I was thinking about The Walking Dead this morning. As you do.
I was thinking about Axel, probably for the first time. Axel and Oscar are the two last surviving inmates from the prison that Rick’s group is inhabiting. I was replaying the last episode in my head where Axel is creepily chatting up young Beth. Carol interrupts him and ends up reassuring him that she isn’t a lesbian (I think I would have personally played along rather than invite unwanted attention from him). Then I wondered how he would feel when he found out the only other surviving inmate, Oscar, had died during the rescue of Maggie and Glen.
|T-Dog - we hardly knew ye|
The brain is a strange organ, it can make strange connections. For some reason I went from Axel becoming the last prison inmate to the fact that Oscar was black. I then counted the number of main black characters in The Walking Dead. There’s:
- Jacqui who died in season 1, choosing to die in an explosion rather than continue as a post apocalyptic survivor,
- T-Dog who died a heroic death in season 3 without any character development whatsoever,
- Oscar who died a hero, rescuing two people he hardly knew, in season 3,
- and Michonne.
Of course, two new black characters were introduced in the same episode that we lost Oscar. Tyreese. Another staple character from the comic books. And of course his promising, out spoken sister.
Now, of course, the writers haven’t done this intentionally. I’ve simply noticed something that is purely coincidental, I’m sure. It’s not like every other character in the programme is caucasian. There are plenty of ethnicities, a whole beautiful rainbow of skin colour. But have you noticed that the only main characters developed with any true depth that aren’t caucasian are Glen and, potentially, Michonne?
|Merle and T-Dog in season 1|
This rose the ugly concept of racism in my head and the long standing argument of racism in casting. Which took me neatly back to The Walking Dead and Merle Dixon. This is something that has bothered me throughout season 3 so far, as I try and figure Merle out. Since his introduction in season 1 he has been described as the racist, redneck brother of Daryl. A description most apt considering the first time we met him he said some truly racist comments to T-Dog and then beat him to a pulp.
So I expected him to be similar in season 3. Working as the Governor’s lieutenant, he is in charge of and surrounded by men of different ethnicities and he treats them no differently to his white colleagues (in that he lords it over them and kills them at whim).
At first I put this down to the Governor. The Governor has found a way of controlling Merle, I thought. This is an example of just how scary the Governor is – Merle fears him. This theory was knocked when Merle began lying to the Governor and going behind his back.
|The fantastic Michonne|
So perhaps Merle has been misjudged. Maybe he isn’t racist, maybe he just has a foul mouth and enjoys being in charge? Or he’s ignorant. As I’ve said previously, he and Daryl are of the same blood. Daryl was ignorantly racist in season 1 but is also open minded enough to accept people who are different if they prove themselves to be brave and hard working enough to survive. Surely Merle is the same, just older with those ignorant ways more deeply ingrained in his personality?
My mind then did a massive leap from The Walking Dead and racism and to my own writing. I counted how many ethnicities I had in my two current novels. None. And I mean none. No white skin, black skin or brown skin. Not really. I think I’ve only described one character as being tanned, suggesting a white skin that has been out in the sun too long, and that’s Bane in my Formerly-Silver novel. To be honest, the skin colour of my other characters is utterly open to suggestion and I hope that any casting directors will take that into consideration when they make a multi-million earning franchise out of my novels (hint hint).
In the meantime, let's hope that Michonne and Tyreese are signs of change. Let's hope that the writers decide to give these characters the development they deserve. They nearly did it with T-Dog, there was potential there as he used Merle's antibiotics to treat a near fatal wound in season 2 and...oh...that was it...