Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wonder Women: Lori Grimes & Andrea

Character Lori Grimes Andrea
Zombies? Check. Guts and blood? Check. Andrew Lincoln looking hot? Check. Oh yeah, what else does The Walking Dead have: kick-ass women. BOOHYAH.

If there's one thing the zombie apocalypse breeds other than walkers, it's survivors, people who rise or fall to the challenge of learning new skills, losing their loved ones, making kick-ass walker kills, and waging wars against their enemies. These characters may be damsels and in distress, but they can handle themselves.

This first part of Wonder Women: The Walking Dead series will cover two controversial figures, Lori Grimes and Andrea. Nobody on the show is perfect, and frankly, the show's writing can be imperfect too. With this in mind, we're taking a look at how a lack of development affected these characters and if there's more to these women beyond their acquired love-hate relationships from critics and fans.

More parts celebrating other women will be coming along shortly with Maggie and Beth Greene, Sasha Williams, and Michonne. Beyond that, if I keep going, will cover Rosita, Tara, Jessie, Denise, and Deanna. Let me know what you think and hope you enjoy!

The first season's gender politics strongly echoes the 1950s. Once upon a time, women fortified makeshift homes in the forest while the men did all the dirty zombie work. Within the original Atlanta group, everyone had their place. As far as the front lines were concerned it was a man's world while the housewives didn't have anything to worry about. But the job came with more strife than anyone could imagine.

Much to the disagreement of The Walking Dead fandom, as the First Lady of Atlanta, Lori Grimes did her best to balance "being in the kitchen", supporting her fellow women, and contend with her husband Rick and her ex-lover Shane.

Love permeated the Grimes family but it was also complicated as hell. There's no doubt about that as Lori struggled in her marriage and how to raise her child. She was the backbone of Rick's sanity, his rises and falls as a leader and the spark of who Carl would grow up to be.

But a major source of tension with the reception of Ms. Grimes as a character was her affair with her husband's best friend Shane. An affair is nothing to get up in arms about for the most part. But how the writers handled this made her receive more vitriol than the series' worst villains.

Rick and Shane were often at odds not only in how to handle the group's safety and survive on a day-to-day basis. When they are at odds about whether to go to Fort Benning or the CDC, both of them want Lori's approval. Shane continuously brings up her marriage to Lori and calls her support of him being the dutiful wife. But Lori is firm that people can make up their own minds on what to do next without bringing up her marriage, a habit he needed to break but never could.

Shane is not the cool anti-hero fans make him out to be, though he has a lot of layers of even the biggest villains. Shane deals with women in his relationships or one-night stands like objects. His very intro as a character is sitting with Rick on a lunch break in their patrol car, complaining that a "pair of boobs" leaves every light on in the house but is the same "stupid bitch" to talk about global warming. When he describes how she tries to defend herself, he calls it the "exorcist voice". This nature doesn't start at Lori, but moves onto Andrea as well, using Amy's death to fire her up to hit her target practice; it's vile and done in anger, only to get a reaction and stay in control. Sure, guys will write this off as locker room talk, but his regard for women, in general, is established so early on, his behavior is easily overlooked because of his bromance to Rick, but Lori's is only magnified and criticised.

Her boyfriend and husband's efforts to lay claim makes her the wife in the middle. Rick's struggle with leadership had to be massaged with kid gloves, and Shane's self-proclaimed love blurred between ownership and obsession (which included an attempted rape). Nobody made it easy for her, and there was no clear lines of communication between them to stop the nonsense. The writers certainly didn't help by whiplashing fans with her nonsensical actions.
Look, I know that I’m a shitty wife and I’m not winning any mother of the year awards, but I need you to know that not for one second do I think there is malice in your heart.
Lori's arc came across as if the writers drank while throwing darts at storyboards, and just accepted whatever their stupor results were.

In one second she edged Rick to kill Shane because he wanted to lay claim on her, her unborn baby, and Carl. The next second she was trying to tame Shane's unpredictable nature by declaring her love for him. Then rinse and repeat. Her relationships rarely reached a sane middle ground, and she was often responsible for making them consistently turn on each other when squabbles were settled.

The first thing critics will take note of with Lori is her insane influence over Rick and Shane. But it must be kept in mind, that as the men in charge, they had an influence over her too. When Lori found out she was pregnant, she didn't have anyone to turn to. Rick was embroiled in squabbles with Shane, and the latter was becoming more unstable and untrustworthy. Her fears of who the father was, and if her baby could even live beyond being born, drove her to attempt an early abortion.

Plenty of debates can be made about her decisions, but Lori and Rick didn't reach an official conclusion until Shane abruptly announces her pregnancy to everyone - not out of genuine concern but as an opportunity to overpower her. The decision of what to do was ultimately hers and Ricks; conversations which were Rick finding his opinions more right than hers. In any way, from then on, everyone knew; it was an unspoken acceptance that she would just be pregnant. When the massive walker attack took down Herschels' farm and forced everyone on the run, her wants, even if they are controversial, were silenced.

On the surface level, the hatred Lori received was understandable. Her intentions and actions flip-flopped all over the place. However, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) did her best with what she was given.

Lori may have never kept track of Carl, but she stepped up to the plate for other women whose survival was left up to the men. Being a mother, surrogate or otherwise, is not an easy job, but Lori offered aid to Carol in her grief and took care of Herschel's daughters. She had strong friendships with nearly everyone, she was the rational decision maker when Shane and Rick couldn't hold down the fort, and she could stand up for herself when it was called for.

Unfortunately, the most memorable moment fans recognize Lori for is her death. It's one of the show's all-time heartbreaking scenes. Not just because she's in labor and will die as a result of giving birth, but because Lori only has minutes to give her son some sage advice, things she learned as a result of her mistakes. Despite her fears and worries that Carl is growing up in this crazy world, she has faith that he can do better than she did. Without Rick by her side, she says 'goodnight love' to someone she will never be able to reconcile with. This is, sadly, her only chance to redeem herself for everything within and out of her control.

Lori's the prime example of a character killed before her time. Her role is a result of her surroundings. She accepted her duties as much as she was expected to fulfill them. In the aftermath of her husband's assumed death, her world wasn't easy and she made a lot of wrong decisions. The show's inability to decide what to do with Lori buries her shining moments; most of which is serving as an ally to other female survivors. Throughout everything, as difficult as it may seem on the surface, Lori still attempted to maintain an iota of stability in the midst of chaos.

If the 1950s environment was true for the first season and applied to Lori, Andrea was the modern day single woman fighting against the patriarchy. At least that's how she started....

Andrea was a well-rounded progressive college student whose life veered off track when the apocalypse hit. She was a fierce protector who wasn't afraid to talk about vibrators while being forced to do "womanly chores", call out Carol's abusive husband, and stand up for her friends.

But when her sister Amy is attacked by walkers, Andrea's perspective about life changes. She doesn't know what to live for and why. Though she pegged the future was hopeless, wide-eyed wise man and Faulkner paraphraser Dale helped her see otherwise.

It is typical on The Walking Dead for characters to be treated as psychos if they attempt or accept a suicidal fate, and Andrea was the first victim of this. People doubted and questioned her sanity because she didn't want to live in such a messed-up situation. Everyone treated her with kid gloves while she pushed to be taught how to shoot and defend herself - something that Rick and Shane were vehemently against. She became a good shot, even if her first hit was over-zealously shooting Daryl in the shoulder. Though she faced a lot of opposition in learning how to shoot, her perseverance led other characters, especially women, to learn how to defend themselves; that the group's survival isn't left up to the assumed brawns.

After the barn burns down from a walker ambush, Andrea is stranded as the group hightails it to safety. Left on her own, thankfully with the gun, she pushed to own and know how to use herself, she is rescued by Michonne, a katakana-swinging survivor, and her zombie-pets. Together they find refuge and form a friendship until they are picked up by sketchy survivors.
I’m not your little girl. I’m not your wife. And I am sure as hell not your problem.
Cue season three, where men marking their territories goes horribly wrong, and Andrea gets caught in the crossfire. She was a character who couldn't see the forest for the trees, but that's what a lot of fans expected her to do at the time. By moving into Woodsbury, and getting in bed with the enemy, everyone wanted her to see who the Governor truly was.

But like Lori, the writers stifled her actions and forced her to keep blinders on about his psycho intentions. Even after all she experienced with Michonne on the road, and not leaving when her suspicions were raised, Andrea just couldn't see the facade of what Woodsbury was. She bought into every broken whistle and cracked bell.

Subsequently, again like Lori, Andrea became the middle-person, not out of necessity but by the writer's not forcing her to be loyal to one camp. The Governor merely used her to fulfill a fantasy as a means to a diabolical end. As a result of her supposed allegiance, Team Prison directs all of their anger for the Governor towards her and actually treats her worse than how they handle the Governor. She tries to reach resolutions between them, but unfortunately, the writers spend too much time pulling the wool over her eyes inciting frustration from fans.

The woman who had so much agency in the group is now left to just trying the best she can to be an ally for the other survivors tricked into believing that Woodsbury was real. When Andrea's fate is sealed by the Governor, the subject of a character's fate and their choice becomes an underlying belief throughout the rest of the series. Even if it is enforced by the writers/showrunners, Andrea wanting to end her life before she turns becomes an active choice other characters get to make.

Andrea's arc is undoubtedly weak and messy. It would've been great if she became the Governess of Woodsbury while Michonne fed the Governor her machete straight through the skull. But because of the tangled webs the writer's weaved, her attempts at peace and the Governor's followers are only achieved when, like Lori, the chips are way, way down and her life is sacrificed. Out of the miseries she suffered, Andrea's lasting mark is teaching that the pain doesn't go away; room just has to be made for it. Her death was certainly proof of this. In between, she really did try.

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