Black (anti)fandom's intersectional politicization of "The Walking Dead" as a transmedia franchise

  • James Rendell Cardiff University
Keywords: Audiences, Digital, Horror, Race, Social media, Television

Abstract

Despite axiomatic industry and academic discourses of The Walking Dead's (2010–) status as quality TV—linked to its graphic visuals and compelling story lines—strong counterclaims question the text's (mis)representations of race and its propensity for systematically killing off Black male characters. An analysis of African Americans' responses to marginalized Black male characters politicizes the racial milieu of the series against the backdrop of wider racial relationships in the United States. Moreover, The Walking Dead is a successful transmedia franchise, and thus racial discourse shifts and changes, depending on which transmedia texts are being consumed. Thus, Black antifan rhetoric aimed at the spin-off series Fear the Walking Dead (2015–) centers on the zombification of Black men, a metaphor of the mistreatment and othering of young Black men by US police. Comparatively, The Walking Dead video game (TellTale Games, 2012) offers character development for its Black male lead character that fans praise against wider cultural representations in relation to both the franchise's hyperdiegesis and to video games in general. Therefore, Black audiences may read The Walking Dead as both racially reductive and radical. In doing so, aspects of self-identity, such as race, can inform (anti)fan positions through intersectional politics.

Published
2019-03-15