Forget The Zombies: “The Walking Dead” Is Infested With White Supremacy, Sexism & Magical Negros

April 2, 2013  |  

Source: AMC

I made a conscious decision to not make any comments about “The Walking Dead” until the season had finally wrapped. In tradition of previous seasons, the entire plot doesn’t come into full fruition until the last few episodes, therefore it would be very presumptuous of me to make comment until I’ve seen everything play out first. But now that the season has officially wrapped, I can honestly say that I just wasn’t feeling season three.

 [Warning: there are plenty of spoilers below so if you have yet to see the final episode or the show period, you might want to stop reading now]

Earlier in the season, I started noticing certain racial and gender tropes, which I thought would get better towards the end of the season but nope, it got kind of worse. By the season finale, which aired Sunday night, I was still wavering on the proverbial fence about whether or not this entire series is either an allegory for the pitfalls of following a society based around white male supremacy or an actual celebration of the Anglo-Saxon patriarchy and supremacy.

There is certainly a familiar hierarchy to this apocalyptic series, which appears to place white male masculinity as the highest importance of protecting. Sure, this season brought about the death of “Merle,” the camp’s resident hillbilly racist, who turned into a zombie and was put down by his own hillbilly brother. However Merle’s death also came with redemption by martyrdom for leading a zombie-bomb against the Governor and Woodbury camp. And yes it is true that the series main character is “Rick,” a white middle class Georgia sheriff who woke up from a coma to find a zombie apocalypse going down. Therefore it would make sense that the storyline revolve around him. But there is no indication as to why even as the main character, Rick should be awarded leadership of a camp of survivors, especially when there are more qualified, yet marginalized, individuals.

Years ago, Spike Lee spoke about the “Magical Negro,” a trope (some would argue a plot device) used in both literature and in film and television, involving a black person used for the primary purpose of the white protagonist’s self-discovery. This is certainly true of characters like “T-Dog,” who it would seem never really had a real name (for all we know it could have been Kunta Kinte) and was only there to save white folks. And it is certainly true of “Tyreese,” who despite being physically stronger and capable of leading a team of his own through the zombie apocalypse, is reduced down to a non-threatening teddy bear of a man, who has capitulated to white male leadership this entire season – even at times when the dominance comes by way of a small white male boy name “Carl.” After being forced from the prison by a mentally unstable Rick (who at the time was advised by his dead wife to not let them in), Tyreese and his crew, who has now been reduced down to one black woman, are invited back into the camp of survivors only after proving that they would be no threat to Rick and Carl’s WASPy masculine authority.

Yet outside of the Magical Negro trope there are other magical representations, which makes it clear that everyone non-white and non-male is there to teach our white males a lesson or aid in his self-discovery– even at the expense of the others’ own lives. For instance, the only other able-bodied white male on the series (who hasn’t been killed off or been killed by Rick) is “Darryl,” who hails from the poor, southern backwoods, redneck part of whiteness. Despite being a white male, Darryl has the misfortune of hailing from what John Edwards used to call the second America, which also gets the bum end of the stick from WASPy America. Despite being stellar with the bow and arrow and the hunting knife, Darryl does not have the confidence and takes shelter under first Merle, the white supremacist and then under Rick’s command. The same with “Glenn,” the spunky and eager-to-please Asian American kid. Despite becoming the camp’s strongest and smarter members, Glenn happily and mysteriously takes his place under Rick’s guard and becomes the camp’s model citizen. I’ll let you read between the lines of that one.

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  • realgone222

    I see this series quite differently. I detect a narrative that whites as a group cannot be trusted. I think Rick exists as the hero solely to insure viewership of the program as a non-white lead would not sell. Whether it be the Governor, Terminus, the Hospital crew etc we learn that whites when acting as an exclusive unit produce something immoral. The “magic negro” trope to me are characters that always are the epitome of morality, pure of heart. As far as the Hispanics, well they are relegated to the background doing the grunt work, holding guns etc. Even the cute Spanish girl is relegated to sex with the big red head and she wears a train conductors cap! The message I receive from this series is that its the blacks that are the purest, noblest when the crap hits the fan they are going to step up. Interesting post apocalypse fantasy.

  • George Kostaras

    Personally those who love the show are allowed to disagree with this article, but they have no right to shut this author up or block discussion of race and gender

  • savadi

    Wow. Dear white people, how dare we mention racism because it’s your favorite tv show.
    I’ve noticed that the main fan base for TWD is caucasians of both sexes which explains the comments, so disheartening and clueless, it’s just sad. I can only surmise that it is difficult to see inequity and prejudice when you have never experienced it. I am Asian. I do watch the show and I am familiar with all the characters. I do agree with you that the black characters are dismissed by the writers as scenery with no back story whatsoever. Poor TDog, what an unfortunate and racist name. He had nothing to do but stand around and be black until the next black guy comes along. I am most angry with what they’ve done with Michonne. She mostly does a Hulk impression, Hulk smash, kill zombies. Then they made her the mammy for Carl in Clear, seriously, that was insulting. She is not a baby sitter for almighty Rick. The finale was the kicker. She finally gets to say more than one word and she inexplicably bats her eyelashes at Rick and forgives him for considering turning her over to the governor. Then there’s the scene where they’re preparing to fight the governor. She stands at the bottom of the stairs looking up at Rick like he was the second coming. My jaws just dropped. I can only hope that they don’t figuratively assassinate her character like they did to Lori and Andrea.

  • Bren

    Oh PLEASE with this article! It’s a show! You are finding things that aren’t there. Bottom line, everybody on this show needs each other to survive. It’s not about race but survival. I am a huge WD fan, btw.

  • Toni B

    Someone obviously ran out of topics to talk about. The Walking Dead is a great show, though I feel like they dropped the ball on the episodes this season. All this white supremacy stuff based on Rick being the leader is just absurd. What’s next, articles about Iron Man being a bigot and spiderman not saving enough black people in his movies? I swear nonsense like this is why when black people have real issues, people never take us seriously.

  • Honesty

    What “Walking Dead” are you watching? The Walking Dead is an amazing show. So went through three entire seasons of greatness to come up with nonsense? What roles of sexism and racism have you seen? Women washing clothes and cooking? Do most women not know how to do these things? Merle’s racist comments? As the show progresses you see he actually fights for these people. Why do black people always have to make things racist? Just enjoy the show without p!ssing yourself off because Michonne is a freaking ninja with her Katana and Daryl is an amazing “redneck” hunter with awesome survival skills that have gotten the group far. It was not time for Tyrese to have a prominent role in the series yet. He was simply introduced this season, trying to find a safe place to stay for him and his wife. This article is outrageous.

  • the Governors right hand men were a mix of colors, Martinez, the black guy (cant recall his name) and formerly Merle.

  • One character that debunks your whole argument… Morgan… last I checked Morgan was an extremely strong black character on the show… so strong infact that he runs his own area, however as you may or may not have noticed when the dead start walking normal customs and curtsies kind of fall by the way side, how is Rick being any different that Morgan by initially not wanting outsiders in his group. Outsiders steal and plot to try to take over or steal resources. Tyreese understands this concept and realizing that his group bring nothing but more mouths to feed stays respectful and tries to earn the trust of the established group.

    You know everything isn’t a race issue and its articles like this that help keep race relations in the stone ages… Enjoy the show stop looking for something that isn’t there. Way to cash in on SEO and linkbait though…

    • TWDFan

      Morgan’s gotten little screen time and as used to show how crazy Rick could gone.

  • Natasha T

    My husband and I love this show and I just talked to him at work and asked him do he think this show is racist and he asked me “where’s the columnist of this article so he can come slap the dog mess out of them thinking like this?” We see nothing racist or sexist about this show or we wouldn’t be watching it.

  • Niceman

    OH..You did it now! You broke the unwritten rule of madamenoire..SMH..NEVER criticize a white man, NEVER on this site..Good critic though..

  • Harlow Montreese

    Whoever wrote this article needs to shut up and have several seats! I’m a huge fan of this show and I’ve never seen anything racist or s3xist about this show, but I guess you’re being delusional and seeing it the way YOU want to see it. This screams HATER!

    • George Kostaras

      Hate is not the same as criticism

  • I don’t know about this. I am a avid fan of the comics as well as the tv show and don’t feel the same way.

    One thing I will say is that T-Dog’s name kinda rubbed me the wrong way. He is not in the comics and it kinda rubbed me the wrong way that the lone black man was named T-Dog. Also, he was always scared and wanted to run away. Other than that point I don’t feel offended. I actually liked Merl’s character. Yes, he was racist but there are people like him in the world and I felt like he challenged and enriched the other characters around him. Sometimes you need an a-hole (Merl) around a jerk (Andrea, sometimes) to make the jerk look good.

    Lastly, you don’t really need to read the comics to get the gist of what is happening but to get a more accurate understanding of the characters and their motivations the comics should be read. If this article is based solely on the TV show; I can see where you are coming from.

    I think this author will get a lot of backlash because a lot of us read the comics (Two snaps for the blerds!) but it’s cool. Everyone’s got their opinions.

    blerd= black nerd

  • MM

    I wasted my time to read this article. I thought you had a good point but did not.

    I am a huge fan of The walking dead. I never looked at this show on racism point of view.

    This originally from comics. Clearly you don’t know there is slightly different characters on TV series. Rick left Maryl on the roof with handcuff because he called N word to T-dog.

    Point is I don’t understand some people have to look for something negative out of anything…..

  • I just read the article and the comments and to both I say “OUCH!” First of all, although the article is a little short-sided when it comes to the depiction of these characters and their specific roles to the show, I have to agree with the racial and gender stereotypes. Unfortunately even in the zombie apocalypse, sexism and racism still exists. It would be nice if this show took on the same story arc as the comics, because I’m pretty certain this writer would have a completely different perspective. Tyrese is a very prominent character in the comics and not the teddy bear as described (but I can see how that can be interpreted if you only watch the show). There are also more ethnically diverse characters in the comics including a few interracial relationships. But let’s really talk about the elephant in the room here. Robert Kirkman is no Joss Whedon. He’s a white guy that thinks like a white guy in his comic universe. The women tend to be subservient characters and the alpha male always reigns. So consider the source. I’m glad this piece was written, because as much as geeks like myself love and adore this show, there are underlying issues that remain with how these characters are represented in TV. I can’t fully cosign on this article, but I agree with the “magical negro” trope and the white alpha male tropes. Let’s face it. Until we have writers, artists, and content creators who look more like us, we will see these racial and gender stereotypes on many shows to come.

    • Kesha

      amen & amen!

    • The Big Urban

      You are on point with your observation. It is always going to be difficult for a white male, even if he has the right intentions, to write black or female characters the way that we as members of that group would 100% agree with. I think the article writer makes some decent points and being dismissive of what they wrote is being ignorant. But at the same time I can see why some comments disagree with her. I personally think the comic book writer has the right intentions in using such diverse characters but when it’s taken out of his hands and given to TV suits who think the mostly white audience need to be winked at and have their egos massaged, then the essence of the comic stories can get lost.

      My biggest issues would be that black characters seem to be killed off to make space for new ones and Michonne. I would like her to stay badass but be made to talk more and lighten up slightly as it may come across like she’s playing the stereotype of an angry black woman. I also didn’t like how Carl was disrespectful to her. But then again Carl disses his dad at every opportunity so….

  • Toya Sharee

    I’m actually a fan of the show, but I feel like you can make anything racist or sexist if you choose to look at it a certain way. I haven’t read the comics, but I do feel like certain characters fell into certain roles only based more on personality traits not race or gender. Everyone looked to Rick as the leader because he was the sheriff. He had a gun and his mission pre-apocalypse was to protect and serve. It makes sense logically that people will look to him. Characters like Michonne and Andrea obviously disprove the theory that all the women do is cook and clean. The show to me is beyond race because the characters realize that all of that ish doesn’t matter, there are f-ing zombies walking the Earth for Christ’s sake. You think Theo is mad about being called T-Dog? I think the only time when you notice any kind of forced hierarchy is in the Governor’s obvious lack of respect for life in general, living or dead. Sorry, but you’re reaching IMO.

  • how dare u

    That was truly an ignorant article you are reaching and its clear you didnt pay good attention to the show

  • IllyPhilly

    I like the fact that Michonne isn’t reduced to some Kisha from the projects. Haven’t read the comics, but I hear she plays big roles throughout.

  • leigh

    I feel like the writer of this article is an occassional watcher at best. T-Dogg’s name was Theo. Lori never advised Rick not to let Tyreese’s group stay-he say a vision of her and started tripping and Tyreese’s group left for their own safety cause nobody knew what was going on with Rick. Carl always wanted Michonne to stay and he was the one to save her. Tyreese and Michonne play a HUGE part in the story. And Rick didn’t take them in after they proved they were not a threat he took them in after seeing the Governer was crazy and none of them were safe. And yes the women did take on a traditonal role but someone has to and they are basically back to pioneer days now. Rick is the leader because he used to be a sherrif and he killed Shane because Shane led him out to kill him. Yes Andrea stayed in someone’s bed and could’ve been stronger but her character was about uniting. As they all learned this season noone can make it on their own anymore. You need people. Michonne only led them on the one mission. She went with Carl as back-up not lead. Glenn proved himself this season and Maggie can handle herself but she still has loved one’s to keep her emotional. All in all this article was horrible written and an insult to the fans of the show. And the end of the world as you see with Merle doesn’t change ingnorance and the show does good to protray that.

    • jorgalane

      yes yes and yes!

    • right. if you watched the show, then she would know Tdogs name, and know that they respected Tdog very highly. On many occasions, the ‘hillbilly’ Daryl even saved Tdogs life by putting a dead man on top of the both of them to shield his body and gave him medicine when he was sick. Also, in the first season, Rick accosted the other hillbilly for fighting and harming Tdog and another latino character.

  • Clowe

    I would have to disagree with your analysis of the female characters. At the beginning of Season 3, and throughout this current season, characters like Maggie and Carol have shown that they are capable of doing more than just cleaning and laundry. More than a few times, they have been shown helping to defend the group. ESPECIALLY Maggie, she’s been sent on multiple, very dangerous, missions and has still survived. Come to think of it, I’ve never seen her cleaning or doing laundry.

    While I understand the point that the writer is trying to make, it seems as though key plot points were cleverly left out in order to make the point more valid.

    AND……it’s just a TV show.

    • Trisha_B

      My thing, if an apocalypse was to happen tomorrow, what roles do you think people are gonna take? The women are gonna still do the traditional roles b/c that’s who we are (well some of us) & the men are gonna be the ones to go out & do the work. When i watch national geographic & they visit tribes in the amazon, the roles are the same (the women doing the cleaning, laundry & men doing the hunting/fighting) so what’s the problem w/ a show doing that? Lol …I love the Walking Dead, mad i’ll have to wait forever for the next season

  • Blacklady010

    This article is total bullish. If you haven’t read the comics, you’re not going to fully understand the show or the characters. Not to mention, there are many holes in your points. For example, how is Tyreese going to lead a huge group, when he and his sister just emerged from an underground bunker only weeks ago? They met up with a small family and for while was leading them, but still. Was he suppose to march in Woodbury and demand leadership???

    • Charing Ball

      Not only have I read the comic (btw: if you reference the comic how can you not reference the fact that certain characters, situations and plot lines on the show are not in the comic or have other significance and vice versa), the graphic novel does not excuse what is obviously problematic.

      If you disagree with my analysis of the characters, that’s fine (even though I’m sure what you are getting at with Tyreese. Why demand leadership when he was already being a leader with his own group of survivors). But the idea that I have to read the comic first to understand a television show, which has not been following point by point, plot points doesn’t make much sense to me and is a way to be dismissive of those, who are fans of the show yet can be critical of it too.

      • rzakia

        I watch the show but have not read one of the comic books. I don’t think it’s necessary to read the comics as I’m sure it’s not a prerequisite of watching and understanding the show. I agree with just about everything you say. The black characters are marginalized. Especially Michonne. She’s stronger than just about everyone else on the show. She’s got more sense and she’s not emotionally attached to much. But she’s reduced to having to beg for a place. There are certainly issues with race on this show. Unless the comics explain that then I’m with you and your analysis of this show.

        • mayachanel

          When did Michonne ever beg for anything?

          • Caydence James

            She didn’t necessarily beg but oftentimes the character found herself in situations where Rick threatened her ability to stay with the group and the reasons her ability to stay with the group for reasons that were inexplicable considering that he didn’t act this way with most people who helped him. In fact, he didn’t even treat the 2 prisoners this way for as long as he treated Michonne like an outsider and they were actually PRISONERS.
            And each time she he mentioned not wanting her there or acted suspicious, she had to either remind him what she’s done for his group or slink away. Like that time when she led the group back to Woodbury only to find whenthey got back to the prison that Rick was once again questioning whether she could stay! She had to point out to them that she was the one who led them to Woodbury but Rick dismissed her point by saying,”Yes but you left us once you got there” as if that mattered! We all know that at the end of the day she saved their asses more than once and got them back safely but still she’s had to endured the “side eye” from Rick more times than we can count. Even in this season (season 4) when she shows up again, he has the “oh no” look, when her sword has been one of his better allies. It just doesn’t make sense!

      • leigh

        I didn’t read the comics–rarely will a series truly follow the comic-think True Blood- but i have a different view of the characters than you. Your’s seems half founded


        Critical thinking or analysis is a bit much too ask nowadays….you’ll just get called a sourpuss, hater, or generally dissatisfied. my opinion is being the minority in this society guarantees us a marginalized representation in popular media and art forms. It’s not “always” intentionally diminishing. I’d compare it to the ways we portray others when we create…its always interesting to examine how a group potrays those not like them. There are many in this generation who are only capable of taking things at face value, and to engage in “more than that is doin too much.” Don’t take offense or attempt to retrain those masses.

    • JT

      I agree. The writer clearly hasn’t read the comics, and likely didn’t see the first two seasons of the show (which would explain why she reduces Daryl to a “hillbilly redneck”). Other than the unfortunate choice of the show’s writers to keep only one significant black male character in play on the show, I really don’t see any other sort of underlying racism in the show. The writer of the article argues that Tyreese is diminished into a character that has no strength, while simultaneously blasting the show for having a strong black female character who I guess isn’t girly enough for the writer’s liking. I think that Tyreese has been shown to be incredibly intelligent in playing politics in order not to get shot up by the Governor like everyone in his army did. And the commentary about Glen is definitely the writer projecting her own views about Asian males. Did she not see him get into a fistfight with Merle a couple of episodes prior the finale? What about that makes him weak or a people pleaser?

      • Shay

        I agree! This is my absolute favorite show. Daryl is an AMAZING character. He is not a hillbilly redneck and on several occasions took Merle to task for his racist language. Why wouldn’t the characters naturally look to Rick for guidance considering he was a law enforcement officer? It makes sense to me. I will say that the characters are coming into their own as individuals and marking their roles within the group. The “gender roles” she spoke off have quickly diminished with ALL of the group contributing to all the efforts to survive.

      • otis

        I agree with you JT. While the TV show has stumbled a little bit with Michonne (her being too silent and always scowling), they have proved that she is a badass character who has shown that she’s needed in the group. Rick’s group had every right to distrust her because she never let on that she was the one who saved Andrea and the two women were surviving for 8 months. Plus Tyreese played it smart. He saw Rick was a little unhinged so he and his group left. He then quickly knew something was up with the Governor and wisely left him when it was the right time without it costing his life or his sister’s life. Yeah it was good to joke about T-Dog and the fact that they would kill off a black male character when a new one was introduced, but this article took it to the extreme. Other than T-Dog, the black characters are well represented in my opinion

        • Clowe

          I agree with you on Michonne! She frustrated me for much of the season. A lot of the distrust could have been avoided if she’d just smile or TALK for once! lol

          • That’s all I kept saying about Michonne! She just needed to TALK every once and awhile!

    • Shay

      I couldn’t agree more! This clearly is coming from someone who has only bothered to watch the show and not read the graphic novels.

    • and there was only ONE black lady to start with

    • Caydence James

      I’m not sure where you’re going with that example. Just by virtue of your own logic, the same question you asked could have been applied to Rick too. You asked,”how is Tyreese going to lead a huge group, when he and his sister just emerged from an underground bunker only weeks ago?”

      Well, how was Rick supposed to lead a large group when he just spent half an year in a coma and had no idea about what was going on to begin with? From bad decision-making, irrational and wishy-washy behavior (” okay I’ll be leader…..uhm…. on 2nd thought let’s make this a democracy…. until I want to be leader again”) to not even being able to maintain his own son’s respect long enough to discipline him. So even though no one knew what kind of leader Tyreese would be, they all knew what kind of leader Rick turned out to be and he turned out to be completely inept….so what would have bee the harm in trying something new?

      Don’t get me wrong-I don’t think anyone is saying that Tyreese is even capable of leadership.After all, they wrote him as an inarticulate cowardly brute who was more interested in the white chick that he hooked up with than his own sister. I don’t even think anyone was saying that he should “demand” leadership (that was your wording). But what people are wondering about is all of those other points collectively that were mentioned in this article that cannot be argued successfully unless someone is reaching to argue it.

      As for the graphic novel- isn’t comparing this show to the graphic novel/comic sorta like comparing oranges to tangerines? After all, while the premise is the same, the show has taken all sorts of liberties with the plot. After all, didn’t they bring in characters that didn’t even exist in the graphic/comic, change their behavior and some of the characters timelines? So with all that in mind why wouldn’t it make sense for you to tell people that they would need to read a comic that the TV writers ARE LOOSELY FOLLOWING to understand the show that we’ve all been watching from the start?

      That’s not bullshit. That’s just calling it as we see it.

    • George Kostaras

      See the writing on the wall, you’re not a bad person for liking this show but the treatment of women is pretty dismal. I mean, why can’t Andrea push back against laundry and try to get that chore rotated between men and woman? Why can’t Rick’s council have some women and why do the women see themselves as unfit for leadership? Not all women have to be Sarah Connor but its bad when all women become homemaker barbie and the negro lady with no authority