White Men Holding on for Dear Life and Taking It: A Content Analysis of the Gender and Race of the Victims and Killers in The Walking Dead
- 16 Downloads
The present content analysis of the first seven seasons of AMC’s hit zombie thriller, The Walking Dead, revealed that of the 122 characters who were killed, most were White (78.7%) and male (75.4%), and the 87 characters who did the killings were also mostly White (82.6%) and male (60.9%). The show’s creators, then, have envisioned a post-apocalyptic society that is (mostly) White men killing off (mostly) White men in a sort of White male survivalist fantasy. Current results also revealed that of the female characters who met their death, 33% were lead characters, whereas only 16% of the male character deaths were leads. So although women die at comparable rates to the men on the show generally and are granted some agency by carrying out many of the killings, the show’s propensity to kill off major female characters with more dispatch than lead men ultimately reveals the women’s vulnerability when compared to the patriarchal survivors and leaders on the show. Social cognitive theory is used to speculate about the possible effects the popular cable TV program might have on audience members in the United States and worldwide.
KeywordsGender roles The Walking Dead Social cognitive theory Race Hegemony
The authors would like to thank Leandra ‘Lea’ Nielsen, Robert ‘Bobby’ Tolan, and Eric Uhl for serving as Research Assistants and coders on our study.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
This manuscript has only been submitted to Sex Roles and is not under review at any other publication. We, the authors, declare that we have no conflict of interest. There was no need for considering issues of human participants and/or animals or an informed consent process as there were no human or animal subjects associated with this content analysis-based research.
- Baker, S. (2014). The Walking Dead and gothic excess: The decaying social structures of contagion. M/C Journal, 17(4), 1–12.Google Scholar
- Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
- Bandura, A. (2002). Social cognitive theory of mass communication. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 215–267). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Bishop, K. (2013). Battling monsters and becoming monstrous: Human devolution in The Walking Dead. In M. Levina & D. Bui (Eds.), Monster culture in the 21 st century: A reader (pp. 73–85). London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
- Black, J. (2002). The reality effect: Film culture and the graphic imperative. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Blake, J. (2014, March 23). The post-racial revolution will be televised. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/23/showbiz/sci-fi-post-racial/index.html. Accessed 11 July 2017.
- Buzz Meter. (2017). TV’s stickiest shows: Ranking the top 10 broadcast and cable programs by viewer engagement. Broadcasting and Cable. Retrieved from https://www.broadcastingcable.com/sites/default/files/public/2017/03/BuzzMeter.pdf. Accessed 11 July 2017.
- Census Quick Facts. (2016). The United States Census Bureau quick facts. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045216. Accessed 20 June 2018.
- Clover, C. J. (1987). Her body, himself: Gender in the slasher film [Special issue]. Representations, 20, 187–228. https://doi.org/10.2307/2928507.
- Gabbard, K. (2004). Black magic: White Hollywood and African American culture. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Greene, J., & Meyer, M. D. E. (2014). The walking (gendered) dead: A feminist rhetorical critique of zombie apocalypse television narrative. Ohio Communication Journal, 52, 64–74.Google Scholar
- Gunter, B. (2008). Media violence: Is there a case for causality? American Behavioral Scientist, 51(8), 1061–1122. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764207312007.
- Harper, S. (2003). They’re us: Representations of women in George Romero’s “living dead” series. cult-media. Retrieved from https://intensitiescultmedia.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/harper-theyre-us.pdf. Accessed 11 July 2017.
- IMDb. (2018). Internet movie database’s The Walking Dead episode list. Retrieved from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1520211/episodes?ref_=tt_ov_epl. Accessed 16 Sept 2018.
- Inverse. (2017). The 20 most popular shows in the world right now. Inverse. Retrieved from https://www.inverse.com/article/31808-walking-dead-game-of-thrones-thirteen-reasons-why-arrow-top-20-shows-world. Accessed 09 Dec 2018.
- Lavery, L. (2016). Confronting the zombie-pocalypse: Deconstructing conflict in The Walking Dead. Screen Education, 82, 42–49.Google Scholar
- Lombard, M., Snyder-Duch, J., & Bracken, C. C. (2002). Content analysis in mass communication: Assessment of reporting of intercoder reliability. Human Communication Research, 28, 587–604. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2958.2002.tb00826.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Means Coleman, R. R. (2011). Horror noire: Blacks in American horror films from the 1890s to present. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Murphy, K. J. (2016). Analyzing female gender roles in Marvel Comics from the silver age (1960) to the present. Discussions, 12(2). Retrieved from http://www.inquiriesjournal.com/a?id=1449. Accessed 08 July 2017.
- Perks, L. G., Winslow, L., & Avital, S. (2008). Limited representation: A homology of discriminatory media portrayals of little people and African Americans. In B. Brummett (Ed.), Uncovering hidden rhetorics: Social issues in disguise (pp. 31–45). Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
- Porter, R. (2016). The 20 highest-rated shows of 2016: The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory win the year. Retrieved from http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/more-tv-news/the-20-highest-rated-shows-of-2016-the-walking-dead-and-the-big-bang-theory-win-the-year/. Accessed 05 July 2017.
- Ridgely, C. (2016). The Walking Dead was the most-watched show in 2016 for ages 18–49. Retrieved from http://comicbook.com/thewalkingdead/2016/12/23/the-walking-dead-was-the-most-watched-show-in-2016-for-ages-18-4/. Accessed 05 July 2017.
- Riffe, D., Lacy, S., & Fico, F. G. (1998). Analyzing media messages: Using quantitative content analysis in research. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Robinson, L. S. (2004). Wonder Women: Feminisms and superheroes. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Tecxipio. (2017). The Walking Dead – Breeding increasing popularity with each season. Tecxipio Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.tecxipio.com/single-post/tracking-the-walking-dead-part1-worldwide-popularity. Accessed 09 Dec 2018.
- Timmer, J. (2011). Restricting portrayals of film violence to reduce the likelihood of negative effects in viewers: Did the framers of the motion picture production code get it right? Journal of Popular Film and Television, 39(1), 29–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/01956051.2010.494186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Williams, L. (2001). Melodrama in black and white: Uncle Tom and The Green Mile. Film Quarterly, 5(2), 14–21.Google Scholar
- Wilson, B. J., Smith, S. L., Potter, W. J., Junkel, D., Linz, D., Colvin, C. M., & Donnerstein, E. (2002). Violence in children’s television programming: Assessing the risks. Journal of Communication, 52(1), 5–35. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1460-2466.2002.tb02531.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar