Sex Roles

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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

  • Jacob S. TurnerEmail author
  • Lisa G. Perks
Original Article


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.


Gender 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.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Communication and MediaMerrimack CollegeNorth AndoverUSA

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