The women of The Walking Dead used to have a lack of control in their destiny, things just happened to them. Beth was relegated to holding baby Judith and jumping in to provide some snippets of humanity between machetes-to-the-head and cold-blooded killings. Maggie is forced to strip off her clothes, no doubt to show the kind of man The Governor is, but it is Glenn who says he will kill the Governor and claim her revenge. Carol is a victim of domestic abuse and a shadow in the background for most of the beginning, usually washing clothes or cooking the meals. Lori and Andrea are arguably two of the only women that do anything in the first few seasons in terms of trying to exert some control over the situation. Lori exercises control by manipulating the men in her life, and Andrea attempts to broker a peace between Woodbury and the prison. Yet both were so poorly written and unlikeable, that the audience wanted them dead. While many characters on the show are not exactly friend material, it is concerning for female geeks like myself when half the women on this highly-watched show were loathed and the other half were forgettable.
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Beth proves herself to be tough and capable, not only surviving the sinister hospital, but also by saving Noah’s life not once, but twice. Beth is an example of how you don’t have to be a sword master, blow up a building, or take on masculine characteristics to be tough. Her strength lies in her unwavering beliefs and the sacrifices she makes for the ones she cares about. She carried several episodes, a 180 degree turn from her role in earlier seasons. Her death in the mid-season finale was a sudden blow, especially to those who thought she had more room to grow. However, while previous characters such as Lori and Andrea died due to factors outside of their control, Beth died by directly attacking a police officer to save Noah’s life. It wasn’t her time, but these are improvements we hope they continue to build on in the second half of season 5.
Sasha is a former firefighter, gains and loses a romantic interest within two episodes, and still presses on. Her relationship with Bob was a bit of a contrived plot device, but as a welcome change, she isn't the one dying to further the male character's storyline. Even Rosita, with minimal lines of dialogue, still stands up to Abraham on the way to D.C. Instead of having things happen to these women, these women make things happen and are continuing to advance the plot. It’s an optimistic turn for a show that has just signed on for 12 seasons.
All I have to say is go for it, AMC! We need to see women who are strong in multiple ways. We need to see women who have control, even in a world filled with the undead. Write women who are only afraid of their own vulnerability and women who have never wavered in their compassion. Write women who don’t need a man and women who would do anything to be with theirs. Write women who are now the butcher after being the cattle. Because even in a fictional zombie apocalypse, the audience needs to see real women.