Consider AMC’s zombie series “The Walking Dead.” Based on some comic books (oh, sorry, graphic “novel”), the six-episode 1st season premeired after the conclusion of the 4th season of “Mad Men” in the fall of 2010. No one, supposedly, expected it to fare well. But it became a big hit, ensuring a 2nd season this year.
Why did it become a hit? Well, it’s pretty darn good, despite the fact that it contains nearly the exact same set up of “28 Days Later” (Main character is in a coma in a hospital. When he wakes up, flesh-eating zombies roam the earth and civilization has pretty much collapsed). Each episode is filled with gripping tension, and there’s just enough gore to remind us of the serious situation the few survivors face.
The show is also very politically correct. (Odd, considering the very un-PC “Mad Men.”) The PC movement (at its best, at least) tries to break down stereotypes of minorities, or under represented cultural groups. “The Walking Dead” accomplishes this by challenging these commonly held stereotypes:
1. BLACK MEN MAKE CRAPPY FATHERS AND HUSBANDS. After waking from his comma, the first survivor Rick meets is Morgan, a black man who will do anything to protect his son. At the first sign of trouble he doesn’t bail on his family, even after his wife becomes a zombie. He loves his wife so much, in fact, that it takes every ounce of emotional strength for him to put down the zombie she has become.
2. HISPANIC MEN ARE MONEY-GRUBBING GANGANGERS. Rick eventually finds his way to Atlanta, where he is rescued by a handful of other survivors. In the process, though, he drops a bag full of guns and ammo. Unbeknownst to him, another gang wants the guns. This gang is led by Guillermo, a young, tattooed Hispanic man. Most of his followers are Hispanic as well. Uh, oh. What’s Rick to do about these heartless thugs that surely want the guns to rape and pillage? But no, even though Guillermo seems mean at the beginning, he is a gang leader with a heart of gold. The gang is just trying to protect an old folk’s home after all the cowardly doctors and nurses took off. Only a lowly paid (and Hispanic) aide cared enough to stay behind.
3. ASIAN-AMERICAN MEN ARE MARTIAL ARTS EXPERTS AND/OR “IT” GENUISES. Glenn, one of the survivors Rick teams up with in Atlanta, is neither. He can shoot zombies, but he can’t kung-fu kick them. And technology? He drives a car with its alarm blaring for hours. Why? He doesn’t know how to turn off the alarm.
4. YOU CAN’T TRUST “THE MAN.” The “Man” in this case, is Rick, a policeman so dedicated to his profession he refuses to take off his uniform. In one scene he risks his life just to retrieve the deputy’s hat he dropped in a fight with the zombies. He is the hero of “The Walking Dead,” noble and brave almost to a fault. He is the last remaining representation of law and order for this little band of survivors. Show a cop like this in a negative light? Not since 9/11…Cops are heroes now. We must honor them. (Of course there are limits, like when they’re 9/11 first responders in desperate need of health care. Then they can go fuck themselves.)
But wait, if all these characters are good guys, who are the antagonists? Will Zombies be enough? Apparently not. Which leads us to our last stereotype:
5. WHITE SOUTHERN, RURAL MEN ARE RACIST, UNEDUCATED, GUN-TOTING MANIACS WHO CUSTOMARILY ABUSE MINORITIES, BEAT THEIR WIVES AND RAPE THEIR CHILDREN. Certainly “The Walking Dead” tries to undermine these stereotypes? Not exactly. Rick has to handuff Merle to a rooftop to keep him from beating on the “chinks and niggers” in the group. You’d think facing hordes of flesh-eating zombies would make you color-blind. Well, it does if you’re black or hispanic, but not if you’re rural white. Rick’s heart is just too big to leave the big oaf chained to a rooftop, even though Merle will likely try to kill him as soon he’s free. So off Rick goes, back to the zombie paradise we like to call Atlanta. In tow is Daryl, Merle’s equally pea-brained brother, as well as the “nigger and chink” Merle wanted to pummel even before he got handcuffed to the rooftop. Sure, they’re risking their lives for someone who wants to kill them. Their hearts are too big to refuse. Oh, and then there’s Ed. Another rural white man. He beats his wife for no apparent reason, and a few hours before he’s eaten by zombies, he expresses “interest” in his little daughter.
There you have it. Need to make fun of someone? Stick to the rural white southerner…Seriously, Hollywood, are you surprised when these guys hate on you? Trading one stereotype for another? Not a good move. Look at the swelling ranks of the Tea Party/Birther Movement for proof.