzence

                      mad men. that is the point of the first few seasons and it was done so smartly. now, they have to step up. given what was going on with ad agencies and the "discovery" of black consumers I thought for sure they would have had some storyline about a need to diversity in terms of sales. that would be historically accurate.

                      the joke about Pepsi, the discussion about what types of TVs d "negroes buy" and the other allusions to Jim Crow were hints.

                      who knows where they are going?

                      •  Mad Men will end before any black characters (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Prof Haley, jazzence

                        are given substantial roles. Guarantee it. My point in bringing up Mad Men is not that the show is racist or insensitive - I think the show is a very clever way for AMC to fulfill its demographic needs w/o having to worry about diversity. The point is it's not a coincidence that a channel known for westerns and dirty harry marathons has invested in original programming that overtly focus on white male authority and ultimately glorifies it.

                        If I knew it was going to be that kind of party, I'd have stuck my ---- in the mashed potatoes! - Paul's Boutique

                        by DoctorWho on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 07:30:37 PM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Dunno about "ultimately" (0+ / 0-)

                          I predict in the end Don will fall and Peggy will rise. But even if they remain peripheral, race is a subject in 1968.

                          We left off late March '67. Will we pick up before April '68, or after November?

                          into the blue again, after the money's gone

                          by Prof Haley on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 08:04:40 PM PST

                          [ Parent ]

                  •  walking dead is by design a meditation on (0+ / 0-)

                    whiteness where black people are peripheral. i was hoping that would change as their world becomes more complicated this past season. alas, they dropped the ball for the most part.

            •  David Simon would like to have a word with you. (0+ / 0-)
          •  I sometimes find Michonne frustrating but (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Prof Haley, Nulwee, legalchic

            then her unwillingness to trust is what kept her alive so long.  The one character I'd have liked to smack upside the head is Andrea.  Firearms are not toys, girlfriend.  It wasn't until she met Michonne that she proved she was worth having for a friend.  

            Here's an idea--imagine for a second the Governor is a black man.  In a culture where only the baddest of the bad survive that could very well happen.  I can still see Andrea throwing Michonne aside for him.  She seeks power, rather than love, as long as she doesn't have to do anything to earn it herself.  And, given, evil is evil, so I can still imagine the Governor signing the independent Michonne's death warrant.  She'd still undoubtedly be a bit sore about that and still seek payback.  But could you imagine the feelings of the audience towards Andrea for choosing her injured sugar daddy over Michonne?  She'd have lost any sympathy with 90% the moment she first batted her eyelashes at him.

            Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one.--Sam Rayburn

            by Ice Blue on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 11:55:52 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I've already lost respect and empathy for (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ice Blue

              Andrea.  She's a fuckin' idiot. I get the allure of a seemingly stable "normal" environment that is like what their reality USED to be like, but once she saw those heads in the aquariums and the daughter he kept locked up, and his insistence that she NOT participate in the "manly" stuff when he clearly knows she's very capable with a gun and other weaponry and she made a CHOICE to stay and be a part of the community, her red flags should have been going  up left, right and center.  Then there's the fact that Michonne basically saved her life, and she threw her over at the first opportunity, without really knowing what she was trading off for.

              I understand not wanting to be out roaming with hordes of walkers, etc., and wanting stability and a reliable food source and all of that, but shit, Andrea really doesn't seem to have any innate sensibility or intuition.

      •  You're not reading into it (10+ / 0-)

        too much. Not at all.

        I was saying just yesterday in another thread that my 13 year old (black) daughter is a huge fan of mainstream films/TV shows/games. These are the posters/characters that decorate her walls;

        Luke Skywalker
        Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker
        Percy Jackson
        Harry Potter
        Ron Weasley
        Indiana Jones
        Jimmy Neutron
        Gordon Freeman

        There are no black women on her walls because black women never get to save the world or play the lead action hero or be part of anything geeky. I hope she will continue to see herself as the hero and the lead but sometimes I worry. A bold and crazy film maker could come up with the most awesome female badass hero as the lead character tomorrow but how much money will it make?

        Exactly. People aren't willing to risk losing money on a film with a black female version of Indiana Jones. Mainstream America will interpret it as a "black film", it will be marginalized and no one will see it.

        The normalization of white (and male) is a huge problem in our world. Getting back to The Walking Dead (of which my daughter is the BIGGEST fan), I don't like how the woman was used as a breeder and experiment and then killed off. It's the same with the Star Wars story; a woman is given a big enough role in that so she can give birth and conveniently die and then be out of the way for her children and their faaaathaahhh to take over the story.

        Anybody who claims that there's nothing wrong with white straight men dominating Hollywood is usually a white straight man. Women, blacks, gays, etc have had a really tough time in Hollywood. Look what Bruce Lee had to go through to break his way into film in the USA.

        "It's not enough to acknowledge privilege. You have to resist." -soothsayer

        by GenXangster on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 03:11:08 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Get her into Avatar. (0+ / 0-)

          The second series, Legend of Korra, is very popular and stars a young woman of color (heritage loosely based on Inuits.)

          Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?

          by ConfusedSkyes on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 06:49:55 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Show her Strange Days since she's into (0+ / 0-)

          science fiction. Angela Bassett plays an awesome character in it. She's not the lead--Ralph Fiennes is--but she's the female lead role and she's heroic and a very active agent in her fate and the movie plot. I'm not a WoC, so there may be stereotypical aspects to her portrayal that I didn't pick up on, but from my perspective she's one of the best black female characters in a movie.

        •  Oh, and Firefly! (0+ / 0-)

          I actually have a LOT of issues with Firefly, but Zoe is another decent black female action character. And unlike Strange Days, if your daughter gets into Firefly, she can actually find Zoe art.

    •  That's a cop out (21+ / 0-)

      The entire horror genre, going back at least to the 1960's, has included explosive racial imagery.  But this is even more true for the zombie genre, which launched with Night of the Living Dead, and was notable for focusing on a strong black male character whose sound judgment and steady leadership is constantly challenged by the stupid crazy white people he's holed up with, until everyone dies and the black man is lynched for no good reason.

      Night of the Living Dead is about the Tea Party, now that I think about it, but that's a whole other topic.

      Romero's later films in the series all feature some variation on this dynamic.  The genre has been a vehicle for social commentary since its inception, to such an extent that it's ridiculous to suggest that any critical reading of zombie fiction is "reading way too much into it."  The genre exists for the sole purpose of encouraging different interpretations of its central metaphor of a consumerist society consuming itself.

      It's kind of weird that a zombie show influenced so heavily by Romero's work would be so regressive in its racial and gender politics.  It's possible that the writers of The Walking Dead aren't thinking too much about the loaded racial subtext suggested by Rick's treatment of Michonne or Carl's imprisonment of Tyreese's group -- but if this is their default mode of thinking, without anyone on the show saying "Wait, aren't the implications of this kind of disturbing?", that's worthy of commentary too.  The writer of this diary backed up their argument with concrete examples, and it's hard to find counterexamples -- this show has never featured black or female characters in positions of authority after three seasons about the nature of authority.

    •  Non-white men are the series' "redshirts." (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      lirtydies, Prof Haley, tle, SuWho

      That's the way I take the comment.  I think the producers have really tried to shy away from racial issues, other than throwing in some stereotypes, and I don't think you can separate out the regional issue from the racial ones, and the producer's don't want to turn off their audience.  I haven't really looked at the numbers for the ratings, where the show is popular and with what age/ethnic groups, but for most of my life this is the kind of show one would assume would have a core viewership consisting primarily of young, white males, as most adventure/horror shows are supported by that segment (and I speak as one of those who grew up as part of that segment).  I don't think the producers want to push either of those buttons too hard, for fear of losing the core of their audience; hence, the tokenism, and use of the minorities primarily as redshirts, Glen being the exception -- which again, plays into the racial stereotype, if you will, of the brainy Asian being more acceptable, and less threatening than the brawny black or latino man.  I mean, if you're going to talk about the lack of racial diversity, where are the latinos in the series?  The only episode that I can recall with other latinos was in the first season, when Glenn was captured by some latino gang members; and then the more recent episode has the latino who betrays Rick and shoves a walker at him, whereupon Rick kills him and nearly kills all of the prisoners.  Other than that, latinos have been largely invisible, in much the same way that they are politically in much of the South.  

      That's why I say you can't separate out the regional issue from the racial; look at the last campaign, where the Republican party virtually ignored the existence of latinos, and the South in general was just fine with that.  How many points did Romney win Georgia by?  

      Look, almost the entire second season was spent by the entire cast on Hershel's farm, a rural paradise set apart by the patriarch's religious devotion to god and family, who takes Rick under his wing as the kind of man who can succeed him in his little kingdom.  

      Now, there are any number of reasons for setting the series there, not the least of which could easily be budget constraints; people standing around on a farm doesn't involve the kind of big-budget sets/effects that the show had in its' first season, with shows in a devastated Atlanta.  And of course, it's a standard trope in the zombie genre that cities are over-run, and safety lies in getting out of the city and someplace more defensible.  

      My point there is, it's almost inevitable, if you start setting things in rural america, you're going to have to deal with the rural/urban split, and the values of the ruralites are going to have to be an important theme, whether they ultimately prevail or are overrun.  But if you are constrained by budget limitations to keep the setting rural, and you've chosen Georgia as the region of the country where your setting is going to be, and yet you still want to keep your target audience as young(er) white males, there's every incentive to play the racial issues down, which is easily accomplished by including the obvious, over-the-top redneck racist Merle as a significant character.  Rick and the rest of the white people come off as eminently reasonable, decent human beings when contrasted with that stereotype.  Thus, the producers can safely play with race, a little bit, without really confronting it head on, and keep the series primarily as an extended  monster movie rather than a serious drama about big issues.  

      We are the first to look up and know, with absolute certainty, that the sword we ourselves have forged, is real.

      by Jbearlaw on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 02:37:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Even if the writers (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aspe4, Jbearlaw, SuWho, Prof Haley, Ice Blue

        don't want to focus on race, they can at least give the Black characters a personality and some dialogue.  You know, show them as people, not disposable tokens.

        And Chiconne has been a huge disappointment. They have her acting more like a zombie than a living person.

        ~*-:¦:-jennybravo-:¦:-*~

        by jennybravo on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 08:18:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's AMC. Not going to happen. Does no one remembe (0+ / 0-)

          what AMC used to show before they went into original programming? Here's a hint: yeeee-haw!. Here's another: Make my day. And one more: what's the trouble, pilgrim?

          No one should be surprised that the TWD is simmering with subtle racism.

          If I knew it was going to be that kind of party, I'd have stuck my ---- in the mashed potatoes! - Paul's Boutique

          by DoctorWho on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 02:36:01 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  the Governor was hispanic in the books/comic and (7+ / 0-)

        was obviously cast differently. i don't now if it a business decision per se, but the writers are part of a social and cultural machine that privileges Whiteness. The rest of us are just along for the ride. In the TV series, they also left out the gay characters in the prison too.

        the show is saying lots about race in some very conservative ways--remember the only time racial difference was overtly engaged was when T-Dog talked about racism and how he was black and was expendable. Irony huh? That is part of a Hollywood trope where people of color introduce the obvious question of race and racism just to have it rejected by the white characters as unimportant.

        •  Having the only Hispanic character in the show (5+ / 0-)

          be a power mad sadistic sociopath probably seemed like a bad idea to the producers.

          Of course, there is another really obvious option...

          "the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared material at these facilities and LOFs."

          by JesseCW on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 01:47:23 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Had they Made the Governor Latino (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jbearlaw, jds1978, fidel

          on the TV show, I guarantee that the writers would have never made Andrea enter a sexual relationship with him.

          "The problem with posting quotes off the Internet is you never know if they're genuine."--Gen. George Washington at the Battle of Gettysburg, February 30, 1908

          by Aspe4 on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 06:40:11 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Couldn't agree more. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SuWho, Nulwee
          the show is saying lots about race in some very conservative ways--remember the only time racial difference was overtly engaged was when T-Dog talked about racism and how he was black and was expendable. Irony huh? That is part of a Hollywood trope where people of color introduce the obvious question of race and racism just to have it rejected by the white characters as unimportant.
          Never having been to Georgia, I can't really say how I would expect rural, white Georgians would respond to a zombie apocalypse; but from everything that I know about Georgia, and indeed the conservative South as a whole, there is, and has been for a very long time, an unwillingness on the part of the rural whites to acknowledge even the existence of racism in their neck of the woods, thereby making the trope a truism, reflective of the setting of the series.  

          We are the first to look up and know, with absolute certainty, that the sword we ourselves have forged, is real.

          by Jbearlaw on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 08:28:50 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh, they admit it exists. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            fidel, Nulwee, ScottinSF

            They just externalize it all to Merle.

            It's not the Cop or the Lawyer, who maintain the system.  It's not the kindly old farmer veterinarian.

            It's the evil cracker white trash who doesn't know his place.  That's all the racism, right there, down in the trailer park.  

            The guy with no economic or social power is the judas goat they rub all their sins onto in the very beginning before driving him out of the village...

            As opposed to the obedient "back-woodsman" who does what he's told and obeys the power structure (even if he's a little rough around the edges).

            There's nothing systemic, nothing institutional, just stupid rednecks they hate too.

            "the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared material at these facilities and LOFs."

            by JesseCW on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 10:55:16 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I don't think T-Dog was a fan favorite, except (10+ / 0-)

      in an ironic way.   I mean, this sums up T-Dog's role in the show better than I ever could.  If anything there was a running joke in season 2 that T-Dog was a favorite by default, because in a morass of awful dialogue, he never had lines.  Victor by default!

      To echo something I saw on another blog, I think the problem isn't that Kirkman et al. are going into the show with regressive racial ideas.  I think the problem is that Kirkman writes about what he knows - white men - and puts other people on the periphery without thinking about who they are and why they are there.  This leads to some unfortunate "default" settings (social defaults, media defaults) in how both he and the show treat people of color and women.  

      As one commenter on the AV Club wrote: "'The Walking Dead' truly is Black Man Thunder Dome. Two Black guys enter an episode one Black guy leaves."  And don't even get me started on its women.

      Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

      by pico on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 04:17:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't understand this (8+ / 0-)
        I think the problem is that Kirkman writes about what he knows - white men - and puts other people on the periphery without thinking about who they are and why they are there.
        You know white men? Fine. Write white men. Then cast women and people of color. Fix the pronouns and hand the script over to your cast. Watch what they do with it and use that in your later work.

        That approach obviously won't work for a period piece or a story that explicitly deals with issues of race and gender. But for science fiction, fantasy, horror, and action, you don't need to write "black roles" or "Asian roles" or "female roles." And in fact doing so is probably only going to hurt your work - you'll fill it up with lazy stereotype tokens instead of actual people.

        The biggest thing speculative-fiction writers can do to improve their work is to write actual people in every role, even if they have to picture them all as white men.

        "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

        by kyril on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 05:08:42 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Tricky. (8+ / 0-)

          Some agreement, some disagreement.

          Overall, especially when it comes to genre far removed from present-day reality, I think it's easier for characters to blend across race and gender.  After all, we don't know what race relations will look like in a thousand years.  First, write well-rounded characters (like you said: actual people.)

          With The Walking Dead, I think the comic/show actively shoots itself in the foot on these issues.  It's set in contemporary-ish Georgia (an almost all-white version of Georgia to boot), and it's actively made both race and gender into plot points.  Merle is a villain because he says racist things to T-Dog (significantly, the show's view of race relations is limited to an almost cartoonish "says racist things".)  The Governor maintain a largely gender-segregated community, and rapes/nearly-rapes his female prisoner.  Season 1's awful "Vatos" made racial stereotyping into a punchline ("You think they're gangbangers?  That's because you're the racist!")  Race and gender are all over this work, but in ways that draw attention to how poorly thought-through they are.  

          All that being said, it's just the icing on the cake of what's truly one of the worst things I can't stop watching obsessively.  Season 3's improved enormously simply by moving more quickly... Less time for the writers to show off how bad they are.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 05:27:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  As a nonwhite male... (6+ / 0-)

          ....I am going to view things very differently than a white male, or female of any race. It's the same problem as making an action heroine a "man with breasts" yes it can work, but it's also not always realistic.

          I will say yes, write actual people into the roles! And that is probably better than relying solely on peripheral stereotypes but still, try and learn. A black man or white woman or latino woman or American indian man is not an inscrutable enigma to a white male! Or at least, doesn't have to be.

          •  That's why (5+ / 0-)

            I'm only advocating this approach for screenwriters of genre fiction. Screenwriters have the advantage of being able to lean on their cast (i.e. actual women and people of color) to interpret/add to their work. But even the best actor needs a good part to work with.

            The issue is that most writers tend to make two fundamental mistakes in characterization:

            1) They overestimate the differences between groups. They assume that people of color/women/LGBT people/people with disabilities are more different from straight white men (and each other) than we actually are.

            2) They underestimate the differences within groups. They assume that members of a group other than their own are more alike than we actually are.

            So they tend to write characters superficially like themselves in most of the important roles because they see a character superficially like themselves as a sort of neutral 'blank slate' that can take on any personality, any set of motivations, any background. So the reality is that most of these characters don't actually need to be straight white men. Their straight whiteness is mostly incidental - the writer isn't actively thinking about and writing their whiteness in the same way he might write a black character's blackness.

            It is true that there are actual, non-trivial differences among groups. For instance, if you decide to have a gay character, you're probably eventually going to have to handle a romantic relationship, and that romantic relationship is probably (though not necessarily) going to be with someone of the same sex. And that needs to be handled differently from a straight relationship.

            But in genre fiction, for the other 90% of the time that character is on screen, s/he can play exactly the same role in the main plot that a straight man would. The dialogue might need to change slightly, the delivery might need to be a bit different from what you originally envisioned, the backstory might need to be adapted, but the core role and its place in the plot don't need to change just because the character is gay. Or black. Or female.

            "Let’s just move on, treat everybody with firmness, fairness, dignity, compassion and respect. Let’s be Marines." - Sgt. Maj Michael Barrett on DADT repeal

            by kyril on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 10:50:16 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  great explanation about whiteness and white (8+ / 0-)

              privilege when you write:

              "Their straight whiteness is mostly incidental - the writer isn't actively thinking about and writing their whiteness in the same way he might write a black character's blackness."

              classic.

            •  To be fair (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mim5677

              That was done with Glenn, though there have been two or three references to his being Asian, his character in the comic books was not.  Glenn is also considered the most truthfully adapted character.  Not Rich with his dulled craziness, not Andrea with her stupid antics, not Michonne with her boring plotlines. Glenn.

              Thank you to jayden, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, Aji and everyone in the Daily Kos community involved in gifting my subscription and gifting others!

              by Nulwee on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 05:27:53 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  I have been suggesting this for ages when I get in (0+ / 0-)

          these discussions. I'm glad to see someone else argue for it. Unfortunately, I'm just a random person on the Internet (and I'm betting you are, too), so I don't see much hope for anyone actually doing it. The other problem with a TV show is that as seasons go on, the default will creep back in. You can see that with the Battlestar Galactica remake that started very progressive with its gender and okay with its race portrayals and ended up pretty conservative.

      •  "Black Man Thunder Dome" (6+ / 0-)

        That has got to be the most incisive insightful comment I've yet seen on race in The Walking Dead. Black humor extraordinaire.

        I am become Man, the destroyer of worlds

        by tle on Mon Dec 03, 2012 at 07:17:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  kirkman is complicity, but his comic is (5+ / 0-)

        much much smarter and better on this and a litany of other issues.

    •  Nope. Look at Shawshank, Green Mile, and The Mist (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Prof Haley, fidel

      all Darabont movies - all Stephen King, who is the obvious influence for TWD. Then compare them with TWD when it comes to the quality of the AfAm roles. It's not even close. Then note that Darabont fought with the producers through the first season and then quit.

      Do the math.

      If I knew it was going to be that kind of party, I'd have stuck my ---- in the mashed potatoes! - Paul's Boutique

      by DoctorWho on Tue Dec 04, 2012 at 02:29:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  green mile is very problematic duncan is (0+ / 0-)

        a magical negro who eats white people's pain and is a simpleton to boot.

        •  Yes and in another post in this thread I noted (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Jbearlaw

          that despite that Darabont extracts more from the character than any other director would have. Imagine what Ron Howard would have done with that part! Same with The Mist, which is a template for TWD. Braugher's role would have been wasted by anyone else.

          If I knew it was going to be that kind of party, I'd have stuck my ---- in the mashed potatoes! - Paul's Boutique

          by DoctorWho on Wed Dec 05, 2012 at 10:25:53 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

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