The Fridging Dead: The Walking Dead’s Patriarchal Problem
In the 1990’s, comic book writer Gail Simone noticed a disturbing trend about how often female characters were killed senselessly in popular comic books. Simone coined the term “women in refrigerators” in 1999 to describe these characters who were “either depowered [sic], raped, or cut up and stuck in the refrigerator” (Simone). Feminist members of the comic book “fandom” have taken up this term as a battle cry, and over time, it has been sharpened. “Fridging” has now especially come to signify the pointless deaths of female characters in order to fuel a (usually male) character’s pain in fictional worlds that extend well beyond comic books.
The Walking Dead began as a comic book series created by Robert Kirkman in 2003 and has been seen in a remarkably feminist light for its creation of notably strong characters, such as the battle-scarred leader Andrea and the katana-wielding Michonne. But the TV series companion to The Walking Dead, which began in 2010, has since proved to be an indelible failure. It has failed some of the female characters its source text provided such rich stories for. It has failed female characters created or modified specifically for the show. And beyond that, it has failed its large female audience.
The Voiceless Victims
In the pilot episode “Days Gone Bye,” the viewers are introduced to sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), who awakens from a coma to find the world has been overtaken by the undead. When he escapes from the hospital, he meets Morgan Jones (Lennie James), a man who has survived the fallout with his young son, Duane. Conveniently, however, his wife, Jenny, did not survive. And even more conveniently, she was bitten by a “walker” (the show’s affectionate term for the undead) and left to turn into one. She wanders the streets outside his home and he has every opportunity to pull the trigger and kill her once and for all, but he simply cannot. He breaks down sobbing and the viewers are expected to share his anguish. Later in the series, Morgan returns, but without Duane, who was conveniently killed off-screen by his zombified mother. Then and only then does Morgan take the shot that kills Jenny, but it’s not out of any sense of remorse or love or loyalty to her, but because she killed their own child. Morgan has devolved into madness, all because of the first “fridged” female whose story the audience never truly gets to experience.
Similarly, in the next to last episode of the first season, “Wildfire,” the character of Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich) is introduced. He is the sole surviving doctor at the CDC who is first introduced through a series of video diaries. An accident occurs as he experiments on a test subject that causes the lab to go into emergency decontamination mode. His test subject, the eponymous “TS-19” of the season finale, turns out to have been his wife and fellow doctor, Dr. Candace Jenner. “She was a loss to the world. Hell, she ran this place. I just worked here,” Edwin admits in a candid moment in the finale, before going on to call her an Einstein (“TS-19”). Yet the viewers only learn her story through his words and the dehumanized, zombified MRI scan that Jenner shares with Rick and his group. Her death and the loss of her remains in the decontamination ultimately push Jenner to commit suicide. Even though she was portrayed as a scientific genius in the brief moments of characterization the show provides, Candace Jenner’s death merely acts as a catalyst for Edwin Jenner’s pain. Her real story will never be heard.
Perhaps the most disturbing trend the show has taken in terms of “fridging” is the recurring theme of the death of young girls. The entire first half of the second season revolves around the search for the missing Sophia Peletier (Madison Lintz), who wanders off in the season’s first episode “What Lies Ahead” to escape attacking walkers despite Rick’s urging her to stay put. Rick and his group spend multiple episodes searching for her. At the end of the episode, Rick, his best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal), and Rick’s son Carl (Chandler Riggs) are searching the woods for her when Carl is nearly fatally shot by a hunter’s straying bullet. Rick spends multiple episodes in despair, while another member of the group, the skilled hunter Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), decides to pursue the search for Sophia on his own. Naturally, Daryl also nearly dies in the process. All of these near-losses are ultimately proven meaningless by the shocking twist in the mid-season finale “Pretty Much Dead Already,” when it is revealed that not only has Sophia been dead the entire time, but she has also been right under their noses, trapped within the barn on the farm property the group has lived on. Sophia’s detailed back story as a victim of physical abuse (with the potential of becoming sexual abuse) from her father means nothing in the end. Her absence and death ultimately serve to injure the male leads and cause Carl, who is the same age as Sophia, to become entirely disillusioned with the world.
In the third season, the villainous Governor (David Morrissey) keeps his zombified daughter Penny captive in a cage in his apartment. His inability to protect her in the apocalypse is clearly given as one of the main reasons for his madness. The audience only knows Penny in relation to the Governor, so when she is suddenly killed by the stern warrior Michonne (Danai Gurira) in “Made to Suffer,” the mid-season finale of the third season, the viewers know to expect that this will further cement his descent into madness. In the fourth season, the seemingly reformed Governor latches onto the Chambler family and particularly the young Meghan Chambler (Meyrick Murphy), who becomes a second daughter to him and even looks like Penny. When a walker inevitably attacks her, the Governor is the one who is forced to mercy kill her. His emotional state is compromised by this second loss to the point that he resumes his earlier evil nature, and naturally, this state of emotionally blinded rage leads to the loss of his life as well.
Throughout the second half of season four, there is even the presumed death of an infant. Rick and Carl believe that Judith, Rick’s young daughter and Carl’s little sister, has been brutally murdered when they find her bloodied car seat at the end of the blow out battle in the mid-season finale “Too Far Gone.” Rick immediately breaks down into hysterical sobbing, while Carl becomes enraged and shoots an approaching walker multiple times more than necessary before succumbing to his own sobs. They are left to think for the rest of the season that Judith has died in this gruesome way as they struggle to survive. Rick slips into a small coma due to the wounds he sustained in the battle and Carl is left to fend for himself, which pushes him to the brink of despair. Yet while all of this is happening, the viewers know that Judith is alive and well in the care of Tyreese Williams (Chad L. Coleman).
But this entire arc runs parallel to perhaps the most disturbing child-related plot of all. Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) and Mika Samuels (Kyla Kennedy) are sisters who are taken into the care of Tyreese and Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) after the death of their father. Lizzie stubbornly believes that walkers keep their humanity after death and tries to befriend one, which nearly leads to her death. Carol tries in vain to explain to her the difference between humans and walkers, and Lizzie’s inability to understand leads her to take the drastic action of killing her sister Mika in cold blood. She hopes to prove to Carol and Tyreese that dying won’t change anything since she believes Mika will come back and still be Mika. But Carol, fearing that Lizzie could harm Judith next, is thus forced to kill Lizzie to ensure Judith’s safety. This decision continues to haunt both Carol and Tyreese until the present moment of the show’s fifth season. These children thus became collateral damage for shaping these two adult characters.
But it is not only the children and the voiceless who have been cut down without consideration. The nameless Mrs. Blake, the Governor’s wife and Penny’s mother, is revealed to have died in a tragic car accident eighteen months before the virus pandemic spread. Her death serves only the purpose of establishing the basis of the Governor’s angst and furthering the emotional bond between him and his already dead daughter. Josephine and Annette Greene, the first and second wives of Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) and the mothers of Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Beth (Emily Kinney) respectively, both also died off-screen but have presences that linger and provide pangs of longing for the past. Mary (Denise Crosby), the mother of the early season five villain Gareth (Andrew J. West), is shown via flashbacks to have been brutally raped multiple times and is then callously gunned down by Carol and left to be eaten alive by walkers.
Yet there is no other mother character who receives poorer treatment than Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), the beloved but unfaithful wife of the protagonist Rick. In the first season, she is manipulated by Rick’s supposed best friend Shane into believing her husband has died in the hospital during the outbreak, so she grieves and then moves on to have a sexual relationship with Shane. But when Rick returns alive, she becomes the wedge that is driven between their lifelong friendship–the first time the show reduces her character to the amount of pain she can cause for men. When Shane grows angry about the fact that she has gone back to Rick and ignored whatever it was they had, he sexually assaults her. Since their relationship is impossible to be salvaged after this point, and since Lori really had no desire to ever be in an actual relationship with Shane, he declares silent war on Rick throughout all of season two. This immature, chauvinist battle culminates in Shane trying to kill Rick, only for Rick to be the one to kill Shane.
But in the midst of this entire vengeance plot, Lori receives unsettling news: she is, of course, pregnant. Each man believes the baby to be his own; the show provides no answer. Her role as a mother is changed by this plot development. In the beginning of season two, when Carl is near death from the gunshot wound, she begins to think about whether he isn’t better off dying rather than living in this world. When she takes an abortion pill for her pregnancy, however, she immediately vomits it back out and chooses to carry the pregnancy to term, even as it leads to her own demise. She dies during an emergency C-section performed with just a knife and no medical supplies in the third season episode “Killer Within.” Carl claims it is his duty to put her down via a bullet to the head so she won’t turn into a walker since she’s his mother. This decision changes Carl’s character for the rest of the series so far, hardening him into a less emotional and more strategic thinker, which often portrays him as lacking certain basic facts of humanity.
The most demeaning aspect of this “fridging” plot, however, is the arc that follows it. Upon learning of Lori’s death, Rick collapses to the ground with cries of pain and uncontrollable sobs. He spends the following episode, “Say the Word,” savagely racing through the prison they have been living in and chopping down every walker he comes across. In the episode after that, “Hounded,” Rick hallucinates receiving phone calls from those who have died along the way, including Lori herself. Soon after this, he even begins to hallucinate seeing Lori wandering the prison grounds. Lori’s death has caused Rick to lose his grasp on reality and become a weaker leader as a result of it. Her death had no ostensible meaning other than how it defined the two men she left.
The Voices of Hope
Perhaps the most offensive incidents of “fridging” come in the cases of two incredibly similar characters with very different relationships to the original comics. Andrea Harrison (Laurie Holden) is still alive and thriving as a leader in the comics, while on the show her character was thoughtlessly butchered for the sake of certain characters’ pain. Conversely, Beth Greene doesn’t exist in the comics at all, but her journey from suicidal teenage girl to impossibly strong survivor was handled with such grace and care until it all came crashing to a halt for the sake of shock value and ratings.
Andrea and Beth both lost siblings. Andrea lost her younger sister Amy during a surprise walker attack in season one, while Beth lost her older brother Shawn to a walker attack before the series began. Andrea comes close to committing suicide at the end of the first season when Dr. Jenner decides to stay behind in the soon to self destruct CDC building and she considers staying with him. Beth actually attempts suicide by slitting her wrists near the end of season two since the world has become too much for her. Andrea is left by Rick’s group at the end of season two and forced to fend for herself until she finds a new ally in Michonne, who looks out for her. Beth is abducted from the funeral home she and Daryl have found together and forced to fend for herself until she tries to flee with her new friend Noah, who is able to get out safely even though she remains behind. Andrea joins the new group of people in Woodbury and makes a misguided alliance with the Governor, just as Beth begins to find her place at Grady Memorial Hospital and hesitantly trusts the domineering Officer Dawn Lerner. Even after all they have been through, Andrea and Beth try to see the best in people and offer pillars of hope within this increasingly dire world.
But the ways the show handles their deaths couldn’t be more different.
Andrea gets to die with dignity in the third season finale “Welcome to the Tombs” surrounded by two of her closest friends, Michonne and Rick. She may have been bitten by a walker, but she gets to end her life on her own terms with a bullet she fires herself. There are call backs to earlier scenes with both friends, with lines repeated verbatim. She is able to commit suicide with her most faithful friend Michonne at her side. The end of the finale lingers hauntingly on the image of the fresh grave with Andrea’s memorial cross planted firmly within it. The Walking Dead allows the viewers time to grieve just as it allots the time this powerful death needs.
Beth, however, is nowhere near as lucky. With Beth, the show spends a good deal of time setting up promises it refuses to deliver on.
Beth calls Daryl out for seeing her as “just another dead girl” in the episode “Still” in season four. She goes on to add, “I’ve survived and you don’t get it ’cause I’m not like you or them. But I made it” (“Still”). In the following episode, “Alone,” she is learning how to track and hunt and tells Daryl, “I’m getting good at this. Pretty soon I won’t need you at all.” In the season five episode “Slabtown,” which is devoted entirely to her character, she is sexually assaulted and saves herself by killing her would be rapist and letting him get eaten by a walker. Officer Lerner criticizes her for her suicide attempt scars but Beth fights back and powerfully asserts, “I am strong” (“Slabtown”). The audience doesn’t doubt her. When Beth helps Noah escape at the end of the episode, she is caught, but she still smiles. She stares the camera down directly and smiles, because she isn’t afraid anymore.
In addition to these powerful assertions on her own part, the parallels between Beth’s journey and Rick’s feel incredibly deliberate. Beth begins season five by waking up in a hospital and having no idea where she is in the very same way that Rick began in the pilot. Some of the shots are filmed in an almost identical way: tight shots on their eyes snapping open, sudden jerking out of their IV tubes, close-ups of the clock ticking away nefariously on the wall. Rick puts his signature hat on Beth in the season four finale “A” and says that, “There’s a new sheriff in town.” The show sets up every expectation that Beth will be a new heroine. Leah Thomas of Bustle even published the article “Is Beth Greene the Hero that ‘Walking Dead’ Deserves? She Has the Nerve, the Brains, & the Girl Power” a mere week before the mid-season finale “Coda,” in which Beth’s life was claimed, aired.
Beth dying is not the problem. The show writing off all the signs of her character becoming a survivor is where the real problem lies. Beth’s death is an accident that relies on Beth showing poorer judgment than she has shown in seasons. She tries to stab Officer Lerner with a pair of scissors, but rather than go in for the kill, she merely stabs her in the shoulder. Officer Lerner reflexively grips the trigger of her gun and Beth takes a bullet straight through the brain. There is no logic to this death. It is purely random, totally meaningless, and one hundred percent for the sake of a man’s pain. Daryl, who has spent a quarter of season four and almost all of season five looking for Beth, steps forward and fires a bullet through Officer Lerner’s brain in a knee jerk reaction. Beth does not get to die a hero. She just simply dies.
When the audience sees Beth’s body for the last time, she is limp in Daryl’s arms. Daryl sobs as he carries her out of the hospital. Her sister, Maggie, who has mentioned Beth twice all season, falls to her knees in agony, in a pose totally reminiscent of Rick’s grief at the loss of Lori. But this grief doesn’t feel earned. This tableau does not elicit the emotions it was intended to. Beth does not get to be the heroine that the parallels with Rick set her up to be, precisely because she is female, and this world does not accept heroines. There is no world in which this death was not done for shock value, for making already miserable men and women that much more miserable, and for stripping this increasingly dark world of one of its last glimmers of hope.
It is true, however, that there have been at least three male characters who can be said to have been “fridged.” Original voice of reason Dale is alienated from the group’s savage mindset and attacked by a walker in the middle of the night, only to be mercy killed by Daryl. Daryl’s brother, Merle, is brutally murdered and Daryl is forced to put him down as well before he falls to his knees and sobs. Hershel, Beth and Maggie’s father and Rick’s mentor, has his throat slit in front of their eyes, a death that begins a battle that will leave the group homeless as the prison is destroyed in the crossfire. But the sheer volume of female characters who have been senselessly killed on this show speaks for itself and cannot be ignored, especially when compared with such a small sampling of men. The majority of other male deaths create a list filled with villains: the backstabbing Shane, the intimidating thugs Dave and Tony, the sociopathic Governor, the ruthless and pedophilic Claimers, and the cannibalistic Gareth and his friends. When these men are killed, it is meant to be experienced as a catharsis and a relief. But when each of these women is killed, the audience is expected to recoil in heartbreak and horror, not because the female character has died, but because the characters who survive are now expected to carry the load with them.
Simone, Gail. Women in Refrigerators. March 1999. Web. 01 December 2014. <http://lby3.com/wir/index.html>.
Thomas, Leah. “Is Beth Greene the Hero That ‘Walking Dead’ Deserves? She Has the Nerve, the Brains, & the Girl Power.” Bustle. 28 November 2014. Web. 01 December 2014. <http://www.bustle.com/articles/50444-is-beth-greene-the-hero-that-walking-dead-deserves-she-has-the-nerve-the-brains>.
“Days Gone Bye.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 31 October 2010. Television.
“Wildfire.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 28 November 2010. Television.
“TS-19.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 5 December 2010. Television.
“What Lies Ahead.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 16 October 2011. Television.
“Pretty Much Dead Already.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 27 November 2011. Television.
“Killer Within.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 4 November 2012. Television.
“Say the Word.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 11 November 2012. Television.
“Hounded.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 18 November 2012. Television.
“Made to Suffer.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 2 December 2012. Television.
“Welcome to the Tombs.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 31 March 2013. Television.
“Too Far Gone.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 1 December 2013. Television.
“Still.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 2 March 2014. Television.
“Alone.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 9 March 2014. Television.
“The Grove.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 16 March 2014. Television.
“A.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 30 March 2014. Television.
“Slabtown.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 2 November 2014. Television.
“Coda.” The Walking Dead. AMC. 30 November 2014. Television.
What do you think? Leave a comment.
I have never heard of the term, “Fridging” before, but I must say that your article very well describes it and the issues presented by it in the tv show. You referred to the term as a “comic book” one, but it would seem that the characters are treated in this way more in the TV show than in the comic. What are your thoughts on this?
I would say that it is definitely becoming more of a TV problem than a comic one, at least from what I’ve seen, and sadly my comic knowledge is fairly limited. But many popular shows, or at least shows with strong internet followings, are incredibly guilty of “fridging”: Supernatural, Agents of SHIELD, and Teen Wolf are all notorious for killing off women for shock value, but on Supernatural in particular, women rarely get a chance to live at all. The recent years of female-driven television shows are certainly starting to change things, but there’s still a long way to go.
As to The Walking Dead in particular, it’s undeniable that the show is forced to rely on shock value and ratings boosted episodes more than the comic itself is, purely for commercial reasons. It’s a shame, too, because the comic basis doesn’t deserve to be misrepresented in such a way.
In comics, this is all but gone because of Gail Simone and the spotlight she put on it. There is also a much greater presence of female creators in comics than there were even 25 years ago.
Female readership in comics has grown to somewhere between 35-45% which is more than twice as high as when I was a kid.
I see it on TV more than any other medium now.
I wouldn’t say the problem of violence against women is all but gone in the comics… More pervasive is the lack of agency women are given in comics. Granted, we’re in a disruptive moment right now for female superheroes, with the new Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and a re-energized Batgirl; but this trend is still very new. Television, with its proliferation of professional women leads in the last 25 years, can teach comics many lessons on giving women narrative authority, without objectifying their bodies.
I agree with you. I am referencing the idea of Fridging, sacrificing women to motivate a male hero.
I actually learned about this term in my women’s literature class today! A group gave a presentation on “women in the fridge” and it led me to find more about it. Now I stumbled upon this article and it’s awesome!
I learned bout this term in my women’s literature class today!
Beth was killed off just because she was unpopular.
I’ve heard that the actress who plays Beth has expressed her interest in leaving the show for awhile. Her lack of screentime has been from her doing other projects. I heard this before last seasons finale so I’ve been expecting her to die for awhile.
I believe Beth may have been unpopular in her beginnings, simply because the writers weren’t giving her much material to work with. But as the author of this piece said, she went through a huge transition and for many fans, was becoming a favourite. Her character had more depth and with that, more fans. Judging by TWD fan outcry, this was not a popular decision.
While I would like to have seen Beth survive, I get the importance of Noah though. He is the link to Alexandria, the permanent settlement in the comics that Rick and co. settle at. Basically, Noah serves as a transition between the Walking Dead we’ve known for five seasons and a new Walking Dead where our survivors will no longer be nomads struggling day to day, but rather, they will be settled within colonies and kingdoms battling for power, supplies, and allies. Noah may seem minor now, and he may even die, but he’s the piece needed to get our characters to that next chapter.
Rick and co. haven’t even faced the comic’s most major villain yet.
So pissed about some of these deaths. Many of my favourite character gone.
I was not sold on Beth’s motivation to try and kill Dawn. Not at all. Lazy writing.
To be fair there had been rising tensions between the two in previous episodes. Though you can argue Beth and Dawn bridging their differences earlier in the mid-season finale as reflecting your claim that Beth’s motivation is lazy writing.
I’ve never heard the term “fridging” before, but I really agree with everything you’ve said here. It’s part of why the Walking Dead lost me as a fan somewhere along the way and I haven’t kept up with it – especially not when I heard Beth died.
I always enjoy an article on The Walking Dead and on female studies. I have to agree that Beth’s death was awkward. She had been through too much and knew how to kill. Why would she use such a minor weapon and not go for the eyes, throat, etc. This made no sense at all? I also agree that her sister didn’t really speak of her for many episodes. On and other note, I watched CODA over and over, I think minus the way Beth was killed the show excelled in many other ways. There is a different mind set especially for Rick. What is the role of the minister?? And when will Morgan speak again? I am glad he is back lurking around he is a great actor.
Bullshit…….I’m done. Beth was one of the few characters that didn’t annoy me and was holding these bland episodes together where 15 percent was old footage. Then they show maybe one or two characters a show cut together with flashbacks. I was so excited to watch Beth grow because she was one of the few characters still changing. Pointless death, I get they want shock value and anything can happen, but to me, it seems like some writers are getting lazy. I am done and will not return in February, I have watch pointless episode after pointless episode to come across maybe one gem every 4 episodes. You have lost me AMC and show runners……I am only one person, but trust when I say there will be more if you don’t stop being lazy and filming one character episodes for no reason. #WalkingOutOnTheDead
Being a raging feminist, I try to not let my cynical suspensions of everything delude my enjoyment of fictional entertainment. I have succeeded fairly well with The Walking Dead, but those dubious flaws in the the screenplay have been piling up lately. This article was poignantly written and I can identify with all the inconsistencies as I have watched the show. I just watched “Coda” last night, and I was reeling from the last few minutes. Whether the character was killed for the actor’s retirement or not, it was an outrage that she should go so meekly. It was almost a suicide! I almost agree with another commentator that this was, indeed, lazy writing- I hope the series obliges us with some redemption in February…
I have to agree with you, the frequency of female character deaths in the show compared to males is one sided. It seems that to survive for any length of time a female character must adopt more stereotypical male characteristics like Carol, Michonne and Andrea have. In doing so These female characters almost become androgynous. Very interesting perspective, good sources well written.
I think kdaley has done some excellent analysis here. The sexism in the show is, if possible, even more disturbing than the zombies.
At least zombies are make believe. Sexism is very real
I know this sounds dumb and all but what if kirkman pulls out a plot twist and put Emily back on the show as beth? I bet there will be flashbacks (ie same happened with hershel) but what if enough people complain he’ll put her back in (idk maybe the bullet grazed her brain) ik that’s what happened with Darryl he wasn’t meant to be a regular at first but so many people loved him they kept him on!! I’m just saying probably in denial but honestly just imagine if they brought beth back?
I like that idea. Honestly, I am kinda getting tired of characters that I come to really like getting killed off. I like to watch TV to be entertained, not depressed.
exactly that is my point they killed everybody they develop the character like Beth she was njot stupid to stab somebody in the chest And Deryl poor soul he deserve to be happy at least once
I believe that you make some great points in this analysis. Do you really believe that the creator of this series intentionally want to depict women in this manner or was this that creator’s point of view? Maybe the creator wanted us to be reminded of the power of a woman through the events that follow from their deaths.
Not being too familiar with either the TV show or comics, I can say that you definitely did a good job providing overview for the unfamiliar. I thoroughly understood what you were talking about even though I was unacquainted with the material.
I have not seen the new episode (since I usually binge watch the seasons when they end), but when I found out that Beth died I knew that it was not going to be a satisfactory death–one that makes sense and is necessary to the story. I agree with all your points on Beth. Made me think that I really would have preferred or not minded Daryl dying, sacrificing himself for her life, and passing on the torch to Beth as the bad-ass of the group, allowing her to be a Heroine in her own way. He would sacrifice himself knowing that when they finally settle down, she would be the kind of person the group/community needs. Awesome Article!
I dunno about this article…. How come the governer has female family(wife) that dies previously is fridging women but beth having a bunch of brothers that died isn’t fridging males? Sure lots of females have been killed but holy crap so have a lot of dudes just to serve as plot devices,and they definitely weren’t all 1 dimensional evil characters… I remeber lots of times I got wtf over guys dying because it was tragic. Not any relief…. What about Otis, T dogg, dale, axel, Oscar, thomas, ZACK, the big tiny, Merle, BOB, Hershel, the 3 young naive dudes Michonne slaughtered while Merle was trying to hunt her down, the dudes in the bar rick killed, Randell, Milton, Martinez, the guys in Martinez group in season 4 that got killed by the governer, the entire military unit that was shot in cold blood in season 3, the pilot who was brought to Woodbury- the governer put his head in a fish tank, the old man Milton was experimenting on, Sam the hippy !! He had his throat slit by termites, the 3 other guys next to him. God how awful was that scene prob one of the worst on the whole show, prob 100 more I can’t even think of…. All were to further the plot of the story line none of them were female I get what you are saying but I disagree this is some show about how many females can be butchered or diminished cause only males get to be Heros and females are used as plot devices for them. I guess dudes aren’t supposed to feel total devastation over the females they lose. Cause it’s sexist? Michonne lost a son. The 2 walkers she had chained to her were 2 males literally dead being dragged by collars. They def serverd her plot line period. And in a more obvious grotesque way. Just as bad if not worse than the governor keeping his daughter in a closet to hope to some day cure her. He did that out of love… Morgan lost a son. But that doesn’t matter because the mother did it? As a zombie? You can very well argue after someone turns they are dead. It isn’t them so the gender is irrelevant.
You really turn it around and sympathize with characters like Mary from terminus? Or Dawn from Grady. Infact wasn’t a female officer, Shepard, the one that stepped up after dawn got shot in the head and talked reason into everyone ? And saved all of them from a bloodbath?
What about Michonne? She’s possibly one of the strongest characters on the entire show. And on tv for that matter. What about Carol??? She saverd ALL of those men from terminus and has grown into one of the strongest people in the series??? What about Sasha? She prevailed where Bob didn’t. It was easy to see how his character was only used to further her story line.
Are you sure Beth’s story is done yet? She very well maybe dead as dirt but a lot of speculation is floating around she has been given comic book Carl’s heroic plot line. Carl was givens ricks hat in the comics and he told him “looks like there’s a new Sherrif in town.” Right after Carl woke up from being in a coma from getting shot in the head. Sound familiar ? How about when rick gave beth his hat in 4×16 and said “looks like there’s a new Sherrif in town.” Is it all coincidence she is the one that got shot in the head? Also why was there no sad music in the ending credits for beth at the end of coda? Like there has been in every single main character death for the entire series? It may be total junk theory but it certainly brings up things to think about. I think people should def wait to see how that plays out before putting any final thoughts on Beth’s death. Especially ones that just sum her up to be another pointless female victim. Her analysis def deserves more. A lot of people jump to the conclusion That she is only there to serve Daryls story line??? Why? Cause millions of fans want to see them make out? Give me a break there is no way anyone will be effected more by her death than Maggie. There was about 12 days that elapsed from 4×8 “too far gone” the fall of the prison to 5×8 “coda” when beth dies (check the show wiki). Maggie has little hope to even know where to find her sister let alone go on and on about it. In dialouge. In the 3 days she looks for glen from the prison to terminus she mentions beth 2/3 days. And everyone thinks she forgot her Beth??? Hello, they specifically didn’t have her writing Beth’s name on the terminus signs to illustrate she believed her sister to be dead and unable to cope with those feelings especially after watching her dads head get chopped off the same day. It was horrific all around. Maggie has Never been good at expressing feelings about losing people we have known this since season 2 when she almost wouldn’t date glenn because she felt he put himself at risk too often. She even nicknamed him walker bait. Maggie is another incredibly smart strong character who loved her family more than anything.
Yet people say Beth’s death was done for daryl? A guy that spent a whole 3 days with beth? You would sell Maggie’s character up the river after how much love beth and her had for each other? Maggie ran back for beth in a barrage of bullet fire in 4×8 and missed the bus with Glenn leaving JUST to find her sister to make sure her sister was ok. Her sister was no where to be found and her Bob and Sasha hardly got out alive. She knew glenn was in the bus and he wasn’t there when she cleared it so there was enough reason to assume he had got off and started hiking somewhere. For Beth there was none. She got off the bus and was never seen again by maggie. The odds were not in beth’s favor. Don’t confuse what happens in the show with what you read about 5 million Bethyl people screaming about how much beth and daryl are in love. No one knows the status or existence of anything Romantic between them at this point. No matter how much they wish it so. Beth’s death will effect Maggie more than anyone.. Especially in the way not even two weeks ago she had to leave the prison and leave beth. It was absolute anguish Maggie never got to see her sister alive again.
What about Rosita?. She Is like the voice of reason to Abrahams ridiculous bull headed ass lol. What about Tara? Glenn needed her and never would of found Maggie without her. He would of died by walkers on the side of the road. She saved his ass.
Sure lots of women have died on the walking dead but so have lots of dudes. It’s cause lots of people die period….Lots of characters have had flaws both male and female. Sure the governor was nuts and kept his daughter. But Dawn was nuts and killed her male officer originally in charge. His story only serving as a plot device for her. At terminus there was equal parties of granola nuts people. Mary – good god. She was just as blood thirsty as her son, Gareth. And Gareth’s brother who was only used as a character to get shot by rick. And later Butchared by his own family and eaten.
I dunno I just think TWD is a bloody crazy ass show. Pretty equal parts crazy / brutal / heroic / tragic no matter who you are. you want to find sexism in it you prob can if you only take out those few plot points. If you want to find anything in it you probably can. Just ask those crazy beth fans – they have already turned Beth’s character into Jesus Christ lol. you thought the parallels between her and rick were dissipointing? Don’t worry cause it wasn’t meant to be rick at all, It was Jesus. (No seriously Google it )
I haven’t watched much of the current season. But I can’t believe I haven’t noticed these trends. Thanks for the article!
I almost feel like the women in the show are meant to be the more emotional beings and carry that weight, so their deaths can be more significant later down the road. You make good points that I’ve never thought about before in my time watching this show. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this going forward to see if anything changes.
Hearing about the treatment of female characters in this show is one of the reasons I’ve never really wanted to sit down and watch it. Great article!
Regardless of the number of men or women that have been killed off, many of the male characters killed were either the positively oriented characters (ie Hershel) and/or had a more domestic style role, or they had committed violence for violence’s sake. Martinez is a perfect example. He is involved in the murder of nameless characters while under the command of the governor. He shows no ability to sympathize with those less weak than him until he finds himself In charge of his own camp of survivors. Even then when he comes across the governor with a child in his arms Martinez does not show sympathy immediately. His acceptance of the girl in the camp comes after the governor and the two women with him prove their worth. Martinez’s death was expected and warranted.
As a viewer, and I imagine I’m not the only person that feels this way, I find myself anxiously preparing for when another lead female character will be brutally taken out of the show. Of the main characters that we have become attached to, the female characters have been the ones to lose their lives more brutally and without obvious reason except the tears of those left behind. Like this article points out, these ladies have been seemingly killed for the sake of the tears of what ever make character they have been attached to by the writers of the show. This includes the female child characters. Duane was a boy and killed but we do not see his death and we never see a body.
Beth had so much potential, and honestly so did Andrea. Her arc was just as badly written as Lori’s was – audiences had to feel like they wanted her dead, and I didn’t like that kind of manipulation at all. I haven’t seen the most recent seasons, but I am discouraged from keeping up with TWD.
Hopefully WD will one day see a woman grow to real power (Mishown, Maggie, ANYONE). It would be an interesting dynamic to see one of these characters take up that ideal for themselves, to challenge Rick. Does this kind of character depth not have a place in the mainstream, are we truly blind to an equal or even matriarchal society on any scale? Hopefully not. Interesting article.
I have had a strange reluctance toward watching The Walking Dead for a while now, and I suppose this helps me realize why a little bit. I guess there are somethings that cannot be helped, like female actors wanting to leave for other projects, making their death rather hurried and seemingly meaningless, but a lot of this really is pointless, especially the ones where they are already dead and we only get a portion of their story via man-pain.
I would probably not have noticed this issue in The Walking Dead, if not for this article. Having grown up a Disney fan, I am used to seeing female characters, usually mothers, dying to benefit a male character’s strength. I think having been exposed to this trope since a young age has made me pretty blind to it. But also, I think because it is such a popular and familiar scenario that most writers don’t even realize that they’re doing it. That’s not an excuse to kill female characters, though.
I would have to disagree with this article. Both males and females alike die in the show which inflicts pain on the other characters. It is not just exclusively women. In fact, many of the strongest characters in the series are women. For example, Michonne. She is the biggest badass in the show.
I completely agree with you about the Beth thing! They put so much into building her character, then they decide to kill her in her prime. She deserved way better than that. She was a symbol of hope to the group, and I was so mad when they killed her off! She didn’t die the way that she deserved! She deserved a death like Andrea at least. I am waiting to see who goes next.
I really appreciate that this was written about in-depth, because the death of Beth Greene on The Walking Dead hit me as something that was done incredibly poorly. I haven’t watched the show since then, just because of how disappointed I was with how it was handled (especially after they had really built up a three-dimensional, intriguing character). Also, in regards to Nick’s comment, the author of the article did mention other characters that weren’t female that were “fridged” like the voice of reason-Dale. However, it is predominately female characters that are simply used as foils for other characters emotions.
I was watching the show and I noticed the same thing , Beths death was stupid I stop watching the show after they killed her
Your whole article is biased. I am quite the feminist but I could just as easily write an article about male characters who fit most of these bills. Rationalizing does nothing to move things forward.
What the hell are you talking about? The walking dead is full of feminist bullshit. How the hell could feminism survive such a calamity as zombie apocalypse where strength and bravado (all predominately male traits) would be at a premium? We would certainly revert to the all-male warrior societies of old as absolute necessity. Sorry, but the majority of the female characters in the TV series could not even manage to plunge a knife into a zombie skull as they are so damn skinny and weak.
“The Walking Dead Patriarchal Problem”. What a sad cliche of an article. This article reflects the sad state of the garbage they teach in Human Science courses in so many Universities these days.
It truly makes me sad to see the amount of people being scammed into getting a huge ass loan just to have a degree on these useless humanities courses and getting completely brainwashed into semi retarded SJWs. The lack of self awareness and critical thinking of this article is astounding.
And the sad reality is: the person who wrote this article is probably a graduate from a Women Studies course, or some other garbage like that, is considered to be one of the rare cases of “success” people coming out of the University. I mean, being hired to write SJW boring unoriginal propaganda in some random shitty website and being paid a bit more than a Starbucks barista is the best these idiots can achieve.
Another sad reality is that: the majority of the commenters here agreeing with this bs are probably the rest of the graduates working as Starbucks baristas to pay for the useless courses they got themselves into.
Hurray for the banksters I guess.