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It is no secret to those who know me that I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead. I was intrigued when I watched the pilot several years ago. As the seasons progressed, I was hooked. I liked the horror, action, and drama. I also became more interested in the female characters and how they were developed.
I hope that screenwriters and movie-makers take note-women and girls love fully developed, strong female characters.
WHAT ARE STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS?
Strong female characters have autonomy. They think and speak clearly for themselves with their own ideas and opinions. They have more dialogue; more words and increased interactions with more people. Rather than superficial shells, they display complexity in how they live their lives. They have character flaws, they evolve with character development arcs, and they have prominence in the telling of a story. Strong female characters are relatable, with shades of grey, because gender roles and women’s issues are not always black and white.
Strong female characters do not have to be lead characters. For Seasons 1-9, Rick Grimes was the central focus of The Walking Dead. TWD is proof that women can play supporting roles and still be “strong.” Their strength comes from being multi-dimensional, layered, and nuanced. I am sure that you will agree that Michonne, Carol, Sasha, and Maggie are characters that all have their fair share of issues. However, throughout the series, we have been rooting for them to live, overcome, and succeed.
The women in TWD are ordinary women who have been thrust into an apocalyptic world that they are forced to adapt to. Many viewers like seeing themselves, characters and plots that remind them of their girlhood and womanhood experiences. We like diversity and body positivity. We enjoy seeing women and girls being brave and courageous, overcoming obstacles, exhibiting special talents and abilities, or having unique experiences.
All of our survivors are fighters. Importantly, The Walking Dead traumatizes both genders equally. The women in TWD experience trauma but are not solely defined by these experiences. Carol, for example, was abused by her husband and lost her daughter, yet evolved to be a fierce warrior who fights with mind-her battles display how smart and cunning she can be against multiple enemies at the same time. After losing a child, her boyfriend, and Rick, Michonne has two children and guards the lives of her family and the Alexandria community with gusto. She redefines modern womanhood by being the head of the security council and raising Judith and RJ by day while making time to fulfill her need to slice walker heads in half by night. Having superhero abilities and fighting skill is not required, however, who doesn’t enjoy watching Michonne yield her katana with grace and deadly consequence?
In addition, we see sisterhood in The Walking Dead. With a few exceptions, the women of TWD understand and demonstrate the power of teamwork. Instead of portraying our survivors as enemies of each other who fight and stab each other in the back, they are more enlightened women who coming together to uplift one another, focusing on strengths instead of differences. Even Sasha and Rosita got over their issues to fight Negan. When women come together, we can move mountains. Or fight the Governor, the Saviors, and the Whisperers.
When women support each other, we also build resilience. Resilience is what takes us away from being immersed in the experience of trauma and allows us to move on with other aspects of our lives. There is a lot of trauma in a zombie apocalypse. Husbands, boyfriends, children, friends, and others are killed. In The Walking Dead, you see them differ in opinion and you also see women advocate for each other. It is not about who is right or wrong, but respecting different ways of thinking and leading.
They make mistakes. Sometimes, it is the journey, not the outcome, that is most intriguing and heartfelt.
By going through these experiences together, they form an impenetrable bond while also helping to heal themselves.
Kudos to Angela Kang, Gale Anne Hurd, the writers, and all of the skilled actresses of The Walking Dead! Whether the work is fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting for a web, television, or film project, take notes on how the women in The Walking Dead are developed and portrayed. We all like reading stories with strong female characters that are real, informative, reflective, inspiration, and aspirational.