It is unusual for me to watch the movie or television show of a book adaptation before reading the book. One recent exception to this was the Walking Dead. A strange choice considering my documented zombie fear, however I greatly enjoy the show. On top of this a couple of friends recommended the comics, so I decided to give them a go.
I picked up the first five trade-paperbacks and jumped in. I was immediately glad that the shows didn’t follow them to the letter as it means I have more world to explore through two mediums (like with Game of Thrones) rather than having the same story and themes twice.
They were initially interesting, though not as enjoyable as I thought they might be. But for me, things got increasingly worse once they got to the prison, namely in the portrayal of the women. This was already poor but then reached a new low. The women of the Walking Dead are weak, sex-obsessed whingers. All the more of a shame considering how well fleshed out and strong some of these characters have been portrayed in the TV show. In fact the portrayals were so offensive that I have decided not to continue reading the series – which for me is a quite a drastic thing (I usually see things through to the bitter end!). Although I would normally say to stick with something like this – you need to know it to complain about it – I actually couldn’t stomach any more.
To give you an idea of why I decided to stop reading, I’m going to break it down by character of some of the women in the comics (with no comparison to their television counterparts as I’m taking this as standalone) –
Lori – An absolute and total portrayal of the stereotypical nagging wife. Her character is simply there to either agree or disagree with Rick whenever needed for the story and get scared so that he can offer her protection, she has no real life beyond her role as his wife and mother of his child(ren).
Carol – where do I start with Carol? Pretty much every scene she is in involves her being needy and/or trying to get laid… by pretty much anyone. Not because she’s a sex fiend, but because her she wants people to love her and look after her. Her neediness is quite sickening.
Patricia – we don’t get to know anything about her other than she breaks up with Otis and then tries to help the prisoners takeover. We have no real idea behind her motivations on either – she’s just there to act these things out for the story.
Andrea – started off as a break from the mould compared to the other women, for a start she was the first to pick up and gun and get shit done. But then her sister died, and they got to the prison and she became completly subservient to her older lover, Dale, in a way he even seems uncomfortable with a lot of the time. Next thing you know she’s sewing and becoming a mum to orphan children. I’m not saying she can’t be multi-faceted, but it felt like a step backwards in terms of her portrayal given there are already enough characters that fill that same role.
Maggie – sex, sex, sex, sex, crying (to be fair it was because her siblings died), more sex.
Michonne – an opportunistic maneater who has no problem seducing Tyreese. At least she shows some remorse when Carol tries to kill herself over it. What little we know of her personality paints her as crazy, though at least her actions show her as kickass. Again, not saying women can’t be weak and strong at the same time, but she doesn’t come across well.
The only woman that speaks out about the gender based division of labour, Donna, is quickly killed.
I’m willing to accept that not all female characters in fiction can be as-kicking, strong role models – because not all women in real life are either. In fact, even women that are (like most non-women) also have their failings or weaknesses even if they are strong. But the Walking Dead comic goes beyond that – portraying women as feeling unable to undertake the same tasks as men (hunting for example) and even comments on this by other characters are accepted and moved on from – like when the women want only men on the committee (I damn near threw the book across the room at that point).
My lasting impression from what I’ve read so far is that all women of the Walking Dead are obsessed with sex and/or pairing off. It is pretty much part of every scene they are in, one way or another. Even the little girl, Sophia, quickly sets her sights on Carl as boyfriend material. It left me feeling that the creators of this series really see women as existing only to play off against men. Honestly, its exhausting.
I can’t tell you how disappointed I am with this. Has anyone read further than this and can tell me whether the portrayal of women improves at all?