Last October, #TheWalkingDead broke millions of fans' hearts when the show made the bold decision to kill off fan-favorite character Glenn Rhee in the most ruthless way possible. Ever since then, fans have proclaimed that the zombie-centric show hasn't been the same without Glenn — but why do we miss him?
While the answer may seem obvious, actor Steven Yeun puts it in a new and intriguing perspective.
Steven Yeun Thinks That No One Knew What To Do With Glenn's Character
In an interview with Vulture, Steven Yeun opened up about his character on The Walking Dead. He had a lot to say about the character and discussed how Glenn never reached his full potential on the series until it was too late:
"I truly feel like people didn’t know what to do with Glenn. They liked him, they had no problems with him, and people enjoyed him. But they didn’t acknowledge the connection people had with the character until he was gone. I look at what happened and I think, That wasn’t any more gory than what we’ve done before, per se. No one got their face ripped in half! People got their guts smashed out and their heads caved in. But this one felt gratuitous because one, it kept going, and two, I think they took away someone that I didn’t realize I had made such a connection with until they took him away.
"I loved being on that show. Internally, it was incredible. Externally, it was tough sometimes because I never felt like he got his fair due. I never felt like he got it from an outward perception. I don’t say this as a knock on anything. He always had to be part of something else to legitimize himself. He was rarely alone. And when he was alone, it took several years to convince people to be on his own."
After reading this quote, we can begin to understand where Steven Yeun is coming from. After all, most viewers of The Walking Dead loved Glenn because he was funny and he gave off a positive vibe within a dark and gritty setting. Beyond that, Glenn was arguably a very two-dimensional character until the sixth season when the showrunners granted the character more of a moral core.
When Glenn began killing — specifically when he stabbed the sleeping Saviors in the head — it clearly felt wrong, especially since Glenn had stayed away from killing for a long time. In the end, we didn’t necessarily feel this way about the other members of Rick’s group, and that made Glenn's character feel extra special. However, as we know, when a character goes through such a major character change like that, they usually end up kicking the bucket shortly after.
In the end, Glenn could have been given a lot more to do on The Walking Dead, but at this point in the show, his death made sense.
Did Racism Have Anything To Do With This?
In the same interview, Steven Yeun was asked whether or not he thinks that the manner of Glenn's death — widely considered to be the show's most violent moment ever — had anything to do with racism. If Glenn had been white, would he have had such gruesome violence inflicted upon him?
Steven Yeun doesn't think racism played a role, but he believes there is a much bigger picture, specifically referring to the way Glenn was utilized on the series:
"I didn’t think of it as racism, where it’s like, 'Oh, this is racist.' I caught it in a way of 'Oh, this is how we’re viewed all the time – as part of some glob, some amorphous, non-individualistic collective.' We’re like a Borg, and so because of that, they’re like, 'Well, we don’t need to give the shine to that character. There’s all these other characters who are so cool!' I’d always hear people go, 'I love Glenn, he’s my favorite character.' But the merchandise would go one way. That really might be the market, so I’m not going to sit here and be like, 'Why didn’t they make Glenn merchandise?'
"But there was a disparity. They didn’t know what Glenn was, and only in his death did they realize, 'Oh, that’s what he was. That’s the connection I had, and that’s why it hurts me so much to see him die.' A lot of the other characters are awesome characters, but they’re exactly that — they’re awesome and they’re to be in awe of: 'I wish I was that guy or that girl.' With Glenn it was, 'I think I’m like that guy.' You take that guy out of the equation and you do it in such a brutal fashion, there’s got to be some gut reaction to that."
Even though Yeun doesn't think his character's death was influenced by race, it definitely looks like he was a little disappointed with how Glenn was treated as a character. Also, while he doesn't believe there was racism involved in the decision to kill his character off, he is painfully aware of the lack of Asian-American actors and actresses in Hollywood:
"Maybe it’s something to be said that you’ve never seen an Asian character die like that onscreen before — because we don’t have Asian people onscreen to die!"
(After other entertainment sites started reporting on this story, Steven Yeun tweeted out his frustrations with "clickbait articles." Since then, the actor has deleted the tweet and hasn't made any follow-up comments.)
In the end, Steven Yeun makes a very good point about Asian-Americans needing to be represented on-screen. Considering these comments are coming out along with the Hawaii Five-0 equal pay controversy, Hollywood should probably take these complaints into consideration.
The Walking Dead returns (without Glenn) in the fall with its eighth season.
How do you think Glenn's character was handled on The Walking Dead? Discuss below!