Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When White Supremacists Deconstruct The Walking Dead TV Show...

The only thing that sucked about The Walking Dead this season was the Asian nerd Glenn hooking up with Hershel’s daughter Maggie. That’s reportedly in the comic book though. Otherwise, it was interesting to watch the liberal world collapse and give way to the zero sum world of the zombie apocalypse. 
I think the liberal world will collapse one day, not from a zombie apocalypse, but because it is financially unsustainable due to global aging and changing racial demographics. There will be people like Dale who won’t survive The Day The EBT Card Stops Working. Their humanist principles will end up getting them killed. 
It is people like Merle and Daryl Dixon who will thrive in the zero sum world of the future. There will have to be leaders like Rick Grimes who are capable of making the tough decisions. It won’t be a liberal democracy. I think that is why The Walking Dead has proven to be so popular...We’re tired of the Dales of America. Men are tired of this world. Women are tired of it too.The Walking Dead captures the zeitgeist perfectly.
When I was in high school, a Visiting Fellow at Yale University who was a graphic artist and author came to talk to my English class. We asked him questions such as, "how do you get a job that sounds so cool and fun?" "What do you read? What is a typical day like?"

Our speaker offered answers that I have long since forgotten. But, he did say one thing that I still remember. The Fellow subscribed to various KKK newsletters and white supremacist publications. I was shocked. Why would a black man be reading this stuff? He answered that you have to know what your enemies are up to and how they see the world. You need to understand their twisted minds so that you can anticipate their next move. In all, people of color and other marginalized groups must understand the political imaginations of those who hate us.  To a 12 year old's ears and psyche, that was shocking advice. I value its wisdom to this day.

The season finale of The Walking Dead gave fans of the TV show (and comic) much of what they had been yearning for. There were zombies galore. The Governor is coming. The prison in on the horizon. And Michonne, iconic character that she is, has finally made her first appearance, katana in hand, with two zombies chained and in tow. Of course, T-Dog was still "T-Dog": a cowardly chauffeur for white women who wants to abandon the group, and that never gets to do anything of substance.

For most viewers, there was much to be pleased with in the The Walking Dead's second season finale. However, White Nationalists are decidedly mixed in their appraisal of the show.

The act of interpretation is everything for those of us who are critical students of popular culture. These types of analyses are inherently creative and inventive. The best involve theory building, a deep reading of a text, and a survey of genre (as well as the related literature). The worst types of cultural studies and semiotic work do none of these things: they are no more than intellectual scatology, "informed" opinions that abandon rigor in favor of high-minded intellectual navel gazing and mental masturbation.

Students often ask me, "if this is all an 'interpretation,' how do you separate the 'good' readings from the 'bad' ones? Why is your 'interpretation' more accurate or valid than ours?" My flippant answer is that I have been doing this longer, have read much more than you, and thought more deeply about these topics. My fair and more pedagogically sound answer is that you learn to separate the good from the bad through a survey of examples.

One of the strengths of interpretive/semiotic/textual analysis/discursive approaches to qualitative research in the social sciences and humanities is the breadth of possibility. This is a strength and a weakness. The former is embodied by folks like Hall, Butler, Lacan, Bakhtin, Laclau, Dyer, Lipsitz, Frith, Fiske, hooks, Foucault and others. The latter is exemplified by the fan boy rantings on websites and much of what counts as "cultural criticism" in the popular media.

Moreover, these epic failures in interpretation can also be productive teachable moments. When populist approaches run amok, and meaning is imposed on a text--as opposed to excised, pulled from, or intervened against--we can still learn a great deal about politics, and the ways that various publics and audiences understand popular culture as speaking both "through" and "to" them.

In our discussions of how race does a particular type of "work" in The Walking Dead TV series, many fans, and especially those of color, were troubled by the white-washing of the cast. Michonne had not yet made an appearance. T-Dog is a neutered, subservient, and quite literally muted, black male. Glenn is a model minority. As I wrote here, The Walking Dead television show is very much a drama which focuses on a crisis in white masculine authority. Consequently, black and brown folks are peripheral to its universe.

The White Nationalist and White Supremacist crowd have a different gaze. Our concerns about a lack of diversity and inclusion are their reasons for loving the show. We are happy to see an archetypical badass like Michonne finally introduced; they see this as unfortunate. The White Nationalists see "Jews" and "Zionists" everywhere in The Walking Dead; I am still struggling to make this discovery.

In much the same way that White racists are obsessed with the classic movie Planet of the Apes (what they suggest is a cautionary tale about white oppression), The Walking Dead television show has provided much fodder for their conspiranoid imaginations. It would appear that sometimes oppositional readings of a cultural text can go too far. What follows are some examples of the bastard stepchildren of the postmodern turn as seen on the website Occidental Dissent:


John says:
The civil rights of the zombies are being trampled on. One of them was an aspiring pilot. He wuz gunna lern him how t’ fly, Lordie.

“You should download the comic series. Much better than a Wiki. The Black stud (a staple of the Jewish imagination) was Mr. Articulate, Competent, Brave, Honorable, Eligible Bachelor; he’s just been left out and is nothing at all like T-Dog. Yes, Sophia’s mom is the one who threw herself at the him within five minutes of meeting him (really, it was a very Jewy moment).”

Ewww! I like Carol. One of you fellows, up the thread, wrote something along the lines of Carol being hot, even though her short greying hair creates a “You don’t know how old I am” vibe. The actress that plays Carol has lovely features, and a very youthful face, and she’s petite and cute. She’s all over Darryl – and the glorious, stunning, smoldering, functional, uber-fit, dead-on-target never misses, shoot your arrows at ME baby Natural Man Darryl, he of the sexy eyes, sexy, sexy irresistable eyes (I need to stop, here…) vs the fat boring useless Negro? “

I’m somewhat fascinated by the descriptions Svigor is providing, of the events and characterizations in the orignal comic book. Rather – I am fascinated by the revisions the changes the producers are making. Something’s afoot.
They change a “Handsome, Idealized” Negro male – which would have been so easy to re-create, into a boring, non-essential dullard Negro. Really -the Show Negro is Scarlet O’Hara’s Big re-born.
That’s interesting. He’s NOT getting any White meat ,thus far, either.
They CREATE 2 “redneck” male characters – one of whom sports SS lightening bolts, on his hog, and who is SO wildly popular (the LAST caller on the Talking Dead show last night was a youngish female, pleading for info on the Return of Merle) that they are bringing him back from the presumed Dead, even though he called a Nigger “Nigger” on air.
Hhhmmm………..
Denise says:
....FYI – Glenn’s a Korean cause the actor wot plays Glenn is a Korean. I do like the character. He’s the eager little Good Guy. I don’t hate him cause he’s a YellowMan. He’s OK. I think the glenn Maggie pairing is a screech, because they are so physically incongruous. Jack Ryan sez the actress wot plays Maggie is a Hebess – so I don’t care if it’s Hebe Yellow miscegenation.
I’m certain my TV husband Merle will back me up, on this one.
Svigor says:
They didn’t “change” the character. If anything, they replaced him, with a different character. T-Dog (played by IronE Singleton – empasis in original, can’t make this stuff up) is Theodore Douglas. The Black Stud in the comic is named Tyreese. He’s your typical boring, two-dimensional Black Hero (former NFL player, stud, and all-around great guy whose only “flaw” is not knowing how great he is). T-Dog is boring too, but as in plain-old boring, not OMG we’re afraid to do anything other than lionize Blacks boring.
If anything, Shane incorporated a lot of the elements of Tyreese’s character, what with being a rival for leadership, the guy Rick looked to first, etc. They got into a knock-down drag out fight, shortly before TSHTF and Tyreese bought the farm.
It’s not hard to understand. TV is quite conservative. Just as producers don’t want to offend SWPL sensibilities by ever (ever, ever) portraying Blacks negatively, or realistically, they don’t want to chase away White eyeballs with the monumentally offensive (to everyone but Jews and Black men) Blacks on Blondes thing. White people don’t admit it’s offensive to them, but it is, to all but a small minority.
Hell, even Jews know it’s offensive – ever seen a cute brunette coed riding a buck with a star of David around her neck? Didn’t think so.
And T-Dog isn’t going to get any White meat, either. If they wanted to throw him White meat, they would’ve chosen a different actor. One look at “IronE” and it’s obvious he’s not there for any romantic parts. One shot of him kissing anyone, much less a White woman, and ratings would drop like a stone...Doesn’t really count if she’s not sporting a star of David, or playing a Jewess. Especially not if she doesn’t look Jewish – and she doesn’t. Jews get a kick out of playing White roles and dragging them through the mud. But I agree, it isn’t offensive because the mass media hasn’t been waging a psyops campaign to put negroes in bed with White women for the last 50 years, and Yellow men are not credible threats to White men in the Testosterone/masculinity department; TV can make Black men seem intelligent by feeding them lines – they can’t make Yellow men seem more masculine.
Mosin Nagant says:
I predict it will decline as a fully multicultural soap opera.
RobRoySimmons says:
I think you theorizers should just drop a note to the producers asking them to include your version of what a real white man is. Or you could ask them if they are going to go PC with some race mixing BS.
Like Denise said in another thread these DWLs at least find our freedom exciting. How could they not, since its official doctrine that negroes are the equal of whites without a single scintilla of proof, but you better believe or else. Think of the hell that must be a DWLs soul.
Freedom Cobra says:
Does anyone know what make of motorcycle Daryl rides? It’s a mean machine.
Anywho, couple of random thoughts. “Mr.Yo” is one of the few cable drama fights where the White beats the black. As the show gets better the cast gets Whiter. Morales and his tribe take off. Gangsta’s with hearts of gold rot in the city with the old. Weren’t these the “people” we needed to import to pay for Grandma? An old negress immolates at CDC.
Shane was nice Union man. Shane would never let Rick and his family secede from him. Rick did anyway. A child of the South slew the Union’s ghost (er, zombie).

jack says:
Not to rain spoilers but I think a super negro is coming in the third season. Michonne is supposedly some Angry Sistah with a sword.

Svigor says:
SUPER POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT (from the comics): Michonne is a boring cardboard cutout character. She’s just your typical two-fer: invincible negress, and invincible butt-kicking-babe for the T-deficient nerd masses. She does very little of interest: (1) sucks off the negro who was shacked up with the blonde so the blonde could catch them in the act and dump the negro and then attempt suicide because once you’ve gone Black there is no substitute (2) throws herself at the negro, just as the blonde shiksa did, thus proving no woman can resist a negro (3) talks to herself, which leads to a bit of bonding with Ranger Rick, who carries a phone through which he talks to his dead wife (Lori gets eaten) (4) finally kills the governer, who raped and tortured her, after bungling the attempt the first go round. I can’t think of anything else interesting about her. I do know Kirkman keeps her around for a loooooong time.

4 comments:

ish said...

CDV did you see this?

http://io9.com/5894789/what-i-did-during-the-second-season-of-the-walking-dead-by-t+dog

JGreyden said...

Interesting comments. It's like those whites are counting points, and i guess every time some white gets first dibs or preferential treatment, then it's one for the team. Which should not be hard for this show, with so many white protagonists already.

In a weird and twisted way, it's kind of refreshing to see there are still whites that are acutely aware of PoC's presence and not gazing through them as if they were transparent or some wall painting.

I dropped the show when the CdC exploded... can't remember if that was last season finale or not. Plus i thought the show was too bland and stale.

I thought TDog was grotesque but since i didn't read the comic ,i did chalk it up for some bad writing. And bing! one year later, it finally hit home that his character was being neutered and neutralized by the scenarists, not withstanding the less than stellar performance of the black actor.

I-should-have-known-better ...*chuckles*

chaunceydevega said...

@Ish. That was funny. Thanks.

@JGreyden. White folks, white racists too, are hyper-aware of the presence of black and brown people. Never make that mistake.

fictional eyes said...

I am scared of/fascinated by open white racists. They say the shit that I know is on most white people's minds, but that decent white people criticize and challenge within themselves. It's weird: the classic "guilty white liberal" is much like the open racist. Just with... I don't know, more home training or something.

That said, I am kind of blown to the back of the room by a sudden revelation. A good friend of mine on FB is a black guy who came out as not being fond of Michonne. I suspect his reasons for hating Michonne are similar to these guys' reasons, but in a less nasty way... It's the Magical Tough Negress thing. I still say she's rare enough to enjoy. (My favorite was Mace from Strange Days.)

I remember feeling as if T-Dog must be the loneliest black man in the post-apocalypse. It must be a lot like being permanently at work. Surrounded by white folks. There's no way to explain to a white person what it feels like to be the sole person of color in a very white world. And no, being the one white guy in a room full of black folks just isn't the same... at least I wouldn't think so.