I came late to The Walking Dead party, like most TV shows I’m currently into. I usually wait until I’m told it’s great before I watch it, then pretend to be ahead of the curve and crow about it to others. With that in mind, I’d like to overanalyze and possibly misinterpret a few aspects of AMC’s hit zombie series. There’s going to be a few huge spoilers along the way though, so if you’re not totally up to speed with the show, don’t read on.
So, I have a problem with the way that The Walking Dead treats women, and the way that it seems to fetishize weapons. This was way more noticeable in the early days, and to be fair to the show, it’s a problem that has mostly been rectified. Mostly.
But first, take a look at the images below.
Click through them, take your time – I’d like you to tell me what aspect links those four pictures.
Yep, they each feature a single character, Rick Grimes, against a much larger backdrop. They’re alienating images, and once the entire show has finished you could no doubt analyze the size of Rick relative to the background with the events of that season. That’s not quite what we’re interested in here, but you’re in the right area.
You’ll notice there’s a visible weapon, more precisely a gun, on each incarnation of Rick. The promo materials for the first season explicitly linked the character of Rick, this mysterious (at that time) cop who rode a horse and carried a shotgun. If you remember, that horse figured hugely in the advertisements and the posters, and became an iconic image of the series as a whole. Rick would go on to drift further and further away from this as the shows went on, but in the beginning he was posited as a new Man With No Name. Here’s a shot from the very first episode:
You could ask anyone in the entire world what that figure is, and they will say that he is the hero. Why? Because he has a hat, a horse, and a giant gun. A gun so huge that you can see it protruding from his body (remind you of anything?) even though he is so far away. Note that no other part of his appearance is visible besides his weapon, his uniform, and most importantly, his hat. You could argue that it might be because they hadn’t cast the role when the poster was made. It’s certainly not an image from the comic, so that can be discounted. What’s important is this – he is a Man with a Giant Gun, and he will save the world. The path he walks is clear, as long as he has his weapon. But do you know what’s interesting? Throughout season one, Rick’s main weapon wasn’t a shotgun, it was his Colt Python.
He occasionally used a shotgun, but his main weapon was a Colt Python. Still is. So why use a shotgun in the promotional material if he’s not going to use it in the show? Because it’s bigger. It has more impact. It’s more visible. What I’m saying is that the creative team behind the show decided that, for whatever reason, Deputy Rick Grimes simply had to have a visible weapon. Why? Well, let’s try and work this out.