[The whole TWD blogging series is here.]

So, when we last discussed TWD, several things had happened:

Woodbury had collapsed, Andrea had died, and the Governor had abandoned his survivors. This was all part of the Battle of the Patriarchs.

Anyhoo, the Governor got rid of the handful of other dudes who had escaped with him and was supposed to have some sort of reflective travel thingie until he found a family with two sisters and their elderly father, and the daughter of one of the women. Amazingly, this small group had managed pretty well on their own up to that point, but, as soon as the Governor shows up, the little ladies become powerless, for instance, in getting the elderly man to bed or get him his oxygen tanks. They needed manly rescuing.

After convincing the women that their place, which had been safe so far, no longer is, they all go on the road, under the safe leadership of the Governor (because, really, that’s what women want). They find another group. The Governor kills the current leaders (so much for the whole crisis of conscience thing), takes over (because he’s The Man), and decides to go attack the prison where Grimes and his group are still holed up.

Meanwhile, Grimes is still a horrible leader. When Carol tries to teach the children how to defend themselves (a perfectly reasonable thing to do), Carl sees her, and she tells him not to tattle on her to her dad… because Grimes is a horrible leader but somehow, that never gets questioned. Follows a weird flu epidemic that conveniently kills the rescued members of Woodbury.

The worst of the last season was definitely when Grimes decides, all by himself, to exile Carol because he thinks she killed some of the flu sufferers, including Tyrese’s girlfriend (hence another episode of macho nonsense, with some “let him hit me” stuff, and Tyrese making the other men promise to find who killed her). So, while on a supply round, again, Carol shows she understands what situation they’re in pretty realistically (after the death of a young couple they encountered), and it’s not pretty. This solidifies Grimes’s belief that he has the right to just kick her out of the group. When he gets back to the prison, no one questions him, which is really completely barf-worthy considering the season opener last Sunday.

twd2Then, the prison gets attacked and is set on fire. The one highlight of the season is Hershel’s killing. Big fist fight between the patriarchs, where Grimes gets all bloody, in addition to his being sweaty and gross all the time. In the chaos, the group disperses, and for the rest of the season, we’ll follow the separate groups: Carl, Michonne, and a totally beat up Grimes (whose leadership is inexplicably restored the minute he starts to fee better), then Daryl and Beth (who gets kidnapped by a group of gross dudes), then Maggie, Bob, and Sasha (and with this group, we learned that black lives are less important than white lives, when Bob decides to go with Maggie and abandon Sasha). Tyrese ends up with the girls from the prison, Grimes’s baby, and they end up with Carol, who is left with the task of killing one of the girls who have become, well, insane, and can no longer be trusted to harm them.

Along the way, they pick up a few extra people: a big dude who protects a mullet dude who supposedly has the cure for the plague and needs to get to DC, and a couple of women from the previous group that attacked the prison.

twd1Separately, they are all following signs to Terminus, a supposed sanctuary, which turns out, surprise surprise, to not be that at all! The season begins after they have all been captured by the cannibalistic Terminus people, who used to be good guys, but then, bad guys came and took over Terminus. They took it back and turned bad guys themselves.

The big moral lesson of the opener is that, basically, there are no more boundaries between good guys and bad guys. Everybody is equally awful.

The whole episode is Grimes’s group’s escape from Terminus (in large part, thanks to Carol), killing a whole bunch of Terminus people. Grimes is still as awful a leader as he was before: after their escape, he wants to return to finish them all off. At least, the others dare tell him it’s a bad idea.

But, of course, because it’s TWD, there has to be some patriarchal BS: remember, they escaped thanks to Carol’s intervention (Carol is turning in to the most badass character of the show, without the credit from the other characters). When she is reunited with the group, she cautiously approaches while keeping her distance. We get a big moving reunion with Daryl. And Grimes, asshole that he is, says “did you do that?” (meaning, set Terminus on fire, which allowed their escape), and hugs and thanks her when it becomes clear that she did. Somehow, he has given her her seal of acceptance in the group (patriarchal acceptance is needed), and the others come and greet her as well.

I am waiting to see if the rest of the show will address her shabby treatment in the previous season and if Grimes feels at any point he has to make amends for kicking her out of the group.

But why anyone would still defer to Grimes is beyond me.

Last year, I posted about the first season of In The Flesh, a BBC zombie show that I liked quite a bit. Season 2 finished airing on BBC America last week and it is still very good. Season 1 was only three episode-long, but season 2 has six episodes, so, it allowed a more complex and multi-dimensional storyline as well as more character development.

[Spoilers included]

Season 2 picks up a little later and is marked by backlash on both sides of the issue. On the one hand, the living are no longer as frightened of the PDS sufferers as they were in season 1, and that leads to both interpersonal and political backlash, with the rise of the UKIP-type political party, Victus. Hence the arrival of the new Victus MP for Roarton, Maxine Martin, one of the new characters for this season.

The rhetoric of the party is very fascist and soon after her arrival, MP Martin starts registering PDS sufferers, and later on forcing them in to the new Give Back scheme, a forced labor program, supposedly designed to make PDS sufferers “repair” some of the damage they did during their time as zombies.

Why would they participate? Because concurrently, their basic civil rights have been suspended, and, supposedly, they can only get them back after completing the Give Back. Needless to say, this is a system of exploitation and abuse that generates resentment on the part of the PDS sufferers.

And, of course, no discrimination and stigmatization scheme would be complete without a visual status signal. So, it’s not a yellow star, obviously, but the orange vest that tells the world that one is a PDS sufferer working on the Give Back scheme, which makes enforcement of all the restrictions easier.

That resentment is then used to unofficially reactivate the Human Volunteer Force (under a new name) to enforce the Give Back scheme. That scheme is hilariously presented in all its hypocrisy, with fancy brochures and cheesy DVD presentation to the community. Also, most of the PDS sufferers are made to work building a fence whose purpose is not yet really known. And, of course, one of the rules is to use lenses and make-up. PDS suffered are forbidden from leaving their present location (so, no trip to Paris for Kieren). Any deviation from the rules marks the PDS sufferer as non-compliant, which can lead to their return to the treatment center.

On the other side, there has been radicalization on the part of the PDS sufferers as well, with the introduction of a social movement organization, the Undead Liberation Army (ULA), that conducts terrorist attacks, using a substance called “Blue Oblivion” that temporarily returns the PDS sufferers to their zombie state.

The ULA is led by a mysterious “prophet” (whom we do not see during this season) who appoints people to lead PDS rebellion in various areas. That is how another new important character shows up in season two, Simon, “the Irish” as some Roarton denizens call him. This dual radicalization (Victus v. ULA) has religious undertones on both sides, and the show treats religious fanaticism as inherently violent.

Whereas fear was still somewhat present in season 1, it is mostly mutual hostility that sets the tone of season 2, which is much darker than its predecessor and the entire season leads up to an ultimate confrontation by religious fundamentalists from both sides, exposing the absurdity of their beliefs.

Season 2 is also marked by the disappearance of older patriarchal figures, and their replacement by different, more diverse figures. Last season ended with the death of HVF leader, Bill Macey, shot dead by Ken Burton, who, himself is killed in an ULA attack in the first episode of season 2. Later on, Vicar Oddie, a big anti-PDS agitator, dies of a heart attack (and MP Martin could have helped him but decided to do nothing, in effect, letting him die). So, three old white men are out. Enters the black female MP (Martin). And then, younger characters take more center stage: Phil Wilson (the young town councillor who used to take his marching orders from Vicar Oddie, and now from MP Martin… up to a point), Gary Kendall (the new HVF leader who claims for himself the rank of captain), Simon (of the ULA), and Kieren Walker and Amy Dyer, of course.

In this season, the themes of the previous one (stigmatization) are still here, but the in-group / out-group dynamics are much more salient and obvious. Living and PDS sufferers position themselves in opposition to each other, extremist living not longer considering PDS sufferers as humans, and extremist PDS sufferers rejecting the label and considering themselves a kind of superior race to the living. How these distinctions and ideologies are created, sustained, amplified, and transmitted is the most interesting part of this season.

There is one narrative thread that is started in season 2, and, is one the most promising for season 3 (hopefully, there will be season 3): the two doctors that created the drug that keeps PDS sufferers from “turning rabid” also created the pharmaceutical company that mass produces it. In the last episode, the government agents are sent to Roarton to collect someone (we never know who it is until the very end) but we don’t know why. That government / corporate storyline will hopefully be developed more in season 3, as there are references throughout the season, to experiments (torture, really) conducted on PDS sufferers at treatment centers (Nazi experiments, anyone?).

In all, it is hard to avoid the comparisons with the rise of fascism and seeing the PDS sufferers as the racial/ethnic target of hatred, along with their economic exploitation, and the curtailing of their rights. It is hard not to think about the current situation in Europe, with the rise of far-right / fascist parties all over the EU.

There are also still interpersonal storylines going on throughout the season, that add a human (see what I did there?) dimension to the socio-political aspects.

I like the way that Kieren’s homosexuality is treated as a non-issue in itself, and so, his burgeoning affair with Simon is only a story because because of Amy’s crush on Simon, or the fact that Simon is then tasked by the Undead Prophet to kill Kieren. There is the Amy / Philip story, the Jem / Gary / Henry storyline, and a series of other secondary characters that really add texture to the entire series.

I highly recommend it.

A while back, Dave Mayeda posted a great series of posts applying sociological theories of deviance to the TV show The Wire. So, I just thought I’d list them all here so you can all go read them as they were really great.

While I’m at it, I might as well link to my previous posts on The Walking Dead (in chronological order, from oldest to most recent):

It’s been a while since I have blogged about The Walking Dead (well, since last season). So, half of season 4 has come and gone and it’s time to review what, I think, has been the most consistent thread of the show: its misogyny. Fear not, unlike most of the human population, in TWD, misogyny is alive and kicking and it was on special display this half-season.

Last season ended with one of the best and most mistreated female character, Andrea, dying after the collapse of Woodbury. The Governor decided to evacuate, then massacred most of his followers and took off with a bunch of his lieutenants. The survivors were rescued by Grimes group and brought to the prison. That is where the new season picks up. We don’t know what happened to the Governor but Michonne is looking for him. Ok. So, now the prison has a bunch more people and children. It is pretty obvious that they are all non-entities, therefore, most likely, they will meet a red shirt fate.

walking-dead_3But there is this thing: Carol plays teacher to the bunch of kids the group has inherited. But in addition to storytime, the kids (boys AND girls) get training in weapon use, because, you know, it’s a useful skill to have in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Enters the sociopath-in-chief, Carl, and Carol is quick to tell him “don’t tell your father”… Why? Grimes (whose death I would pray for at every episode if I were the religious kind) would, of course, not approve, and even though he’s no longer technically in charge, well, the patriarch’s opinion still matters more than a woman’s action (more on that later).

Of course, we all remember that Grimes did not want grown women to have guns, in the earlier seasons, but was ok for Carl to learn to use them (with the results we know).  It’s the men’s job to do the protection thing, as Lori used to remind Andrea in Season 2. And, of course, we all know that Carl will tattle. At the same time, it is pretty clear that Carol is in love with Daryl. Whether that’s fully reciprocated is not clear.

As you remember, when the show started, Carol was a battered wife, weak and submissive. At the show progresses, and after the death of her daughter, and especially this season, Carol has become a much stronger character. She seems to have figured out what times like these require and is no-nonsense about it. She’s becoming a leader, preparing the kids for their future when the current adults are gone, one way or the other.

Well, of course, we can’t have that.

Some flu-like bug infects the prison and secondary characters die like flies, including Karen, Tyreese’s girlfriend, who gets attacked by post-infection zombie after refusing to have sex with Tyreese (see what happens to women who don’t submit their male superiors?). Karen will later be murdered by some mysterious killer (along with another sick and close to death “patient” and their bodies burned. The fate of his property girlfriend will drive Tyreese to a fit of rage (even though the super-flu was guaranteed to kill Karen and turn her into a walker). Note: when Grimes discovers the crime scene, he sees a bloody handprint that is child-size (hint!!).

But, he confronts Carol and she confesses to the murders and provides a very rational explanation: they were going to die anyway, they were contagious and putting others in danger. But that’s a problem because the other men have promised Tyreese swift punishment for whoever committed the murders.

CarolBut, and this is one of the most vile moment of the show, even though it’s pretty clear Carol is taking the wrap for someone else, Grimes is an idiot, and, on their next supply run, he makes the unilateral decision to send Carol into exile, back into the zombie apocalypse, on her own (but she has a car and supplies!).

That is one of the most disgusting patriarchal plot of the show, and it is pretty clear that Carol is being exiled as potentially competitive leader, what with all her work with the children. And in TWD, women can’t be leaders. Even if Carol had killed the sick people, Grimes and the others have done way worse (including, for Grimes, killing Carol’s zombified daughter).

Throughout that supply run, Grimes keeps quizzing Carol. And when they run into a couple of other people, young man and woman who offer to help, Carol is the one who accepts and Grimes refuses, but she prevails. That means, of course, that decision will necessarily turn out to be a bad one, for which Grimes will blame her. And, as they wait for the young man to return, it is Carol who is rational about the fact that they need to leave, he’s probably dead and they need to get back to the prison. After all, if the young man and woman had listened to Grimes instead of Carol, they might have survived (how did they survive all along??). But Grimes uses that as his final reason to exile her.

Interestingly enough, somehow, he, alone, gets to make that decision, without the council that was created at the prison and that was supposed to handle all the decision-making. What follows is even worse: as people at the prison learn of Carol’s exile, none of them basically care, not even Daryl. No one question’s Grimes prerogative to have made such a unilateral decision. No one wants explanations beyond Grimes’s version of events. Patriarchal words carry all the power and no questions are asked.

So, that is the first patriarchal and misogynistic thread of this half-season. The second one has to do with the return of the Governor.

Lilly TaraWhen last season ended, the Governor and his acolytes just drove into the sunset. When we pick up, the Governor has been abandoned by them. He wanders all alone, long hair, beard, etc. Until he meets a small family of two sisters (Lily and Tara), their elderly, sick and dying father, and one of the sister’s daughter (Meghan, can this be even more heavy-handed).

We might as well name that storyline “the miracle of the patriarchy”. For instance, obviously, these two sisters have done pretty well for themselves so far, what with surviving this whole mess, keeping their father alive, and living in relative comfort. But somehow, as soon as the Governor (renamed Brian) shows up, the sisters become all powerless to do the things they obviously had to have been doing all along, like putting the disabled old man to bed, getting him a re-supply of oxygen, etc. All of a sudden, they need a man to do all the basic survival stuff (kinda reminiscent of the young man and woman in the previous thread). Not only that, but the little girl, Meghan, is described by her mother as not very talkative, but opens to the Governor. Is there anything that a patriarch can’t do?

Anyhoo, even though, they seem to have a stable situation, the sisters decide they need to leave and have the Governor guide them to wherever, after the old man’s death (you would think that would make their situation easier, but go figure). No surprise, Lilly and the Governor start having an affair. And, of course, the sisters turn out to suck at walking away from a decent place, one twists her ankle, so, of course, the Governor has to save the little girl. Really, women can’t do anything right.

As they meet the former acolytes of the Governor, and a group of survivors they have teamed up with (how original), the Governor returns to his murderous, pathological self and takes over the crew because that cannot be left to a bunch of Latinos. Long story short, the Governor wants the prison and riles up the crowd to get them to agree to go take it.

They go, mini-war starts where the Governor’s group uses a tank, thereby demolishing the very prison they want to occupy, which makes a lot of sense.

Interestingly enough, Tara, the soldier sister, turns out to be lesbian (and her lover is also ex-military… geez), but, despite her military experience and training, turns into a puddle of fear at the first exchange of shots. It’s so ridiculous.

But the main point of this whole plot is this: CLASH OF THE PATRIARCHS, that is, Grimes and the Governor having themselves a real man fight, with no weapons, just fists, dammit, because that is how real men fight each other. That is what this entire half-season has been about.

The only good thing about this half-season: Hershel is dead, thank goodness. No more pompous pontificating.

But as I mentioned, the misogyny of the show, unfortunately, is alive and well.

By SocProf.

There are some good points in this speech and it makes a good, relatively short, video to show in class and that would probably trigger discussion with students. But, I confess to not liking the whole TED “let’s make it cool, yo” (and she does actually say “yo” in the video) attitude.

Also, a quick read of Karen Sternheimer‘s Celebrity Culture And The American Dream would have told her that the “celebrity and motherhood” trope is not new exactly new.

But anyway, see for yourself: