Where Are All the Zombies of Colour?

By Guest Contributor Jenn, cross-posted from The Nerds of Color

I don’t mean the zombie survivors. I mean the zombies.

Ironically, The Walking Dead is pretty racially diverse compared to other zombie movies in the genre. Remember Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake? There are, in that case, two sole surviving Black men, although one (Mekhi Phifer’s Andre) is singularly stupid. Meanwhile, there are no other notable characters of any other race or ethnicity among the survivors. And how about 28 Days Later ? Sure, the main female protagonist is a Black woman (Selena, played by Naomie Harris ), but why is she the main cast’s only character of colour despite the fact that London boasts a 20% Black and 20% Asian population . In fact, most zombie movies are typically populated by an almost all-White (with a token or two) surviving cast; against this backdrop, I’m relatively pleased by the racial diversity of The Walking Dead, One-Black-Man-At-a-Time rule notwithstanding (more on this later in the Walker Week).

But, here’s my gripe: where the heck are all the zombies of colour?

The Walking Dead  is set in Atlanta, Georgia, a city that is 52% Black, 10% Latino and 5% Asian. Yet, we’re supposed to believe that this is the zombie horde that greets Rick when he makes his Atlanta run?!?

Finding the one Black face in this zombie horde is like an undead game of “Where’s Waldo.”

Or, how about this horde, which attacks the survivors in Season 2 when they are stranded on a highway just outside of Atlanta?

That Black male zombie (and his perfectly coifed hair) sticks out like some politically incorrect euphemism I’m not going to write because that’s not cool.

I’ll give you that maybe in more rural parts of Georgia you might realistically face a horde that looks something like this.

Incidentally, this would also be the horde that would greet you if the zombie virus attacked a Nirvana concert during the mid-90’s.

But in downtown Atlanta? Come on.

And, why is it that I haven’t seen a single Asian zombie? Okay, granted I haven’t really been looking, but still. I mean, what happened to Glenn’s zombified parents? Did the zombie virus just skip over the entirety of Gwinnett County’s Korean population  or Atlanta’s Chinatown Mall?

This is a real place in Atlanta. I know because Google told me so.

Sure, part of Sunday night’s Season 4 premiere episode played with the question of whether or not Walkers are people (hint, they’re not). Of course, this begs the (only semi-facetious) question of whether or not “former people” retain their racial identity when they are reanimated from the dead. Obviously, the undead are marginally less concerned with equal access to economic opportunity as they are more concerned with equal access to the fleshy parts of your brain, but nonetheless, a zombie of colour is still a zombie of colour (at least insofar as viewers tend to racialize characters we see on TV). And, if The Walking Dead is trying to situate their survivors in a semi-realistic, post-apocalyptic world, than why are there so disproportionately few zombies of colour? Or, at least, why are there so few actors of colour playing zombies?

I’m sure there’s some totally reasonable explanation. Like, maybe zombie makeup looks better on White skin, which is why Black zombies look so completely unterrifying and unconvincing on The Walking Dead.

Oh, wait…

Or, maybe there just aren’t that many Black extras out there who are so hungry for work that they’re willing to sit through hours of makeup just for a few seconds of on-screen action shuffling towards the camera going “argghh.” Although, personally, I find that explanation a little hard to believe.

There were, after all, Black extras totally willing to do this. Image from “Django Unchained” via AfterCredits.com

Or, there’s another explanation: maybe this is a deliberate choice on the part of The Walking Dead producers. Maybe — just maybe — the reason why there are so few zombies of colour in The Walking Dead is because people of colour have some sort of innate immunity to zombification? Or, maybe zombies are racist, and won’t bite people of colour? Maybe the big reveal of Season 4 is that actually most people of colour in The Walking Dead world carry the genetic codes that will one day lead to a zombie cure. After all, did we ever see zombie T-Dog? I think not. Clearly, T-Dog escaped the Prison in Season 3 and is now leader of his own all-minority faction of survivors, completely unconcerned by the risk of zombification (cue the surprise return of Iron E Singleton as a cast regular, anyone?)

Heck, maybe when the Prison falls this season, the survivors should make haste to the clearly safest place in all of Georgia: wherever T-Dog is. Because, he’s probably doing just fine.

  • Delevan

    I always felt that the updated zombie mythos represents a certain stereotype of
    POC color being like savages. Think about it, they are dirty(dark),
    mindless, cannibals. They look human, but they are not, and they will
    kill you if given half the chance. You can even see a parallel with issue of immigration and the violet reactive nature of the show.

  • Pingback: The Round-Up: Nov. 12, 2013 | Gender Focus

  • Pingback: Black Girls Rock The World | Bitch Flicks

  • http://BestZombieGifts.com/ Vincent Ward

    Interesting.

  • Andrew Indigo Burning

    It’s really important to point this out, because zombie cinema has some of the deepest links between pop culture and race in America.

    http://digitalcommons.colby.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1475&context=honorstheses

  • Discofunktales

    That just means black people ain’t gettin caught and turned into zombies. The untold story in the walking dead is that masses of Blacks and Latinos migrated to the Caribbean and started and thriving zombie free society. That’s my theory.

    • Miles_Ellison

      If somebody made a series about that theory, I’d certainly watch.

  • TobeGrendizer92

    I feel like the Resident Evil 5 controversy a few years back would make people even more wary of featuring non-white zombies. That actually got a fair amount of attention, as far as video game kerfuffles go.

  • Pingback: Where Are All the Zombies of Colour? | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture | Corner Store Press

  • Juan Miller

    Could it be some misplaced sense of political correctness where they think it might look racist to have a multiethnic horde attacking the protagonists, particularly the white ones?

    Of course, if they feared this might be a problem, they could have just set the story in Vermont or something.

  • ace

    I completely agree about the lack of color on this show (see comments here http://www.racialicious.com/2013/11/04/open-thread-the-walking-dead-4-4-indifference/), especially considering where this is all taking place.

    About T-Dog though, he died didn’t he? Or are you meaning, we never saw him as a walker so maybe he was cured? (just assumed there was nothing left to become a walker).