Note for Readers: If you aren't up to date with the most recent season of The Walking Dead, please stop reading now. The following article contains significant spoilers.
As fans of The Walking Dead have likely heard by now fan favorite Beth met her untimely demise in the mid-season finale.
Since its aired, some fans and members of the media has run with the notion that the character's death was intended solely to further the development of fellow fan favorite Daryl. Thus, a misconception has been created both within and outside of The Walking Dead community.
The current belief is that TWD killed off a female character solely to further along a male’s storyline. Thus, some outsiders—and even a percentage of fans—have bestowed the reputation of a misogynistic show upon The Walking Dead.
This entirely ignores the fact that The Walking Dead routinely sets a high standard for what it means to properly develop female characters on television.
The Mid-Season Finale
I'm in complete agreement that Beth's death was both premature and stunning. She was a wonderful role model—forgive me for a lack of a better term in a post-apocalyptic world—for young women watching television.
To suggest that her death was executed for the sole purpose of further developing a male character, however, would be to ignore what the show has done for female characters.
There are legitimate examples of sexism and misogyny throughout the entertainment business. Anyone who believes otherwise is either naive or a supporter of those oppressive ways.
The Walking Dead isn’t one of the shows responsible for it.
In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
One of the most polarizing characters in the history of The Walking Dead was Andrea. Portrayed by Laurie Holden, Andrea was a major character from 2010 to 2013.
Her character arc is one of the most significant we’ve seen.
Andrea fell at the hands of a male character, The Governor. To leave her character, and more applicably, her symbolic death at just that description, however, would be nothing short of misleading.
Even in death, Andrea showed just how dynamic women are on this show.
Early in the series, Andrea was the person responsible for killing her own zombified sister. It was one of the first, “OH MY GOD,” moments of the series, and it helped to set the tone for things to come.
As will be touched upon, she isn’t the only female to do something of the sort.
When fan favorite Dale fell victim to the zombie which Carl was responsible for leading to the farm, no one was targeted or impacted more than Andrea. Dale was something of a mentor, as well as a friend, whose relationship with Andrea fell apart late in his final season.
When he died, the character who felt it the most was Andrea.
What exactly is the difference between then and now?
Andrea was ultimately infected at the hands of The Governor and a walker version of Milton. Before she could become a walker, however, she was put out of her misery by another main character.
A female character: Michonne.
Walking Dead television fans were first introduced to Michonne when Andrea became separated from the group. Hershel’s farm had become overrun and Andrea was forced to run off into the woods to pursue survival.
It wasn’t a male character who saved her in her near-death moment; it was Michonne.
Michonne has emerged as the female counterpart to eternal fan favorite Daryl. She’s an entirely independent character who can hold her own against hoards of zombies without the use of a single bullet.
With a katana at her disposal, Michonne is one of the most riveting and recognizable characters on the show.
During her pre-apocalyptic life, it was revealed that Michonne was nothing like her current character. She was a mother who, in times of adversity, did what every other character did: she learned to survive.
She didn’t depend on men; she carved them up and proved to be far more resourceful than anyone could’ve ever imagined.
To this day, Michonne is just as much of a trusted ally to Rick as Daryl. In fact, Michonne is the character whom Rick has entrusted to protect his children.
A case could be made that no character is as independently strong as Michonne.
For all of the talk of Beth’s death holding a direct impact on Daryl, we all seem to be forgetting one very important thing.
Her sister, Maggie, is still alive.
How's that for character development?
Daryl and Beth’s emotional dynamic can be discussed for days, but Maggie was her flesh and blood. With Hershel and the rest of their family deceased, Beth was all that Maggie had to hold onto from the pre-apocalyptic world.
Entering the next half-season, her final connection has been lost.
Her younger sister has been lost.
Glenn and Maggie have each other, but she's always been the more powerful voice in their relationship. She initiated the romance and even did away with Glenn's picture of her picture, thus telling the male character that they will not be split apart.
Throughout the course of her existence on the show, Maggie has been nothing if not a powerful, intelligent, independent and inspiring woman.
Daryl will be broken—even more than he already is—by Beth’s passing, but to suggest that her death is male-oriented would be ignoring the most significant factor of all: Beth still has a living sister.
How could anyone be more hurt than Maggie?
Over the past two seasons, no character has been as influential or important as Carol. Not Rick, not Daryl, not Gareth—no one.
If anyone has been, it’s Beth.
During the opening season, Carol was the proverbial abused woman on television. Her husband beat her, and even once he died at the hands of the walkers, the death was met with a combination of shock and uncertainty.
Since then, Carol has become one of the most iconic characters on television today.
Carol has been forced to deal with the death of both her husband and her daughter. When it was discovered that Sophia had been turned into a walker, no one was effected more than she.
In the seasons since, Carol has become the woman who’s willing to do whatever it takes to survive. She’s killed the sick—including Tyreese’s girlfriend.
Previously built up to be a battered woman who was dependent on others, she proceeded to survive on her own after Rick banished her from the prison.
In one of the most unforgettable scenes in television history, it was Carol—not Tyreese—who told Lizzie to, “Just look at the flowers.”
When the group was trapped at Terminus and a main character was widely expected to die at the end of Gareth’s blade, it was Carol who saved them.
Carol and Carol alone.
This is yet another example of how The Walking Dead has utilized its women as powerful characters; not male-dependent survivors.
This article is not an attempt to dismiss the notion that sexism or misogyny exist on television. Both are present throughout the world of entertainment, as well as society itself.
The article is simply intending to defend The Walking Dead’s creative staff, which has been nothing if not supportive of female characters on television.
It happens in almost every season.
Most recently, Bob’s death was led to the further development of Sasha’s character. Even when it was Tyreese who stepped in to kill him, it was Sasha who walked away as the stronger and more independent individual.
Tyreese was broken. Sasha was evolving.
The three characters garnering the most attention and screen time during the most recent seasons have been Beth, Carol and Dawn. Dawn’s death was imminent, Beth’s was tragic and shocking, and Carol has been the driving force behind two rescue missions.
If anything, The Walking Dead has done its female characters justice by not portraying them as weak and male-dependent—something that occurs far too often.
Beth died because she was a powerful character who knew that sacrificing herself was a necessary evil to right what was happening at the hospital.
Dawn died because she was a driven, but unstable individual whose own team was turning on her. It took another courageous woman, Beth, to finally bring her down.
Perhaps the most shocking death to date, Lori, died giving birth to the child that is now the only factor, aside from Carl, keeping Rick sane. Even in death, a woman’s actions remain the only reason that the main character can keep things together.
Rick's mental breakdown can be tied almost directly to the loss of the woman responsible for the main male character's strength.
If nothing else, that’s depicting a story in which the men depend on the women far more than the women on the men.
To accuse The Walking Dead of a sexist creative decision is not only inaccurate, but unfair to the writers and developers. They've come through time-after-time and have been nothing if not influential for women on television.
While any fan of The Walking Dead can understand missing Beth, suggesting that her death was a male-oriented decision would be ignoring the glorious history which the show has created.
Just remember: in the post-apocalyptic world, anyone can die at any time.
Male or female, that's what makes The Walking Dead one of the top shows on television.