As someone of the female persuasion, I have long lamented the lack of strong ladies in the horror genre. Too often are women cast as damsels in distress, empty-headed spazzes who endanger the rest of the group, or mere objects of desire that die bloodily in the traditional sex-leads-to-dismemberment moral code of the horror universe.
This is partly why I’ve been such a devoted fan of The Walking Dead comic series. Yes, there are female characters who do stupid things and die quickly. But there are also characters like the sword-swinging Michonne (who appeared in dramatic fashion in the season two finale) and the sniper Andrea (who will hopefully be more like her comic counterpart next season) who prove that the ladies can hold their own in the zombie apocalypse, too.
And here lies the root of my biggest problem with The Walking Dead TV adaptation: there’s an unnecessary focus and importance placed on Lori.
Why all the hate, you might ask—though judging by popular outcry, most fans agree with me. As the wife of the lead hero, the former lover of another, and the mother of a third character, why shouldn’t Lori get so much screen time?
Oh, let me just count the ways . . .
Lori has no grasp of the realities of the apocalyptic world.
Months have passed since the zombies began attacking, and Lori continues to act as if things will return to the former status quo. In the season two opener, the group find themselves on a congested highway. When the others begin to go through the cars for essential supplies, Lori protests, saying it doesn’t “feel right” because the highway is “like a graveyard”.
*Crickets chirp* . . . Seriously? You’re struggling for survival day by day, you have a child to provide for—and you want to waste time respecting the dead? In case you hadn’t noticed, Lori, the dead certainly aren’t respecting you, what with all the “trying to eat you” and such.
To further hammer this point home, Lori is also against Carl learning how to handle guns. Yes, he’s a child, and yes, it’s terrible that the current situation necessitates such a thing. But what’s the alternative? Leave the kid vulnerable and ignorant of how to handle a weapon that could save his life—and the lives of others—simply because he’s young?
With monsters around every corner eager to rip your throat out, the innocence of childhood is a luxury of the past. Carl has already proved to be remarkably resilient and adaptable, and is certainly more pragmatic than either of his parents. If I were a mother in the zombie apocalypse, I would want my child to learn as much as they could in order to be a better survivor.
And while we’re on the topic of motherhood . . .
Lori is an incredibly inept mother.
Now, I don’t want to sound misogynistic here, because that’s the opposite of what I’m getting at. My point is that the writers have hammered home the fact that Lori sees herself as a mother first and foremost—her number one priority is her son. A lot of her actions can be seen as motivated by her need to protect Carl. Yet she constantly fails as a mother because she a) is against her son learning vital survival skills; b) never truly talks with or listens to her son to find out how he’s dealing with the horrors they encounter, and; c) never keeps an eye on him.
It’s become a joke among fans that Carl is constantly slipping away from the group and getting into trouble, and all the while Lori and Rick are completely oblivious. The reason this is such a huge flaw in Lori’s character is that she sets herself up as The Mother of the group and yet consistently fails in this role.
Lori, the woman in the group with the voice most likely to be heard, is anti-feminist.
This is a huge problem with me. For being the “First Lady” of the group, her personal views on gender roles are hardly helpful to the other women. Andrea in particular is verbally attacked by Lori—simply because she refuses to conform to Lori’s idea of what a woman should be.
Take the fight the two have in the episode “18 Miles Out”: Lori thinks that Andrea is being lazy because she’d rather “work on her tan” and stand watch with a gun—a man’s job, in Lori’s mind—instead of doing laundry or fixing meals for the men. In a world full of cannibalistic monsters, why shouldn’t the women learn how to handle firearms and take their share of the guarding duties? Lori tries to force the other women to follow her lead, rather than allow them to make their own decisions.
And talk about juxtaposing a useless character with one coming into her own: Despite her suicidal depression, Andrea is already a better survivor than Lori because she’s committed to learning skills that will prove useful in the future. She also understands that suicide could be the kinder option if the alternative is being ripped apart and eaten alive. Andrea gets it, whereas Lori still hopes that PTA meetings will be a possibility again someday.
Lori’s decision-making skills are atrocious and she resorts to emotional manipulation to get what she wants.
Writers, I have a huge bone to pick with you over this. Are you trying to turn Lori into a caricature of a shrewish, unfaithful woman? If so, you’re doing an upstanding job!
I can give her a pass with the Shane issue prior to Rick’s return; she was in pain, Shane was a good support system, she had no idea Rick was still alive. But everything she did concerning Rick and Shane in season two makes me furious.
First she tells Rick that Shane is dangerous and urges her husband to kill him—real concerns and a solid course of action, to be fair, but the way the entire scene was framed made it look like she was a creepy Lady Macbeth more than anything.
She makes it clear to Shane that her baby is Rick’s no matter what, that they are over, that he meant nothing to her, etc. etc. Then she goes to Shane and thanks him for everything, talks about how much he means to her and Carl, how grateful she is. And all of this just when he’s at the tipping point to dive into full-on crazy.
Cut to the inevitable face-off between Rick and Shane where Rick comes out victorious, and when he tells Lori exactly what went down—she recoils from her husband in horror.
WOMAN, YOU ARE KIDDING ME, RIGHT? Everything was set into motion thanks to your emotional see-sawing, and when your husband does what you told him to do ages ago, you act shocked and repulsed? Please.
And do I even have to get into that whole “takes a car without telling anyone, then crashes it in a superbly stupid fashion” situation that made me literally throw things at the TV while screaming obscenities?
Conclusion: Lori is the absolute WORST.
And as horrible as this makes me sound, I cannot wait for the Governor to show up next season so long as the prison arc ends as it did in the comics.
And if you're fired up to talk about that episode of The Walking Dead, Season 3, Episode 4 “The Killer Within,” here it is!
Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. You can find her at Livejournal.com under the handle “zombres.".
Read all posts by Angie Barry at Criminal Element.