Over the entire series of [The Walking Dead](series:201193) fans have learned that this is one TV show that never shies away from tackling big societal issues. Last week's episode of the show, "Try," was no exception as the episode returned to an issue that was one of the most pivotal plots from Season 1 - domestic violence. Speaking to MTV News, The Walking Dead's executive producer Gale Anne Hurd shared why this theme has been repeated and how the show hopes that it can inspire other women in similar circumstances.
Back in Season 1, episode 3 the show forced fans to realize that despite a zombie apocalypse, issues from regular life had not disappeared when we learned that Ed was abusing his wife Carol (and possibly also his daughter Sophia).
Fortunately it was Shane who dealt to Ed, giving him a taste of his own medicine, before he was killed by a walker after isolating himself in a tent, away from the group.
Hurd says that it was because of the Carol storyline back in Season 1 that the currently abuse storyline with Jessie and Pete was handled the way it was, saying:
I think it’s because of Carol. I think it’s because everyone feels for Carol. We’ve seen the storyline most poignantly... She’s not going to let that happen to anyone else. She simply won’t stand for it, and there’s no question that her influence has deeply affected Rick as well.
This has definitely been shown in the last few episodes, especially at the end of episode 14, "Spend," when Carol told Rick that he was going to kill Pete, and then in episode 15 he proceeded to do almost exactly that. Rick knew that Carol spoke from a position of authority, having lived through that horror once before, and she knew what needed to be done. Although a death sentence may have seemed harsh, looking at the statistics on safehorizon.org, 1 in 3 female murder victims are murdered by their current, or former, partner every year, so perhaps Carol felt it was only a matter of time until Jessie ended up dead.
Hurd then went on to talk about the benefits of being able to explore issues such as domestic abuse within a fictional universe, and how she believes it can even help to inspire battered women to move on from their past:
That’s one great thing about fiction, or horror, because there is a level of suspension of disbelief. That is precisely why it can have such impact. I think the character of Carol shows that there are ways to survive that abuse, to become your own woman, and hopefully that will inspire women to believe that there is a life after they have left their abuser.
While Hurd's statement might sound like wishful thinking, the power of TV and film shouldn't be underestimated. Hurd says that Melissa McBride, the actress who plays Carol, has heard from abuse survivors, thanking her for giving a voice to their struggle. Not to mention that Hurd herself was a producer on Aliens, a film which has a very strong female character who has been inspirational to generations of female sci-fi viewers.
In a country where it is estimated that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime, no strong female role model should be underestimated for her power to inspire.
Hurd finishes by giving her thoughts on why Carol has gone from being a character who was forgettable in Season 1 to a total bad-ass and fan favorite in Season 5, saying:
I think — and I’m hoping that this gets out — that Carol has become one of the most popular characters on this show, maybe one of the most popular characters on television. But she is not an ingénue. She’s tough, she takes care of her people, and she does what it takes to protect them, but not in a Lady MacBeth sort of way. In her own, powerful, self-aware, I’m not taking any shit kind of way.
I couldn't agree more! Here's hoping that Jessie can now mimic Carol's journey after the events of the last few episodes, and that The Walking Dead continues to portray these big issues on screen for many seasons to come.