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Feminism and the weapon-wielding women of The Walking Dead: spoiler alert

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With season 4 of the Walking Dead on its way, we look back at some of the female characters of the previous season and talk about their use of weapons

Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons

The countdown is coming to a close for AMC’s The Walking Dead Season 4 premiere on Sunday 13th, and I’m  super excited to see one of my favorite shows on screen again (especially since the end of Breaking Bad and Dexter). To celebrate Season 4 of The Walking Dead, I’ve decided to do a little feministing about two female characters on the show, Andrea and Michonne. Love them or hate them, these women have awesome weapon-wielding power.

But why focus on weapons you ask?

Well, to put it simply and without diving into a whole lot of critical theory, (see Freud and Butler for that), in our male dominated society, men are usually the sole owners and wielders of weapons. Thus, when we see women owning and using these weapons it can be read as a transgressive act.

Unfortunately, like many shows, TWD shies away from giving women too much power and many of the female characters are alarmingly problematic. Whatever, let's take a  look at the women who wield weapons. 

Let's get started with Andrea.

Image taken from http://walkingdead.wikia.com

Andrea is portrayed in somewhat of a negative light in the beginning of the series. After her sister, Amy, is killed by a zombie (walker), and Andrea's suicide attempt, viewers seemed frustrated with her. However, by Season 2 she was up and running again, and she was the only female character to actively look for survival training (which she finally gets from Shane). After becoming more than competent with a gun, Andrea begins to take up such duties that had been the sole domain of men previously. 

But even though Andrea discards old gender norms, there are others who desperately hang on to them.  In one  scene Andrea is keeping watch for walkers by sitting on top of the camper van with a gun, (a typically male-dominated position that ensures the safety of the camp). As Lori passes Andrea while doing her own chores, she remarks that Andrea is simply “working on her tan” instead of doing any real work. What’s particularly interesting and frustrating here is that none of the men are ever judged for taking on this responsibility, but on the contrary, they are valued for it. Hello double standards. But still, at least Andrea's fighting the good fight.

However, the fight doesn't last long before Andrea is undermined and her power and ability to use a gun is called into question. This all occurs within a very cleverly constructed scene when Andrea spots what she thinks is a walker coming towards camp through a nearby field. Instead of doing what she has been trained do, which is to warn the others and try to take care of the walker silently so as not to draw any more to the camp, she shoots at it. Then, as it turns out, it’s not a walker but Daryl.  But don't worry, she’s missed him. But the whole scene can only be read as a “ha ha,  this is what happens when you give women weapons”.

Image taken from funnyjunk.com

REALLY? And, up until then, we were doing so well... 

(1) Comments

ejhickey October 14th 2013 | 12:12 PM

i find it a little ironic that this story is pulished in the Observer immediately after a story about a women who was brutally beaten and raped in East Vancouver.   Maybe if this woman had been carrying a weapon and acted like Michonne the outcome would have been different