By Fashion and Entertainment Editor Joe Lamour
Last week, we welcomed The Walking Dead back with a chorus of hurrays, whoas and ewwws. Our newly assembled roundtable covered the highs (Michonne and all the beheading;), the lows (Lori, of course; an axe to the shin came in a close second), and usual stuff we’ve all come to expect: the usual lack of dialogue for T-Dog. Jeannie and I could only recall a single word and some noises (“Woo!”) this episode, but commenter Pellnore retained more:
You guys might have missed some of T-Dog’s input. For one he was talking about acquiring fresh water for the group. He also said some stuff when they were on the move. Not a whole lot but he wasn’t completely silent.
After reading Pellinore’s comment, I fuzzily recall that he spoke some additional dialogue, but I also wanted to know why I couldn’t remember anything else he said other than that woo. Compare him to other characters, since I could recall more said by others. Since I couldn’t find a script for the episode yet, I watched the episode again to see what we all missed, and how his lines stack up to other minor characters, like Carol and Beth. In related news, you may now refer to me as “that person”:
A tally of dialogue for (from the top) T-Dog (IronE Singleton), Beth (Emily Kinney) and Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride) in “The Walking Dead.”
By Guest Contributor Aymar Jean Christian, cross-posted from Televisual
It’s an old and uninteresting complaint: black characters on TV–and horror movies–get killed or written off too early. Clearly, that is what’s been happening on The Walking Dead with T-Dog. (UPDATE: The arrival of a new character signals a possible shift in season three.).
I’m going to try to push the debate further, past “isn’t it a shame characters of color get short shrift.” The truth is the T-Dog Problem signals broader problems with The Walking Dead and some other prominent dramas. It’s a symptom of an ailment the writers might actually care to remedy, beyond appeasing black viewers.
First, the basics. Earlier this season T-Dog told Dale he was concerned about being black and a weak link in the group. This was an insightful moment from the writers, foregrounding the idea that being different after the apocalypse might be a problem–after all, in times of stress, people stick to their own–and an interesting meta-commentary on the fragility of being a black character on TV. T-Dog was a great candidate for a quick kill. Then T-Dog disappeared. I literally forgot all about him until last week, when he had one line that was almost comically interrupted. This week T-Dog was similarly marginalized, leading Vulture‘s recapper to state: “By this point, the casual dismissal of one of two minority characters…on this show is feeling extremely suspect. The only thing saving it from being full-on offensive is that the same treatment is being given to Hershel’s entire white family.”
The problem isn’t only about a tired debate over representation.