They are the oddest couple I know. One is a strung out, racist, redneck with a really bad attitude and cojones only a fool would dare challenge. The other is a black man built like a Mack truck who displays good intentions and guts, but harbors doubts about his place in a zombie-infested society. When they meet sparks, …or rather blood and spit, certainly fly. It’s a feast for the eyes and the spirit…for both Merle Dixon and Theodore Douglas, better known as T-Dog, are grappling with issues of race, survival and what it means to honestly show your true colors.
Who are Merle Dixon and Theodore Douglas? They are characters from The Walking Dead—a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman turned into one of the world’s hottest cable television shows by AMC and an insanely talented production crew. They have created cast of characters I have a great deal of love for:
- the tormented former lawman Shane Walsh,
- a squirrel-tossing badass Daryl Dixon,
- the honorable Glenn,
- an elder statesman, Dale,
- a woman on the hunt, Andrea, and
- the man with a mission, former lawman Rick Grimes.
If you aren’t watching the show you should be. From the moment the show begins viewers are taken on the undead ride of a lifetime, watching a cast of beleaguered humans fight not only to survive, but to retain that which makes us most human.
These two characters represent the opposite ends of the spectrum in a battle that has raged since the beginning of recorded history. Are we, the human family, truly one? Or, are we divided by race, religion, ethnicity and/or politics? Are we a global family? Or, is it us against them? Neither man is evil. Both are, at least partially, products of their environments. And both men have valuable lessons to teach us about what it means to be human.
[***WARNING: Spoilers ahead***]
Everyone loves Merle. Wait, scratch that. Everyone loves Michael Rooker, a singular actor who can take the most vile character and leave viewers salivating for more. But it isn’t just Rooker. Merle is able to do what most of us cannot—to be true to who he is and speak his mind no matter how unpopular his feelings might be. Putting aside, briefly, that Merle is a danger to pretty much anyone he encounters including his own family members, there is a sort of freedom there that few human beings have the guts to display. T-Dog certainly doesn’t have that kind of courage—it is only when ravaged by fever that he is able to give voice to the dark thoughts he harbors within about race and the fate of the black man. While he may later express disgust with the bile that spewed forth from a fevered mind, he cannot really deny that those were—at least, in part—his true feelings…and given the state of pre-zombiepocalypse society, not entirely unjustified.
T-Dog, played by IronE Singleton, is the main survivor group’s conscience personified. After Merle’s disgusting display on the roof, it is T-Dog who steps forward to take on the responsibility for Merle’s fate even though he, above all the others, would have the most reason to turn and walk away. He took the responsibility for dropping the key and delivers a message few want to hear—that the blood is on their hands, and no matter how repugnant Merle may be his fate will weigh on their spirits. By securing the door with a chain and padlock even as he fled the rooftop scene, T-Dog recognized that his anger towards Merle was human, but that the outcome was untenable.
The one vs. the many. Merle and T-Dog, because of who they are as men, have polar opposite approaches to survival. Merle needs no one and sees the pansies, democrats and n*ggers as negatives rather than assets. T-Dog sees every individual as having a place on this earth with value to add to the group. In this regard Merle is hopelessly deluded. A man may be able to survive physically on his own, but the human spirit requires others to flourish.
Both Merle and T-Dog have strength of spirit, the strength of true survivors. If you pull away the layers of drugs, acerbic wit and short-sighted views of Merle, and the doubts about his place in the main survivor group as a whole in the case of T-Dog, both men have a strength to them. Seriously. How many people out there could do what Merle did on the roof, and in the kitchen with the iron? How many can continuously put aside fear and loneliness to act in the best interest of the group as a whole with no real sense of acrimony?
Which leads me to the rub. Is there a place for a man like Merle in a group of survivors for which he expresses little more than outright disdain? Should a man who consistently puts the group before himself feel like an outsider? And, ultimately, should the group survive long enough to begin a true rebuilding process, can they—the new human family—rise above the hurts of the past to chart a more humane future?
With special thanks to R.C. Murphy
juliette @ January 7, 2012
Any good story is bound to have that one character who is one horse short of being an honest-to-goodness cowboy. I’m not talking about the “shoot ’em up” guys that do it because they have a gun fetish, but the guys that fight to uphold their morals. Morals they learned with a hand on their momma’s apron hem and had drilled into their heads by hard working fathers. Rick Grimes came into existence long after the Cowboy Era, yet he still fits the part. Heck, when he made his first appearance on television they even gave him an actual horse–well until it was eaten by a horde of hungry zombies.
Who is Rick Grimes? He is a character from The Walking Dead—a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman turned into one of the world’s hottest cable television shows by AMC and an insanely talented production crew. They have created cast of characters I have a great deal of love for:
juliette @ January 3, 2012
Temperamental and rash, Andrea is determined to prove herself. But she remains prone to emotional outbursts that cloud better judgment, and result in foolish half-thought actions. That Andrea does have natural strength and the gumption to use it make her missteps all the more painful to watch. And often in the case of her fellow survivors, that pain is literal.
Who is Andrea? She is a character from The Walking Dead—a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman turned into one of the world’s hottest cable television shows by AMC and an insanely talented production crew. They have created cast of characters I have a great deal of love for:
juliette @ December 27, 2011
Everyone, whether fictional or flesh and blood, needs a person they can go to in times of emotional turmoil. That person holds up a mirror to reflect their true self. Without them, we are doomed to keep repeating mistakes, or worse, destroying who we really are by trying to pretend we’re someone different and going against our nature. Dale is that man. He speaks the truth, no matter how hard it is to hear.
Who is Dale? He is a character from The Walking Dead—a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman turned into one of the world’s hottest cable television shows by AMC and an insanely talented production crew. Like the tormented character of Shane Walsh, the squirrel-tossing badass Daryl Dixon and the honorable Glenn for all of whom I’ve already expressed great affection, Dale’s tireless battle to honor his fellow man has my unflinching support…and gratitude.
juliette @ December 22, 2011
He sure has balls for a Chinaman. Oh wait…he’s Korean. Whatever. What he is, is the kind of person I’d like to have at my side when the worst happens. When the horde is gathering and the body parts are flying—no matter what emotions may be racing through his adrenaline-hyped body—he remains practical, strategic, capable…and caring.
Even though Glenn isn’t really real, his innate ability to simultaneously make me smile and feel completely safe makes this young man a keeper on my post-apocalyptic wish list of companions.
Who is Glenn? He is a character from The Walking Dead—a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman turned into one of the world’s hottest cable television shows by AMC and an insanely talented production crew. Like the tormented character of Shane Walsh and the squirrel-tossing badass Daryl Dixon for both of whom I’ve already expressed great affection, Glenn is a character who has won my heart.
juliette @ December 11, 2011
He can toss, shoot and gut pretty much any animal with the flick of a knife. He can even turn squirrel sushi into a finger-lickin’ meal. Like the animals this survivor is known to hunt, he is natural, untamed and fierce. But unlike his prey—which instinctively know their place in the food chain, and the world—he is searching, taking emotional bumps and bruises in the quest to become the person he is meant to be.
That this struggle takes place against the backdrop of a make believe zombiepocalypse doesn’t make Daryl Dixon’s journey any less enthralling to watch.
Who is Daryl Dixon? He is a character from The Walking Dead—a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman turned into one of the world’s hottest cable television shows by AMC and an insanely talented production crew. And like the tormented character of Shane Walsh for whom I’ve already expressed great affection, Daryl Dixon has an uncanny ability to pull at my heartstrings.
juliette @ December 5, 2011
LK: First of all, I’d like to thank Juliette Terzieff for hosting the Tattered tour today because a young adult novel is a little off the grid for her normal topics. Although, once Katie gets started I think you’ll see it’s a much better fit than what you might think. One random selected commenter will win a paperback copy of Misfit McCabe along with Prince of Wolves by Dave Gross. To be entered for consideration for the Kindle grand prize comment and either Like Juliette’s Facebook page, follow her on Twitter (@jterzieff), or become a member of the Zombie Survival Crew.
Tattered is the third novel in the heartwarming young adult series, Misfit McCabe. A little about the book:
juliette @ December 2, 2011
Every time I see him I am reminded of why opening up your heart to anyone is at best a calculated risk, and at worst a fool’s errand. He is strong and capable, but simultaneously tormented and weak. He is—despite his claims to the contrary—too human for his own good.
The fact that he is not really real should keep me from feeling too sad, but it doesn’t…because I am in love with Shane Walsh.
Who is Shane Walsh? He is a character from The Walking Dead—a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman turned into one of the world’s hottest cable television shows by AMC and an insanely talented production crew.
juliette @ November 28, 2011
By Yours Truly, with an assist from the other half of my brain RC Murphy
When we look at the world around us today, there is plenty to dampen our mood or scare us into near emotional paralysis. Wars. Human rights abuses. Wacky weather. Government meltdowns. Corporate greed. And all that beyond whatever may be happening for us individually at work, at home, in our relationships.
But still there is plenty to be thankful for. (Yes, tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S. and we’ve purposely chosen to run with this now even though the idea has been percolating for some time.)
juliette @ November 23, 2011
Had a rough week? I’ve got your cure.
I’m not going to spoil the following for you.
I will merely say thank you to CNN’s Anderson Cooper for the biggest laugh I’ve had in weeks….and happy Friday everybody!
juliette @ August 19, 2011