Cowboys, fathers, and everyone else: examining race in the walking dead through the myths of white masculinity

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University of Alabama Libraries

This study offers an analysis of three different series within The Walking Dead franchise: the comics, the AMC television series, and Telltale’s video games. The critical and commercial popularity of all three make them particularly worthy of study, and the franchise’s focus on characters invites a rhetorical study based on mythic figures across these three different media forms. While critical comparisons have been made either between the comics and the television series or between the comics and Telltale’s video game series, a comprehensive look at the series across all three media has so far escaped critical attention. The study explores characters in The Walking Dead media primarily through two dominant myths of White masculinity: the cowboy with his rugged individualism and the good patriarch with his care for his family. These mythic figures shift across different media, finding incarnations in many different characters and often revealing opposing perspectives that cannot find representation within the myths themselves. Critical analysis reveals the emergence of a general trend among the three series, one of increasing critique and eventual rejection of these myths of White masculinity. Alongside this trend, in character development, analysis across the three media forms suggests that increased interactivity, as seen in the video game franchise, encourages consumers to respond more directly to the myths on display. This factor was especially evident in confronting the racism that was directed at the protagonist of the first game, Lee Everett. Suggestions for future studies include how to adapt other pop culture franchises across different media, the expansion of interactivity with television viewing and second-screen services, and the continued evolution of zombie media.

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Rhetoric, Communication, American studies