A Spoilery Look at TWD’s Lori and Andrea

Posted: March 20, 2013 in Books, Criticism, Television
Tags: , , ,

I had initially intended this post to be a compare/contrast piece for the graphic novels and TV adaptation of The Walking Dead. Anyone who’s read the graphic novels and watched the show knows why this has become a bit of a problem—they are so completely different. Well, not completely. But close.

Instead, I’ll take a common thread from each and take a closer look: Lori and Andrea.

Oh, also: SPOILERS!

The portrayals of these two women are so shockingly different between the books and the show. In terms of horror genre conventions, the show forces these two characters into more conservative tropes. Lori, especially, is cast unambiguously into the role of the Whore. The drama between Lori, Rick, and Shane is present in both the books and the show, but the show really draws it out, for understandable reasons (i.e., ratings). However, the Lori of the graphic novels only strays the once and is reluctant thereafter, even before Rick returns; the Lori of the TV show enjoys her adultery a bit longer and then wavers even after Rick comes back. The Lori who is more loyal to her husband gets to die the death of an unarmed woman trying to save the infant in her arms (I WAS NOT OKAY WITH THIS SCENE); the story can’t even wait for the innocent Judith* to be fully born before killing the Lori who wavers.

Oh, and let’s not forget that her marriage to Rick is in shambles just before she dies because her having an affair is just absolutely unforgiveable, and of course it’s all on her. Meanwhile, their marriage in the graphic novels is relatively fine and they even communicate—in a roundabout way—that an infidelity was committed and is still more or less water under the bridge. In one, Lori is singlehandedly responsible for the ruin of their marriage (despite the scene in the first episode where Rick describes the trouble they’re having) and of the friendship that once existed between Shane and Rick; in the other, she’s a devoted wife who made a mistake and atones for it through both her actions and her communication(ish) with her husband.

Essentially, the television show has disallowed Lori her complexity (including a complex sexuality) and decides to have her death be a punishment. She’s denied her martyrdom as a loving mother and emotionally faithful wife.

And then there’s Andrea.

I love the Andrea of the books. I hate the Andrea of the show.

Mostly, I hate her because she’s just so unbelievably—and inconsistently—stupid. On top of that, she’s one of the few characters to be vocally feminist and to insist on being able to protect herself and to be more than a cook or laundress. I don’t like that pairing of characteristics. Frankly, it’s garden-variety, bullshit misogyny**.

The Andrea of the books is valued for what she is: the best shot in the group. The difference—and this is an important difference—is that this egalitarian state is more or less unremarked upon. She’s the best. She gets to be the sniper. Why are we still talking about this?

I had hope for the Andrea of the show when she picked up a gun and demanded Shane teach her how to use it. I assume her time with Michonne (on the show) was an interesting story of two women fending for themselves, protecting and caring for one another in world gone to shit. Who wants to see that? Let’s start the season with Andrea sick and dying and then falling rapidly into the delusion that Woodbury and the Governor (seriously, who the fuck takes that moniker without just a touch of megalomania—wake up, Andrea!) are just peachy keen. Given the show’s penchant for killing off characters who betray trust (in this case, Andrea has betrayed the entire group, but most notably Michonne), I would be downright shocked if Andrea lived past this season. She’s still going strong where I am in the books (right now, I’m to where Douglas just buried his wife and conceded authority to Rick).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the graphic novels are a paragon of how to write non-het-cis-able-white males into a zombie apocalypse, but I am saying it’s leaps and bounds ahead of the show (especially in the “able” category, which I might explore more in a future post). I believe this to be true; I also know that the audience for the graphic novels is miniscule next to the audience for the show. The message I get from the disparity between the two, then, is this: “More people will be okay with seeing women in weak, stupid, punished roles than will be okay with seeing them in unremarked-upon, valuable roles.” I do not like this message at all***.

*Did anyone else pick up on Judith sharing a name with one of the more badass women from the Bible who also just happens to be in the beheading-the-enemy business?

**In my opinion, Michonne and Carol are the only two characters saving that show from having a very prominent message of, “Women screw things up and are only good for making sammiches.”

***BUT I’M STILL OBSESSED WITH THE SHOW.

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