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I feel like all I've been doing is talking about character arcs. But here's one that's been on my mind for a while, and also, this lady needs all the support she can get, even if she is [spoiler].

Day Fifteen: Favorite female character growth arc wot I feel like talking about at this time

Lori Grimes of The Walking Dead.

Okay. Dukes up, kids: I really like Lori and really really like what they did with her. The more I think about it, the more I like her whole arc.

I've heard the complaints, or enough of them. I know she was on pretty much everyone's "DIE!" list. I heard the promised celebrations when she did, however discomfited they turned out to be about it all. And I do get it; I started off luke-warm toward her myself, she's not an engaging character (though to be fair, I was luke-warm to everyone apart from Daryl well into the back half of season two). I just think you're all, all wrong.

Let's get the obvious out of the way: she was not survivor material. She's not weak, per se, but she's a panicker. But not the natural, forgiveable panic of your average survivor sheeple, she's got enough strength for that, steel enough for the zombie hordes. It's with people, the real threat of the series, that she tries to be firm but is oh so brittle underneath. So she careens to and fro, showing moments of resolve, only to flail helplessly, and then try once more to meet the threat. Over and over again. And we don't want that in our zombie stories; we want the absolutes, the strong survivors through whom we can vicariously slaughter human non!humans and measure our survival theories against, and the obvious zombie-chum who are going to be picked off in entertainingly gruesome ways. We, as an audience, want to know where we stand. Who to root for and who not to get attached to. TWD goes out of its way to frustrate in this respect, and Lori was especially effective.

But these flaws and contradictions are what make her an interesting character. The evolution of her character – entirely off screen between seasons – is what makes her a compelling one.

And it's a simple, intensely nerve-wracking arc. She starts off as a somewhat average small-town/suburban wife, differentiated by having acquired some level of fortitude through being married to a cop, and recently suffering the realisation of what was probably her most persistent fear: the death of her husband in the line of duty. Then the zombie apocalypse happens. She needs to be strong for her son, so she is; but she's emotionally weakened, so she takes solace in her late husband's best friend, and depends on his strength.

She is, in all of this, very short-sighted. She makes all her choices, and reacts, without showing any regard for the consequences. She is highly reactive, and as S1 and 2 wear on, that is the one consistent note and the reason for all her apparent, loudly-decried inconsistencies. She is confronted with a situation she doesn't want, or is afraid of, and she simply rejects it, denies it, flees it, without thinking what will result. And then, confronted with what does result, she ... does it again. This is her one coping mechanism when she is overwhelmed (when she feels less threatened, she is able to reason a little better, but not that much). If she hadn't been the primary object of protection of both alpha males in the group, she wouldn't have survived the first wave or two. But she was, and she did.

It builds from the beginning, but by the time of discovering she's pregnant, she is virtually saturated in terror of this world with its constant, random threats she cannot get a handle on. She is hanging on by her fingernails and only occasionally gets enough reprieve to do anything but react. I'm not saying this is yay, great – it's annoying as hell at times. But it's completely understandable and human.

And it's her pregnancy that is the catalyst for her arc. This woman who has run from every problem she couldn't deal with now has an insane problem in the zombie apocalypse that she is literally carrying around inside her – she cannot run away from it. She makes the choice to keep it as spontaneously and reactively as she does anything else, and we're not shown that her ability to project consequences ever changes. But at the end of season two, she is confronted by the results of her actions upon Rick, and eventually decides (like the rest of the group) to get behind his total authority.

By the time we pick up with them again eight months later, she is no less terrified. No less overwhelmed. And yet, for the sake of her unborn baby, for the sake of her husband and son, she has learned to lock that terror down, to do what needs to be done, to pay attention and try, at least, to do what others (especially Rick) need of her rather than fixating on her own issues. And all that, her entire arc, comes to a head in the most brutal, badass and yet tender death scene I've seen in a very long time. It is a beautiful arc, well drawn, and I salute it.

master list


( 5 speakses — have a speak )
Oct. 12th, 2014 01:28 pm (UTC)
I love you so much when you're grumpy (or at least disagreeing with everyone) - vol.2
Ok. So here goes. I did try not to be too ragey, but...

I pretty much failed.

Not ragey AT you, though, obviously :D For you, monkeytwin, I have nothing but love. :) And I love you so much for so many things, including but not limited to your liking Lori. And I am so grateful I found you.

Because as you know: I love Lori. So much. And the hatred she inspires, MAN it makes me tee right off. And also forgive her for everything I hadn't already forgiven her for, just on principle as a matter of justice.... It's a little weird.

I'll get to that in a bit, but to Lori herself to start:

I agree with you that she's reactive, and panicky, and not built for a post-zombie apocalypse world. Absolutely. The thing is, I cannot understand why this makes her an object of hatred to so many people. Because it is SO FREAKIN HUMAN. She is terrified, all the time, for her son, husband, unborn baby, and of course, for herself too. And she's allowed to be. That is a perfctly logical, if not BAMF, reaction to being caught up in the zombie apocalypse. And yet, in spite of that terror, she's trying. She really, really is. Not always succeeding at being the person that people around her need her to be, sure, but who the hell DOES succeed at that all the time? Jeez.

I actally don't find her all that inconsistent, either, which I know puts me out of step with literally everybody. I don't even really know how to explain it, other than to say that I was just never particularly surprised by anything she did, when she did it. All I ever felt, about everything, was just this enormous wave of compassion for this character. I'm not sure I've ever wanted to hug a fictional character so badly. Which was so strange because...

I came into watching this show EXPECTING to hate her. Having heard nothing but how much ALL THE PEOPLE EVER hated her. LOOKING FOR reasons to hate her. The fact that I ended up being wholeheartedly #TeamLori in that context... just makes me rage even more at the injustice of the accepted wisdom about the character.

For all the baggage that she and Rick were clearly carrying around from their marriage, y'know what? We don't actually know what the story was, pre-apocalypse. We know they weren't happy, sure, but we don't *actually* know why or for how long. And, let's all be grownups here: there are two people in the marriage, and soz folks, but Lori is not *actually* a monster, so.

And whatever else she did, she loved him. Clearly. And he loved her. Clearly. And they were, in my opinion anyway, good together. She knew how important it was to Rick to be A Good Man. Seems to me that part of the tension between them was precisely because Rick cared about whether or not she saw him, judged him to be, A Good Man. Like she was the mirror he judged himself in. And her judgement was all over the place, because the parameters she'd always had for how to judge that were suddenly all gone. And part of his judgement of her was how she was judging him, and also, by the standards to which he held himself, and she couldn't always meet them. That's not necessarily failure, that's human. But... y'know... tension.

But she DID back him up, the best way she knew how (even if that meant dealing with Shane, well, not very effectively or usefully when Rick came back. But I can understand her freaking out and behaving as she did out of loyalty and guilt. And to be honest, I'm not sure what else she could have done re: Shane that would have changed the outcome.). She backed Rick up even when she disagreed with him, even if she later changed her mind, or reached a point eventually where she snapped. Which, PS, she's allowed to do, fandom. And she's allowed to change her mind, and she's allowed to be confused and conflicted about All The Things, because guess what?! It's the zombie apocalypse ffs.

Anyone who wants to criticise my girl for making mistakes in that context can, without putting too fine a point on it, go screw themselves. Who hasn't at some point in their lives, not lived up to their own expectations of themselves, or others expectations of them, and then screwed things up further still out of the resulting guilt? It can't just be me. If it is, god knows I sure do envy y'all.

Oct. 12th, 2014 01:52 pm (UTC)
Re: I love you so much when you're grumpy (or at least disagreeing with everyone) - vol 2.5
The hypocrisy and idiocy and vitriolic bastardry that mean people celebrate the death of a character because of ALL THAT just makes me RAGE SO FREAKIN HARD I CAN'T EVEN. It is so undeserved.


The fact it makes me so angry, really made me question why. Yes, caring too much about fictional characters is what we do here in fangirl land, but all the same... I really had to examine it, because it's not abating.

And I think it's at least partly because it's symptomatic of the frustrating way Fandom At Large reacts to SO MANY female characters. Constantly. And the double standards we so often seem to have as a broad pan-fandom community in judging our female characters versus our male characters.

Female characters can be hated for having committed no greater sins than, not being sufficiently kickass, effectively. Male characters still have the shit fangirled out of them despite being (in fact, eww, because they are) the most unreconstructed assholes (Merle), or actually-quite-straightforwardly-bad-guy villains (Loki), or the ACTUALLY-HE-WAS-COMPLICIT-IN-EVIL-AND-IF-THIS-CHARACTER-WERE-A-WOMAN-YOU'D-TOTALLY-BE-UP-IN-THEIR-FACE-FOR-BEING-WEAK-FANDOM-AND-YOU-KNOW-IT types (Draco). Do not even get me started on Twilight/50Shades...

It is a feminist issue, but not in the way you seem to think it is, Broader Fandom. Good female characters don't necessarily, as a rule and without exception, have to be kick-ass, or impressive, or laudable, or really even dignified. That's not what makes a good character, and it's sure as hell not what makes a real human. Or rather, they're not the only things. Good characters are, in my view, ones who explore and shed light on the human condition in all its flawed, disappointing, unreliable, failing-to-meet-expectations shittiness. Especially when the story's set during the zombie apocalypse ffs.

We are not, as a species, Superman. We are not perfect. WHY DO WE EXPECT OUR FICTIONAL WOMEN TO BE PERFECT? Or imperfect in just the right kind of way? (For example, Michonne is allowed to break down, but I'd argue only because she's just spent 1.5 SEASONS proving to the audience that she's a BAMF, thus earning pan-fandom's approval for her to cry without being written off as weak.)

And why do we hate them SO MUCH, when they're not perfect? And it's us. It's the fangirls. We'll forgive, even adore, idolise and idealise (and woobify - hoooooooooly shit, the woobification we'll embark on without question or hesitation) the imperfect male characters, but the imperfect female characters like Lori?

Suddenly it's all: 'she's weak, she's annoying, she didn't support her man unconditionally, she should have kept her concerns to herself, she came between her man and his man, she was unfaithful, she shouldn't have lost hope (OMG HOW VERY DARE SHE), she wanted her kid to die (BULLSHIT. LEARN TO APPRECIATE NUANCE PEOPLE.), she didn't want/almost got rid of the baby, she lied to Rick about the baby (ALL the baby stuff is NOT THAT SIMPLE ASSHATS. OMG I can't even with the hate over the baby stuff.), she should have been a better mother, she wasn't being the right kind of mother, she should have been a stronger character, she's an insult to women because she's not a stronger character, why don't we get strong women characters....' and on and on and on and fucking on. I'm going to hit something.

these flaws and contradictions are what make her an interesting character. The evolution of her character – entirely off screen between seasons – is what makes her a compelling one.


All of which is not to say that I don't think there are some unbelievably shit and indeed, anti-feminist, characters out there. Because there's a very big difference between all of that, and 'flawed and well written'. But that just makes me even *angrier*, because of all the honest to god terrible women in fiction out there (cough The Newsroom cough)... Lori is not one of them.

And I love her. And I loved her arc too.

And I'm grateful that she got such a freakin epic death sequence, because she bloody well earned it.

/rant ends. (OMG I am so sorry...)
Oct. 20th, 2014 09:22 am (UTC)
Re: I love you so much when you're grumpy (or at least disagreeing with everyone) - vol 2.5
/rant ends. (OMG I am so sorry...)

How about I just leave this here? :D

The thing is, I cannot understand why this makes her an object of hatred to so many people.

See, this is the point where I just go THISTHISTHISTHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSS right back at you about ALL THE THINGS.

Because it is SO FREAKIN HUMAN.

And in the end, this is the only answer I can come up with. People don't want "human". They want BADASS and they want it NOW. No one wants the sad, hard, weak truth of human; people want "Yer a wizard, Harry!" (I'm not arguing against wish-fulfilment in its place, and with the understanding of what it is and the role it plays in how we interact with ourselves, each other, the world. I'm arguing against the inability – the lack of self-awareness – to recognise its limits, when it leads people to reject or refuse to deal with those elements in ourselves, each other, the world that don't conform or fulfil our own wishes. Growing up doesn't reject imagination and wishes and even wish fulfilment (*cough*HelenRazer), but it DOES come to terms with its nature and how it interacts with the nature of reality.)

I actally don't find her all that inconsistent
... I was just never particularly surprised by anything she did, when she did it.


Rick cared about whether or not she saw him, judged him to be, A Good Man. Like she was the mirror he judged himself in. And her judgement was all over the place, because the parameters she'd always had for how to judge that were suddenly all gone. And part of his judgement of her was how she was judging him, and also, by the standards to which he held himself, and she couldn't always meet them.

That's absolutely spot-on. I hadn't spent that much time looking at their relationship, really, but yeah, I think you nailed it. Part of the pendulum-swing Rick made after she drew back/freaked out about him killing Shane was all about how much he looks to her for judgement – and, I mean, that's what you do with the person you've chosen as your partner for everything life throws at you, as long as you both shall live, that's the point. But they're both so thrown by these massive upheavals they've individually had to go through, without the other, without even being able to factor the possibility of the other into the ways they've had to adapt, that even as they try to reach out to each other for that stability (which was already going through a rocky patch before all this), their own new individual trajectories do as much to throw each other off course as help them pull together.

Given more time, they could have worked their way back, because OMG did they CLEARLY love each other, THIS, YES – but Rick had to shut her, or rather, the judgement he felt and feared from her, completely out in order to live with what he'd done with Shane. He had to keep her SAFE, and bring the baby safely into the world, to atone for killing his best friend ("over her" – again, he didn't make it that, and she didn't make it that, SHANE DID by refusing to let go of her). Not because he felt he couldn't rely on her judgement, but because he did, and was terrified it would be a final condemnation, and he couldn't live with that on top of his own guilt and judgement of himself. And he simply couldn't – or wouldn't – let her in, couldn't give them both a chance to forgive and take hold of one another again.

All she could do to try to show him that, in spite of her first freaked-out reaction, she didn't judge him was to do everything possible to show him she supported him and his efforts to find them a safe place. He couldn't, couldn't hear her, couldn't risk a chink in those so-brittle walls he was holding up to be the person he felt he needed to be to save everyone, but she could walk beside him. Unhesitatingly, all the way.
Oct. 20th, 2014 09:23 am (UTC)
Re: I love you so much when you're grumpy (or at least disagreeing with everyone) - vol 2.5
And in maybe the most devastating (at least so far) demonstration that you never have the time you think you do, he was waiting until she was safe, until the baby was safe – enough – to try to reconnect (survival/humanity!). And since she couldn't make him hear, she couldn't TELL HIM she KNEW that wasn't gonna happen, that in all likelihood, despite everything even Hershel might be able to do, the baby being delivered safe meant she would be dead. She made one last attempt, that night in the field, and OMG there was so much pain on *both* sides as he pushed her back, just a little longer, until he FINISHED THE JOB of MAKING HER SAFE. And could only begin to very slightly reconnect after they "secured" the prison, and she followed through on the extreme measures of what he started in saving Hershel's life for her sake – the first time, ironically, that they were apart enough that she could do something he wasn't there to, and show him how much she supported and adhered to his judgement, the first time she could truly help pull with him in the same direction. And so the mental break he experienced after began with hearing her – trying to make his way all the way back to reconnecting with her, to the point where she (without him even knowing it) completed the touching-of-the-cheek gesture, where she had touched her own cheek to her shoulder where his hand had been.

... And that's a lot of werds on that! But better than me just running around ALLCAPS repeating everything you already ranted about how people receive her character. BECAUSE DUDE.

Fandom At Large reacts to SO MANY female characters.
Michonne is allowed to break down, but I'd argue only because she's just spent 1.5 SEASONS proving to the audience that she's a BAMF, thus earning pan-fandom's approval for her to cry without being written off as weak.


*breathes into paper bag* Everything you said. *clings to you*

edited to add now that I've thought about Rick-Shane-Lori-guilt thing some more ... OMG, so, the wall Rick kept up to keep her/her judgement out wasn't JUST fueled by fear of her condemnation – the prospect of her support was just as terrifying. Either one would (he felt) destroy *him* – the Good Man he wanted to believe he was, the Good Man he wanted to be for Lori – because if she understood and supported his actions, it would mean he couldn't keep denying that it was him who did that to Shane. I mean, yes, Shane DID push him and push him, further and further out beyond the point of return, but the choice of how to respond – that's still on Rick (as he later recognises, and thus can accept Michonne's own judgement/support of what he did). Letting in Lori, no matter what her judgement, meant letting in his own guilt, and the fear that he would lose her, lose *them* because of it. Even if she didn't reject him, even if she stuck by him 100% (which she did), it was the wrong him, the changed him, the Not A Good Man him. And so all he could try to be was the Good Man who kept his wife and his (or possibly his best friend's WHO HE KILLED) unborn child safe NO MATTER WHAT IT TOOK.

And in that field he was SO ANGRY and SO HURT with her trying to get him to stop just enough to connect, even for a moment, to tell him we need THIS time RIGHT NOW, because can't you see what I am trying to do, and trying to BE, for you? Can't you just accept it, accept me as I WANT to be, so that I can believe I am that man? – And she COULD see it, I think, at least intuit what he was trying to do, and that's WHY she was trying to reconnect then, in spite of all the walls she knew were in the way. And then she saw she couldn't get through them, no matter what, she could only wait and hope and let him dismantle them himself at his own pace. (And then she died and EVERYTHING in him shattered and fell down.)

ARGH hurts so good

Edited at 2014-10-20 11:59 pm (UTC)
Nov. 2nd, 2014 09:27 am (UTC)
Re: I love you so much when you're grumpy (or at least disagreeing with everyone) - vol 2.5
I think I just spent five solid minutes staring at that gif. Again. Good lawd.

The short answer here, is that I completely and wholeheartedly agree with everything you just said.

And absolutely, I agree, he HAD to lock it down because her approval (while he was still grappling with who and what he was) would have been every bit as devastating as her disapproval. Would have indicated there was no coming back and he wasn't ready to accept that yet. And, in my opinion, she did actually approve, once the shock had passed. He just, as you say, wouldn't hear her, wouldn't let himself hear her for exactly that reason. Trying to make her and baby (and sure, everyone else, but HER AND HIS CHILDREN DAMMIT) safe couldn't afford to be blown off course by his existential dilemmas. Oh Rick. /o\ And then THEY RAN OUT OF TIME JUST LIKE SHE KNEW THEY WOULD AND OOOOWWWWWWW IT HUUUUUURTTTTSSS. /o\ /o\ /o\ /o\

....and now I'm *crying* again. Holy shit. The emotional investment I apparently have in these two and their issues.

So, in an effort to add something useful rather than simply quoting you back at you (but, just to be clear, EVERYTHING - EVERYTHING you just said.):

The OTHER side of all this, of course, is Rick's response to Lori, including the freakout. (And don't take this be me chastising Rick, because I love him and understand his reactions every bit as much as I do Lori and hers... seriously, it's like watching my two closest friends, who just happened to fall in love, having problems, and just sobbing on the sidelines going 'but you guys LOVE EACH OTHER SO MUCH! I LOVE YOU BOTH SO MUCH! PLEASE CAN'T YOU GUYS PLEASE STOP HURTING EACH OTHER AND JUST WORK IT OUT!'... Me? Overinvested? I don't know what you're talking about!)

But. Everyone hates Lori for that moment of rejection of Rick at the end of S02. And, look, it was a '/o\ LORI nooooooo!!!!' moment for me too even though I get it. But as we've discussed, she's panicky and reactive. I would put money on her if not instantaneously, then VERY, very soon after that, like, later that night as she's lying there in the dark, still terrified but with even MOAR to be afraid of now than just zombies and her being pregnant, unable to sleep with it all going round and round in her head... and very quickly coming around and regretting and feeling tremendous guilt over her reaction, and knowing what the impact on him/them would be.... but of course it was already too late. Rick had already shut down. (I'd have to go back and check, but I feel like there was something in that S03 opener that suggested as much too... that she'd come round very quickly, but not quickly enough.)

Now, as I say, I completely get why Rick reacted in that way, just as I get why Lori did... but no one ever gets shitty at Rick for not forgiving Lori for her perfectly-human-and-understandable-even-though-we-wish-it'd-been-different freakout, even when she is demonstrably sorry for it. Nooooooooo. It's only Lori who's hated for not behaving in The Best And Most Honourable Way Possible At All Times. Rick always gets a pass. Because Rick is a BAMF. (No surprises that the only times Rick does NOT get a fandom pass (for being boring/whatever) is.... when he's not being a BAMF. So, y'know, I guess at least in this case you're vaguely consistent fandom, well done.)

Just sayin.

People don't want "human". They want BADASS and they want it NOW. No one wants the sad, hard, weak truth of human

WORD, woman. *facepalm*

Oh, and y'know what I was saying about fandom giving Michonne a pass? Here, have this transcript of some comments made by Danai Gurira (who, seriously, could she make me love her more) at Paleyfest a few weeks ago. Simultaneously '*facepalm*, fandom' and 'ILU DANAI':

"I got asked once by a fan, 'is she [Michonne] going to be weaker now that she openly loves Carl, and loves these people?' And I was like, 'love isn't weakness!' Actually opening up to your vulnerability isn't weakness, that's a strength! So I think her growth is fascinating to me, in that her strength gets to synthesise into something else, but it's just as potent."


edited because FEELS are no excuse for poor punctuation.

Edited at 2014-11-02 09:32 am (UTC)
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