A Character Question: What’s with the Dumb Female Archetype?

Sorry for being MIA lately. It happens from time to time.

Anyway, I watch The Walking Dead. I love the series, I’ve even made a previous post about how awesome it is. I haven’t read the comics, nor do I really plan on doing so. Please understand that everything I’m about to rant about is from a writer’s perspective and not a fan perspective (though some of these things are frustrating from a fan perspective, too). I’m not saying the show sucks, and I’m using it as a specific example of a really, really annoying archetype.

WARNING! THIS POST IS FULL OF THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 3 SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE SHOW, SCROLL DOWN TO THE TL;DR FOR NON-SPOILERIFIC TEXT

Now that the disclaimers are dished out, on with the actual points!

Have you ever watched a show and wondered why in the world that woman was being so stupid? Horror movies are full of this, so much so that it’s been a parody for years now (my current favorite being Cabin in the Woods).

Andrea has been especially guilty of this almost contagious stupidity. I understand she hasn’t been the fastest of characters, but she’s as slow as molasses on picking up on the obvious — like her boyfriend’s a total nut. A cracked nut, no less.

This is a really common thing when comic/superhero stories are turned into TV shows/movies. As a woman, it frustrates me. Why can’t they get the cool guns? Why can’t they kick butt? Why do they just hide in a corner somewhere?

Obviously Andrea doesn’t always do this, which is why she is one of the most glaring offenders when it does happen. She’s totally willing to stab a walker in the head, shoot whatever needs shooting, and take charge to do the right thing. Until the plot dictates otherwise, then she’s dumb as bricks so the menfolk can get to their ultimate showdown with each other. Because heaven forbid Andrea kill the Governor…

  • after she finds the ROOM OF CREEPY HEADS IN JARS
  • in his sleep.
  • when he’s being overwhelmed by walkers because he’s been hunting her down like some B-rated horror movie plot and whistling while he works. Oh yeah, she gets caught there too. What even

I’m sure there are other moments, but those made me so furious at the writers. This last episode in particular was just. Bad.

You know what would’ve been fun? If Andrea had actually gotten away with killing the Governor in his sleep. If someone had to rise up and fill that place, maybe Milton. If she had to deal with the mental repercussions of actually killing a human being. That’s equally flavorful drama. Instead, I got the feeling that the show wanted to stick to this Rick vs the Governor, the prison vs Woodbury showdown because that’s what happened in the comics (again, I could be wrong. These are just my opinions), and they missed out on some amazing opportunities.

Also, in the process they made a very strong character an utter idiot just because it suited the plot. Saying she was conflicted and wanted to do the right thing doesn’t cover Andrea’s level of slowness in this season. At all.

END SPOILERS (BUT THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS SO READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION)

TL;DR

Make a strong woman character consistent. They don’t have to be tough-looking — plenty of feminine women can kick your ass, once they take off those heels. They can have moments of vulnerability, maybe even have breakdowns (they are human). Hell, they can want cliche “girly” things even, but don’t make them randomly stupid whenever it suits the plot. That’s bad writing.

What do you think about the dumb female archetype?

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5 thoughts on “A Character Question: What’s with the Dumb Female Archetype?

  1. This entire season — or, I guess, half-season — of The Walking Dead has been insanely frustrating. I was just ranting recently about how obviously forced the slow pacing is. I for one am sick of being drug along through episode after episode of nothing happening. It’s not even that there’s not a lot of action, it’s that no characterization is happening. Or, rather, that any characterization that happens isn’t *sticking*. Characters learn lessons in one episode, then go right back to acting like nothing happened the next week.

    Andrea’s the worst offender of this, what with her waffling, but the others are doing the same thing. Merle is being artificially muzzled because plot requires him to get along with the others, but it’s completely out of character. So he grates against the others, but then nothing happens and it goes back to the status quo. Rick has been dancing on the edge of madness, but nobody’s addressing that.

    Michonne and Carl had a sweet moment a few episodes ago, but absolutely nothing from that episode has been mentioned since then — making it feel like cheap filler. She’s becoming “one of the gang” but still doesn’t feel like it.

    All of the conflict has been ground down to a screeching halt so they can stretch out the Governor plot as long as possible, and it screams (to me) of lazy writing.

    • Yeah, I agree with you. There are so many ways this could’ve gone already, but it just feels stalled. While I mainly was focusing on my annoyance with randomly stupid female characters, your points about this entire season are entirely valid. And more than a little frustrating. Hopefully next season will be better, and that I still like the show enough to care.

      Also I’m tired of all these waffles (yay, bad puns). It’s like, honestly? Merle should be 1000 times dead by now. The fact that they’re just leaving him there is beyond weird and out of character (seeing as they were way more restrictive of Tyreese and his group).

  2. I questioned why Andrea has turned into an archetype after season 2. She was really bad ass in that season. This whole lets give back Michonne thing freaks me out. Since when did she become a bargaining piece. She is such a dynamic character in the comics but, the show has watered her down.

    I think that Rick and the crew are not restricting Merle because of Daryl. I wonder why they just let Tyreese’s group bail. They need them badly right now.

  3. Ugh, I wish I could stand zombies well enough to watch The Walking Dead… but since I can’t, thanks for filling me in! :D

    I. Can’t. STAND. the stupid female archetype. It’s beyond maddening to me. Because, let’s face it: sure, guys tend to like fighting, being territorial, protecting their lady friends, all that. Yeah. I buy it. BUT – when it comes to buckling down and getting shit done when the boys are being boys, the women win, hands down. And I can’t imagine the sort of woman who is surviving a zombie apocalypse being the frightened rabbit who is only practical when it suits her. Just… no.

    Sorry. Pet peeve of mine. Moving on!

  4. I agree that Andrea has been one of most poorly written characters this season. That said, Season 3 has been the best of the show so far. Compare where we’re at now to the same point in Season 2 and it’s remarkable to see how far it has come in such a short space of time.

    As for the episode itself, I quite liked it. It didn’t redeem Andrea for me, but it was a great piece of suspense television. Has the current Prison vs. Woodbury plot been stretched out too long? Probably, but we have to bear in mind that this is the show that spent seven whole episodes on a story surrounding a missing girl without managing a fraction of notable character development. The pace at present is practically sprinting.

    I’ve read the comics but I try not to let my ‘advance knowledge’ affect my perspective too much. There are a LOT of differences. That said, I will say this (potential spoiler alert) — I’m pleased Andrea didn’t kill the Governor in his sleep. Let’s just say one of the most iconic scenes of the entire show (if pulled off correctly) is coming up.

    Andrea aside, I think Season 3 will be looked back on fondly. It’s deservedly breaking its own ratings records week on week. My only fear is that they don’t have a clear end point in sight. The comics run out of steam a little bit after the Prison arc (in my opinion), so I’m interested to see where they take it.

    Anyway, good post! You make some very valid points indeed.

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