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Discussion/Meta Does the show favor white characters?

Discussion in 'Characters & Cast' started by Doctor Grimes, May 21, 2016.

  1. Doctor Grimes

    Doctor Grimes Not Your Governor
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    I made this a thread on TSDF, so I figured I'd post it here as well.

    Does The Walking Dead heavily favor the white characters over the non-white characters?

    What I mean by this is: it appears to me that more emphasis is placed on the emotions and historical background of the white characters on this series than the people of color.

    While this has always been a problem on this series, the first instance where it jumped out to me as an issue worthy of noting was in season 6. In season 6, there were two episodes that focused on characters that only had one appearance: "Here's Not Here" with Eastman, and "The Same Boat" with Paula.

    In each of those episodes, we learned more about Eastman and Paula than we currently know about characters that have been on this show since season one.

    This is a problem
    . And it stems further than just knowing more about one-off characters. We -- the audience -- know more about the main characters who are white than we do the PoC.

    Rick has told us stories about his grandfather. We know about his pre-ZA occupation. We're familiar with his family. We know about his early dating life (there wasn't much of one). Admittedly, we're going to know more about Rick than many characters because he's the main character. By extension, this also extends toCarl (who we also learned the name of his 3rd grade teacher).

    Daryl we've learned lived in an abusive household in the mountains of Northern Georgia where his father beat him and Merle. His mother died in a fire. Merle went to a juvenile detention center when Daryl was a child, and Daryl got lost in the woods when he was younger than Sophia. We even learned of an episode where Daryl almost died in Merle's drug supplier's house after an altercation.

    With Carol, unfortunately, we know some details about her past, but they're all centered on her abuse. We know the name of the shelter she and Sophia stayed at to escape Ed's violence. We know Ed dislocated her shoulder several times; Ed wouldn't let Carol wear nice clothes.

    The Greene clan (Hershel, Maggie, Beth) -- we learned a bit with season 2 and having the entire arc located on their farm. We learned about their family history, how Maggie was a rebel in school (Maggie started to act out), etc.

    Even with Tara we learned she tried out for the police academy; we got to meet her family (niece, sister, and father).

    Abraham is from Houston, TX. He was a sergeant in the U.S. Military. We got one of his war stories (the camel eating their keys leaving them stranded in the desert). He had a wife named Ellen and two kids. He's told a couple of other anecdotes (about attending country fairs).

    Denise told the audience about her twin brother, Dennis, and that her parents were drug addicts (or something similar -- perhaps alcoholics). She tried to become a doctor, but due to her anxiety, she became a psychiatrist.


    Contrast to some of the main non-white characters:

    Sasha: her last name has only been revealed to us through extratextual sources (the name "Williams" has never been used in the show canon). We learned she was a firefighter through an interview (with SMG on The Talking Dead). It has never been mentioned on the series. All we know about Sasha through the TV canon is that Tyreese was her brother, she was from Florida, and that's about it.

    Glenn: his last name has only been revealed through extratextual sources ("Rhee" has never been stated on the show). He informed Daryl and Rick he was a pizza delivery guy in season 1. We know he had sisters, and is from Michigan. He liked video games (or was familiar with them) because he referenced Portal once. This is about all we know.

    Michonne: her last name is still unknown in all sources (comic, TV, and games). While her backstory is fleshed out in the comics and Michonne video game, on the show we know hardly anything at all. The most we've gotten was in "After" and "Claimed". She had a three-year-old son named Andre Anthony with her boyfriend Mike. She was also friends with a guy named Terry. Everything else we know is post-ZA (Andre died after Mike and Terry got high and their camp was overrun). Otherwise we don't know any details about Michonne's life. A few things can be assumed, however, due to her interest (she used to possibly be into art, for instance).

    Rosita: one huge giant question mark. At least we know her last name. I think she mentioned having a sibling or something once, but it was in passing.

    Even Morgan Jones we know very, very little about; yes, we saw his family, but we don't know what Morgan did for a living or any other details about his life aside from the fact he did his best to keep his family alive (and failed). I guess at least we know his last name.


    The only white characters in similar obscurity are Eugene, whose entire backstory was a lie. (And this "unknown" history is due for comedic and plot intent) and Aaron, who is relatively shrouded in mystery (we don't know his last name and very little about where he's from).


    It just hurts me to say we know more about Denise Cloyd, Jessie Anderson, Paula, and Eastman than we do characters who've been around for a while like Glenn, Michonne, Morgan, and Sasha.


    Don't get me wrong, I am not saying this means the writers are racists or hate non-white people or anything, but it does seem to indicate favoritism. I blame the inherent nature of Western media to laser its sights on the plights of white characters over not; it's just how it's been for a while. PoC generally come second (if at all).

    And, yeah, I get this show is about the now, not the then, so blah, blah, whine, whine, who cares if we know where they went to school or if they played darts, but there's something to be said about how a backstory can create empathy and make the characters more human. They weren't just born out of the ether. They have rich lives that existed before everything went to shit.

    It would just be nice if we could learn more of the backstory of some of these characters we've known for years now.
     
  2. Lilly965

    Lilly965 Wig Shopping For Michonne
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    This will happen when the writers room lacks voices from minority writers who may understand the nuances to minority characters and have experiences that may tie in to those characters

    It shouldn't be this way as if you chose to create characters you should care about their development and how your audience relates to them regardless of their race or the writers race

    Sometimes it does feel like a race quota tick list when the minority characters development is ignored.

    Why do we know more about Jessie family than glenn?
     
  3. zahira

    zahira Ricktator

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    Totally !
     
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  4. FLNatural

    FLNatural Caressing Eugene's Mullet

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    Great post.
    And absolutely this show favors them. This is to be expected as it is written and produced by white people. They all superimpose themselves in the story just like we do. This is why Kirkman made Rick white...because Kirkman is white. It only makes sense.

    Kirkman, Gimple and a host of other white males live vicariously through Rick and to some degree, Daryl. This is who they want to be. Gimple has said before that this show is the most expensive fan fiction imaginable for him. That's all he's doing. Living out his fantasy though Rick.

    It also emasculates the black men. Name one that is/was not passive, scared all the time, couldn't fight, or is the designated baby sitter.

    I'll wait...
     
  5. Doctor Grimes

    Doctor Grimes Not Your Governor
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    I think it's also the role backstories have in the show and how much gravitas they have. It's rare if significant screen time has been dedicated to the exploration of the non-white character's pre-ZA lives. A few examples I can think of are Michonne's dream sequence (of her child and Mike) leading her to choose to follow Carl and Rick. (And even so, that's all that has been revealed about Michonne's pre-ZA life at all).

    Carol's history of abuse led to Daryl and Carol taking refuge in "Consumed", so the reveal of her past played a plot point. A good bulk of episodes like "Chupacabra" and "Still" were about Daryl's past. Rick waxed poetic about his grandfather in "Them". Denise's story with her brother was a method to bond her to Daryl. Abraham's tragic backstory was meant to highlight why he glued himself to Eugene. The entire farm setting was a rich in learning more about the Greene family in season 2. Eugene's "fake" backstory drove Abraham and Rosita all the way from Texas to Georgia.

    Sasha, Glenn, Rosita, and Morgan haven't had pre-ZA backstories to really drive the plot or action in any significant ways. Usually when we do learn about them, it doesn't propel episode momentum, but are rather aside conversations (like Sasha mentioning she followed Ty when they were kids, Glenn mentioning his mom and sisters, etc.).
     
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  6. Gooey Goobert

    Gooey Goobert Relocating to The Kingdom
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    Wow, I wasn't aware of the last name hold back for the POC characters. I can't believe that Rhee was never said on the show. Now I understand some people's frustration on Michonne's last name.

    Normally, I don't care for background details, but it's saddening to see it laid out like this. This show can be hit or miss in terms of representation. I'm glad for what they have done but there's always room for improvement.
     
  7. Doctor Grimes

    Doctor Grimes Not Your Governor
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    And now that I think about it, the more this bothers me.

    The Walking Dead is supposed to be an examination of society in the new world; an aspect of this is contrasting it to the way things were before.

    Carol is a victim of domestic violence who has come into her own in the ZA as a strong protector of an eclectic group of people.

    Rick was a lawful family man who has now dove headfirst into downright immoral and unlawful actions.

    Daryl was a loner who followed in his brother's shadow to become a group-oriented man who has shirked his brother's negative influence.

    Maggie was a rebellious teenager with a strict religious father who has started to become a leader. We've seen her struggle with her faith.

    By virtue of getting glimpses into the past of these characters, we've come to understand how the ZA has molded them into new people.

    If we don't get to learn much about the characters of color, then what's the point? We don't get to see what this series means to them in so many ways because we have no point of reference for how they were before everything went to hell.
     
  8. Lilly965

    Lilly965 Wig Shopping For Michonne
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    When it's layed out like this it does make me uncomfortable about how Sasha and Michonne will be portrayed in their respective relationships with Abe and Rick in season 7. We saw both men talking at the gate about jumping back in to loving someone but I feel it's vital at some point to show the women's POV about loving again as both have lost just as much, michonne a bit more as the men.

    The danger is if they don't the women will be seen as the props for the men, though michonne is the most rounded minority character written on the show. Richonne are equals but we need more of Michonne POV

    Does this make sense?

    Note this isn't bashing
     
  9. richonnelove

    richonnelove Ricktator

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    Well said Doctor Grimes. Michonne is now supposedly the leading lady of the show as she has been paired with the main lead character, yet she has no story of her own and very little screen time comparatively with the white characters (main and red-shirts). This lack of development for Michonne does affect how some viewers categorize her as a character. The claims she does not need love or a romantic partner, her only purpose is to kill zombies, points to some not seeing her as a human being because she has not been afforded dimensional writing which the white main characters are afforded. It has become one of my greatest disappointment with the show. Aside from Michonne being my favorite character alongside Rick, I reference Michonne and not Tara, Sasha, etc because as iconic a character she is in all spectrums of TWD (comic, game,tv show) and as profitable a marketing figure, paired with the lead making her the leading lady of the show, she is not able to get focus, development and air time from the TV writers and show runner. If with all these supposed advantages Michonne is suppose to have and yet she has less development and story on the show than the majority of the white characters who are in main, supporting and short term roles, it makes the plight for all the POC on the show (including Michonne) even more astonishing and glaring.


    Tyrese - Rick's right hand man in the comic, was made a wimp to prop Carol heroic story arc.

    Morgan - a huge fan favorite and anticipated character every time he popped back on the scene, became an undefined pacifist who barely interacted with Rick (what viewers anticipated) to prop yet another Carol story arc. This supporting role in Carol's story has turned the GA against Morgan. From one of the most intriguing and anticipated character to the one most want to die.

    I wonder how inept Ezekiel will be made to prop another featured Carol story arc?

    The issue is how do we get the producers and writers to hear these concerns, because the main stream press aren't raising these issues. The producers may not even care but we won't know if that is the case if the subject is not broached to them.
     
    #9 richonnelove, May 21, 2016
    Last edited: May 21, 2016
  10. lovingdead

    lovingdead The New Mrs. Grimes

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    I've tried to steer clear of the racial conversations concerning this show because honestly right now as a black woman I am exhausted from talking about race. Either people choose to ignore blatant inequality and accept anything as long as they find it entertaining or you have those that are uber sensitive about everything and insert race into every conversation. i'm tired of both and it comes from whites as well as minorities. This is very apparant say on the Richonne tumblr tag. I'm starting to get really annoyed with the racially charged posts wether for or against Richonne, it's like why are we harping on this.

    Specific to the show as a whole, it's tough because on one hand they are super progressive for having some many minority characters and interracial relationships. On the other hand, when you see it laid out as it is in this thread, it is pretty jarring.
     
  11. lovingdead

    lovingdead The New Mrs. Grimes

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    Forgot to add, and not sure this is entirely relevant, but I also am starting to see a lot more black women being paired with non-black men, especially in genre shows. It's interesting because one hand I'm like great, fantastic, but on the other hand I'm wondering if its because a black woman is somehow threatening unless she is the love interest of a non-black male, if it's non-blackmen living out their fantasies, if the producers are trying to reel in a loyal black female audience similar to the Scandal fandom, or if it is them truly tryig to be progressive. It's interesting because you see more black women with non-black men than you do black men with non-black, especially white women, yet bw/non-black men is supposedly the most controversial/unrealistic pairing. What is feuling this? It's interesting too because I see in social media a lot of fans that love Richonne also ship other interracial couples with black women. I'm like are all of these couples loved because of the racial dynamic, if so why? Just food for thought.
     
  12. richonnelove

    richonnelove Ricktator

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    I use to applaud the show for its diverse make up and brag to friends how refreshing TWD was for not dictating story by race and just writing for characters, but it has changed because the show has become very unbalanced due to favoritism of certain characters and sidelining of others by Gimple and the writers. The imbalance in the show has caused such a drastic shift and the change is so persistent and jarring, I would have to have my head buried in the sand not to notice or care.

    Because I am still invested in the show and some characters (unfortunately less of them than before), I choose to speak up.
     
    #12 richonnelove, May 21, 2016
    Last edited: May 21, 2016
  13. richonnelove

    richonnelove Ricktator

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    Money. Hollywood operates under trends. Studios and networks do not like to take risks and mostly go with trope formulas. If they see a trend happening and it's being received well (making money), they will get on board. Scandal made it popular in prime time mainstream. If there is a show that gets a bw/ww pairing and it becomes popular, other shows will follow. Although it's happening in some shows, it's not a huge staple, it's just more than before which was almost zero. It's edgy and if received well can give the producers cool points. Gimple got a lot of cool press for going with Richonne, but it was still a big risk and it is still to be seen if Michonne will be treated to leading lady status as Lori was; getting 2nd billing, leading lady pay and increased story, screen time. If Michonne does not reap the benefits of a leading lady and is just a prop in the Richonne pairing like another poster pointed out earlier in the thread, then we'll know there was no true investment and it was a decision to get the cool points for being edgy and different without the risks a true investment would entertain.
     
  14. lovingdead

    lovingdead The New Mrs. Grimes

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    It is tough to navigate who to give a pat on the back to just for including black people. I know sometimes amongst minorities there exists a blind allegiance to anything that even shows a black person, quality be damned. Like I get really irritated when black friends and family question me for not supporting every single thing with a black person, and I'm like just because they are there doesn't mean it deserves my support either due to poor quality, general disinterest, or what I view as buffoonery. It is also difficult because how do you navigate the percentage of representation owed to blacks in entertainment relative to our representation of the audience/population? I come into this issue in my field (fashion/beauty). It's like I want to see us more and represented well, but sometimes from a business perspective it is all about proportion. For instance if kids make up 10% of a target market and 10% are represented in marketing, how valid is it to demand 15% representation? Not a perfect analogy and rough made up statistics there, but I hope my point is understood.

    I am overall pleased that TWD has upstanding minority characters and that Rick has never judged anyone based on race. At the same time the OP does spell out the differences in how characters are handled. I used to get upset when people criticized the treatment of black men on the show because my gut reaction was they can't keep every black man on the show to appease people just like the white characters have to die too. But upon further examination, it would be great if there is a black male character that is the leader of a group or even a formidable villain, to show that black man can gain power in this new world. The same could be said for these being wanted for a woman too. All of the leaders have been white men. there may be female badasses in the crew, but aside from Deanna, there have been no females at the healm.

    I do want to applaud AMC for what I see as baby steps toward achieving true diversity. They launched "Into the Badlands" with an Asian male lead (they actually insisted on an Asian male lead even though star and co-producer Daniel Wu didn't demand it) and his bi-racial love interest with no qualms. There is also a formidable black man as a group leader, another black man in a position of power and a mixed Middle Eastern supporting character who is central to the plot. At first I was worried the girlfriend would just be that, but towards the final epsiodes she comes into her own and becomes central to moving the plot forward.

    This makes me realize TWD needs to show more of the minority characters making dynamic moves to affect story arcs and maybe even save the day for the group.
     
  15. lovingdead

    lovingdead The New Mrs. Grimes

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    So true about following trends. And black women are a loyal group. I just hate the idea of our loyalty being used without true artistic intent driving decisions. And also, we shouldn't be blindly loyal. I mostly date interracially and am happy to see black women on screen in interracial relationships, but I don't stan for every such couple because to me you have to earn my interest and I don't just jump up and down because a black woman gets romantic attention. I am story first. Like I was into Scandal in the beginning because it was hot and smart then. I wasn't super invested because Olivia is swirling. It did make it interesting and different because of the dynamics of the show, but in the end I wasn't going to continue investment once the show lost my interest and I never became a super fan because, "hey look a black woman earned a white man's love/lust, go us!!!" Such devotion is a bit pathetic and one sided to me. I'm tired of black women looking desperate for adoration, especially from white men.
     
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  16. richonnelove

    richonnelove Ricktator

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    That is what I've been decrying has been missing. Michonne nor any poc have been allowed to make any dynamic moves to affect story arcs since her Governor arc in season 3 or saved the day for the group. Carol and Daryl are only ones given those saves by the way.

    It would be nice if Morgan, or Morgan and Carol are given the Kingdom leadership if Ezekiel bites the dust, instead of Carol alone ruling there. Since Hilltop will already have a woman leading with Maggie.
     
  17. lovingdead

    lovingdead The New Mrs. Grimes

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    This just made me think of something. Why is Maggie the ruler and not Glenn (I forgot Glenn may die). But even so, when Deanna chose Maggie to become a leader, I was like ok fine, but Glenn shows way more leadership ability. Why did he not get a significant role?I'm glad for Maggie having something to do and all, but still, Glenn has stepped up and led the group and been pivotal to missions. Maggie is a good fighter, but rarely have I seen her coordinate plans. Not sure if this is a cast aside the Asian guy for the white person thing but it seemed odd to me that Maggie was a standout with Deanna. If it was her choosing to trust Aaron initially, so did Sasha so I'm baffled.
     
  18. richonnelove

    richonnelove Ricktator

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    I am interested in story first. I am a romantic and will invest in a couples story if the couple is good imo. My favorite couple is Darcy and Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice and neither are a minority. Their story and chemistry is just off the charts good, lol.

    I never got into Scandal because I never saw a love story. I was happy for Kerry Washington getting a starring vehicle, but that story and show was just not for me.

    As for wanting black women to be valued on screen, I am all for it, regardless of the color of the suitor because for too long they were written one dimensionally as the nanny, the sassy best friend, the assistant. No need for love and rarely ever the leading lady. It was one of the reasons some were put off that Michonne would need a love life or it needed to be shown. They are not use to seeing it, especially with a woman with such definitive Africann/black features. The media has conditioned us well (including minorities) to not seeing black women as desirable and leading lady worthy. I am happy to see that changing if only by small degrees, but like you, I have standards and specific tastes in story telling so will support stories that appeal to my tastes and leave the others to be enjoyed by those who like them.
     
  19. lovingdead

    lovingdead The New Mrs. Grimes

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    When I first saw the sparks between Richonne, I saw it but at the same dismissed it because I didn't think the show would go there and the audience was ready for it. Then I saw them kind of leave it alone in my eyes and was like yep, that's what I thought, oh well, next. The media has conditioned people to not see a non-mixed, non-light black woman as a love interest. This is part of my championing of Richonne, but the overall reason is the richness of the story. If they just paired her with Rick to stir controversy without any true development or true chemistry I would say no thanks, next because it would be pandering, silly and contrived. Like i hate it when shows throw a white man at a black woman just to get attention and get p.c. cred, yet the pairing doesn't make sense. But Richonne is a truly deep relationship that was well earned. They gave Rick the option of a white woman and while he did pursue it, it never held a candle to the epicness of what he feels for Richonne. The thing is on a subconscious level where they playing with the notion that somewhere Rick wasn't seeing his love for her because he himself didn't process it as love because she is not who he ever would have imagined himself with despite his obvious attraction to her? Like I don't think Rick ever consciously thought, Michonne is black so it's not a possibility, but maybe his own conditioning made him subconsciously not see it, but with Jessie he never once paused even with her being married, him killing her husband and being at odds with her son. I give Rick lots of credit for never once having race factor into his leadership decisions. His crew is a rainbow tribe, but I do think he is human and this could be an underlying factor in this love story, not a dominant one, but it has been pointed out that ASZ drama was in effect Rick learning to rid himself of the roles prescribed to him by the old world and accepting a new world. It did hold great significance to me when you see him grabbing Michonne's locs from the walker. You barely ever see a white man touching a black woman's hair, especially locs. It was subtle but there was symbolism in the love and cultural acceptance displayed. That was his woman's hair and it was not Becky with the good hair's hair, haha. Beautiful.
     
  20. Gooey Goobert

    Gooey Goobert Relocating to The Kingdom
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    Maggie being a leader is to fulfill a plot point. I wish they would have laid out the pieces more since they are aware about her Hilltop storyline. Although, I can go back in the story and make a case for her having leadership qualities, I'm not sure what Deanna saw aside from plot point. They briefly touched on Glenn being leader in S3 and how he wasn't quite suited to that role, but Deanna wouldn't be aware of it.

    What's frustrating to me is how some of the POC characters aren't as intricately linked to the plot than some of the white characters. Doctor Grimes talked about how the white characters' background is linked to the story and how the POC background are often like throwaway fun facts. I'm just looking back at S6 and realizing how some of them are lacking storyline or are usually supporting to the white characters. Compare Michonne, Glenn, and Sasha to Maggie, Carol, and Abe (I left out Rick because he clearly will have a big role).