Another important theme for the writers of “The Walking Dead” is that women are helplessly immature and selfish, especially in their interactions with other women. This is best illustrated by examining how the writers opted to depict Andrea and Maggie. The writers first introduce the viewers to Andrea in Season 1. Andrea is a former civil rights lawyer who, along with her younger sister, Amy, is one of the initial survivors. Amy is roughly 12 years younger than Andrea.
Although they are sisters, Andrea tends to treat Amy in almost a maternal way. Initially, the writers give Andrea significant strength. She pulls a gun on Rick after he compromises the safety of the group, she helps the group escape a heard of zombies in Atlanta, she is the first one to question the distribution of labor within the camp, and she is the only woman who stands up to Ed, Carol’s abusive husband:
Andrea: I’m really beginning to question the division of labor around here. Can someone explain to me how the women ended up doing all the Hattie McDaniel work? After this promising start, the writers begin encumbering Andrea with more negative stereotypes. It doesn’t take long for the writers of “The Walking Dead” to turn Andrea into the stereotypical irrational, selfish female, especially during emotional conflict. For example, the first major conflict for Andrea occurs towards the end of Season 1 when a rogue group of zombies attacks the group’s home base, killing Amy. Faced with the loss of her sister, the writers portray Andrea as listless and unresponsive. They then have her behave belligerently and rudely. Ultimately, they make Andrea downright irritable and hostile.
It is important to note that, as they did with Lori, the writers of “The Walking Dead” illustrated Andrea’s weaknesses through a male contrast. Specifically, the immature Andrea is paired with Dale, a stable man. In many ways, Dale is a father-like figure who is consistently kind to Andrea. But notwithstanding Dale’s kindness, the writers cause Andrea to treat Dale cruelly. She repeatedly manipulates Dale’s feelings, knowing that he views her as a daughter and taunts him for being a weak person and trying to take care of her. Contrastingly, the writers consistently portray Dale as a victim, a caring father figure who provides for Andrea, even though she consistently rejects his noble efforts. In the end, viewers sympathize with Dale while concluding that Andrea is selfish and cruel.
Andrea’s immaturity isn’t limited to her interactions with Dale. When Andrea expresses a desire to learn how to properly shoot a gun, she begins taking lessons (from a man, of course). But Andrea isn’t a quick student. In fact, the writers portray Andrea as clumsy with guns. In one specific case, a bloody and injured Daryl (a productive man) walks out of the forest and Andrea mistakenly believes that he is a zombie. When she decides to shoot him, Dale warns her to wait until the zombie is more visible, but she is too immature to listen. Instead, Andrea shoots Daryl, nearly killing him.
Another immature female character is Maggie Greene, Hershel’s eldest daughter. The writers of “The Walking Dead” initially treat Maggie favorably by having her serve as one of her father’s most important helpers. But even though her character is initially treated favorably, the writers soon turn Maggie into just another immature woman. And, once again, these writers illustrate Maggie’s character flaw by contrasting them against a man’s strengths. This time, the writers use Glenn, a young, humorous Asian boy who serves as the group’s go-to scout.
The Maggie-Glenn relationship differs somewhat from the other male-female relationships in the series in one critical way: Maggie does not seem to rely on Glenn. In fact, Maggie saves his life on a number of occasions, and Glenn is attracted to her many skills. However, Glenn and Maggie’s relationship suffers from its fair share of conflict and reaches two main hitches. Glenn and Maggie’s first disagreement occurs when Glenn reveals an important secret about Hershel to the group.
Maggie feels betrayed by Glenn. However, instead of handling this conflict in a mature fashion, the writers cause Maggie to behave very immaturely. Like a child, Maggie literally ignores Glenn for quite some time, refusing to even look at him. A second fight occurs when Glenn freezes during a battle with violent outsiders. Instead of blaming Glenn’s behavior on personal weakness, the writers have Glenn conclude that his impotence during battle is due to feelings for Maggie. In essence, Maggie becomes the scapegoat for Glenn’s incompetence, even though she did nothing wrong.
The writer’s portrayal of Maggie is particular unfortunate. In a television series rampant with sexism and stereotypes, Maggie Greene initially stood out as a bright spot among a sea of weakened and terribly flawed females. However, her character’s strength is effectively compromised by her childish and immature behavior when interacting with Glenn. She consistently toys with his emotions, and shifts from warm to hostile in the blink of an eye. Maggie wants Glenn when he is emotionally unavailable, yet scorns his efforts when he tries to develop a relationship with her. From ruining Glenn’s clothing to making rude jokes at his expense, Maggie is downright cruel to Glenn at times. Her hot-and-cold attitude towards Glenn enforces the stereotype of women as being selfish and immature in relationships.
Not surprisingly, the writers of “The Walking Dead” made sure to portray women as particularly immature when interacting with other women. They depict Lori as a generally unpleasant woman who doesn’t hesitate to lash out at other females on a consistent basis. Lori also becomes Andrea’s main critic, claiming that Andrea’s is not contributing to the group. Lori and Maggie also do not get along. Following a trip to the drug store in which Glenn and Maggie almost died, Maggie lashes out at Lori and claims that her selfish actions are jeopardizing other peoples’ lives. In stark contrast to the mature, reliable men who populate the series, the women in “The Walking Dead” are consistently shown as immature and selfish.
The Stereotypical Unable-to-Deal-with-Grief Female The final negative stereotype given the women in “The Walking Dead” is the inability to effectively cope with pressure or grief. This weakness was particularly acute when women face the death or injury of a loved one. For example, when Amy dies, Andrea demonstrates no ability to cope with her sister’s death, choosing instead to be withdrawn and emotionally distant from the group. Similarly, when Carl, Lori’s son, becomes serious injured, Lori openly concludes that he would be better off dead. However, the writers save their most offensive depictions for Carol Peletier.
Carol Peletier is one of the rare characters in “The Walking Dead” who actually benefits from the zombie apocalypse. Before the apocalypse, and for a short time thereafter, Carol was a passive victim of domestic abuse at the hands of her husband, Ed. To the writers’ credit, Ed is portrayed as a fundamentally despicable human being. In almost every scene in which he is featured, Ed is either beating Carol or emotionally abusing her. It is also hinted to that Sophia, Carol and Ed’s daughter, is a victim of Ed’s abusive nature. Fortunately for Carol and Sophia, Ed does not survive very long and perishes in a zombie attack.
Once Carol is emancipated from Ed, the writers understandably depict her as passive, skittish, and generally inactive within the group. One thing that she is passionate about, however, is her daughter, Sophia. Unfortunately, toward the beginning of Season 2, Sophia is lost in the woods after being chased by a rogue zombie. Carol initially blames herself for Sophie’s disappearance, but she soon turns her anger on Rick. However, the writers make sure the viewers see Rick as a victim of Carol’s irrationality. Although Rick did nothing wrong (he directed Sophia to hide in a small crevice and not move until help came while he courageously drew the zombie away), Carol inexplicably blames him nevertheless.
Once Sophia disappears, the writers portray Carol as completely shattered and unable to cope with this loss. Carol essentially shuts down, spending all of her time crying in the group’s RV and avoiding interaction with any of the group members. Even though the group maintains optimism that they will find Sophia, Carol remains depressed. Eventually, the writers allow Carol to slowly adjust to the loss of Sophia. However, they make sure Carol’s progress is limited. Indeed, apart from crying, the only tasks Carol can do are cleaning the RV and cooking a dinner for the group. Apart from these two events, Carol is entirely useless — as the writers apparently believe women would be in a worldwide tragedy.
As a final blow to women, once Carol discovers that Sophia has been turned into a zombie, and after Carol witnesses her daughter’s death, the writers make sure Carol becomes dependent on a man (Daryl), since they apparently believe that women have no ability to deal with loss. The writers show Carol making virtually no attempt at contributing to the group outside of doing domestic tasks. In sum, the writers make sure Carol becomes nothing more than the stereotypical unable-to-deal-with-grief female.