Alexandra Breckenridge on Talking Dead (Feminist Walking Dead)

I have tried to view this week’s episode in its entirety On Demand and via, but it hasn’t been accessible, so I finally had to use highlight clips and interviews to write this. If there is anything that should be mentioned that wasn’t, please weigh in!

On this week’s Talking Dead, Alexandra Breckenridge said that in the scene where Rick kisses Jessie on the cheek, Andrew Lincoln was very nervous because his character “hadn’t gone through any kind of an emotional connection with a female in that capacity” up until this point. This didn’t sit well with some viewers (please send me the “Understatement of the Year” Award for that description).

Whether she was aware of it or not, Breckenridge revived an issue that has been troublesome for many Michonne fans: for a long time, Michonne’s role in the show was primarily as sidekick to Rick, and as an endlessly giving emotional caretaker for Carl, with very little focus on her character development. She gave and Rick took, and he never seemed to acknowledge how much he and his family owed her. It played into cinematic tropes where black female characters are defined by their role taking care of white children, making Michonne a combination of two stereotypes, the other of course being the emotionless badass. 5B finally gave the relationship more balance, caring, and dignity, but via her remark, Breckenridge seemed to dismiss that important, transformative storyline as if it never happened, thus relegating Michonne once again to the role of warrior nursemaid.

Breckenridge also violated a code of etiquette that appears to be otherwise widely observed among the actors of The Walking Dead: first, she spoke in a way that minimized another actress’s storyline; and second, she inadvertently made it seem like Andrew Lincoln also was dismissing Rick’s storyline with Michonne, when in reality Lincoln has spoken on numerous occasions about the two characters’ relationship and his hopes for it. (By the way, I LOVE that about the actors on this show – they are constantly singling out their peers’ performances for praise. In particular Sonequa Martin-Green and Melissa McBride do this, even in episodes when they are not featured themselves. But I digress.)

There was another moment when AB made me uncomfortable, again I’m sure not intentionally, and that was when she said that as Jessie, she would have punched Carol in the face for scaring Sam. There was something about the specificity of the violence in that remark that was disconcerting and unfortunate, especially when discussing a character who had been physically abused in the past. There were so many other ways of saying that Jessie would have been furious and flown to the defense of her child – ones that didn’t specifically involve violence. It wasn’t anything major, it just sounded wrong.

I’m sure AB didn’t intend to do any of this – she’s an actress focused on her character’s development and longevity, but even thoughtless remarks have significance, as I’m sure she’s finding out to her dismay.

The cool thing about the world now is no one gives a shit, man. No one gives a shit who you’re in love with, who cares, as long as you’re in love with someone that’s a good thing, right? It’s such a lovely, powerful, touching scene. When you love someone it weakens you, supposedly. And then you see this, you see the galvanizing force of these two men who adore one another. It’s so beautiful.
—  Andrew Lincoln, Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead