Maria Ramos

Maria is a writer interested in comic books, cycling, and horror films. Her hobbies include cooking, doodling, and finding local shops around the city. She currently lives in Chicago with her two pet turtles, Franklin and Roy. You can follow her on Twitter @MariaRamos1889.

Fear-the-Walking-Dead-poster (1)The Walking Dead has been a popular and well-known zombie phenomenon since its initial launch in 2011 and is still going strong with its sixth season set to premiere this fall. Its most known for its riveting and tough characters but the women of this hit show have long been a contentious subject among fans. Many have agreed that the female characters are often undermined by men and continuously step aside so that Rick or Daryl can have their time in the spotlight. But now that the show’s companion series Fear the Walking Dead has premiered, will it follow in its predecessor’s footsteps or take its female characters in a new direction?

Though women are prominent among the landscape of The Walking Dead, it has been often commented that their characters are one dimensional at best. Rick’s wife Lori was seen as a whiny, pushy, adulterous instigator who was as likely to cause trouble as help prevent it. Andrea was also argumentative and pushy, and, while she seemed to start off somewhat strong, lost most of her direction as her story progressed. Carol has been one of the few regular female characters on the show who has gone through a real period of growth and evolution. She started out a somewhat timid wife, married to an abusive man and desperate to keep her daughter safe. However, she ultimately lost both her husband and child. These losses changed her over time into a much darker, much sharper individual, until she became one of the most dangerous – and most interesting to watch – characters on the show.

 fear-the-walking-dead-posterSo far, Fear the Walking Dead has presented two possible female leads to rival those found on its parent series: Madison Clark and her daughter Alicia. Madison is a school counselor and administrator, a mother of two, a divorcee, and a girlfriend. Her actions show the caring and motherly aspects we expect but she comes across as a little unsure of her own feelings in regards to how she is doing as a parent. She also doesn’t necessarily listen when people tell her things she doesn’t want to hear, and doesn’t stay behind when people try to keep her safe. It looks like they’re setting her up to be something of a cross between Lori and Andrea from the original show, which might not be the best direction to take her, as they were not necessarily the most liked characters of The Walking Dead.

Her daughter Alicia isn’t as developed as she could be at this stage of the game. She has the makings of a bitter and angsty teenager who’s constantly disappointed in her family. In the first episode of the series, Alicia seems to spend half her dialogue reiterating how desperate she is to get away from home. Although it seems that she’s ultimately a smart kid and the “good” child of the family, it’s hard to find her likeable when she spends so much time hating everything that surrounds her.

While other female characters have made appearances in Fear the Walking Dead, only time will tell if they were important enough to the series to be brought back for more screentime – and if that screen time will show them to be more than one dimensional. Even Madison and Alicia still have that to prove after the first episode. Maddie has shown us little but her tough-as-nails, wanting-to-take-charge attitude (except for a brief show of insecurity over her missing drug-addicted son), and Alicia has predominantly just acted like a regular teenager. The show may seem to believe it is female character friendly, but it doesn’t even pass the Bechdel Test. It may
have two women characters talking to each other, but all of the interactions so far seem to have been centered around men, instead of focusing on any other issue.

fear of the walking dead 2Fear the Walking Dead may not have had the most promising start when it comes to female characters, but that doesn’t mean the potential isn’t there to see that change. Maddie could find her softer side, Alicia could drop the teen angst act, and the few other women introduced briefly could play a much bigger role in the story to come. Both shows are available on AMC through cable TV, so make sure you don’t miss any more of the zombie fun and character developments. Only time and more episodes will prove if this series will follow in The Walking Dead‘s footsteps or not.


Maria Ramos

Maria Violet is a writer interested in comic books, cycling, and horror films. Her hobbies include cooking, doodling, and finding local shops around the city. She currently lives in Chicago with her two pet turtles, Franklin and Roy.

orphan black_girlsThe science fiction in Orphan Black has been highly praised for its realistic depictions of genetic engineering, human cloning, and the ethics behind it all. However, this is not the only true or relevant aspect of the show. Its large cast of female characters are at the heart of the story and this is primarily what makes the series so believable and real. Without the intrusion of dominant male characters to define who they are, these women are portrayed as multidimensional, fully realized individuals who can think and act for themselves–much like women outside your television screen.

Those who have not watched the show and experienced what these women are made of, may, from the outside, see some cliches: Sarah is a punk rock con artist; Alison is a suburban, straight-laced soccer mom; Cosima is a nerdy PhD student; and Helena is a trained murderer with a dark past. Although these stereotypes presumably encapsulate their personalities, there is much more to them than what’s on the surface. And despite them being clones and coming from the same genome, in no way are they exact replicas of each other, unlike the cookie cutter versions of women seen on many other television shows today.

Sarah-OrphanSarah Manning is the main protagonist and within the first few minutes of her airtime, we see a criminal who’s made a handful of poor choices. However, she is much more than that. She’s a mother, a sister, and part of a bigger and controversial issue that surrounds her and her sister clones. We come to learn that her intentions are not all bad as she will fight tirelessly for her own, and her clone sisters’, freedom and individuality. She could have very easily been put into a box as the punk character constantly doing the wrong thing, needing to be saved. But Sarah doesn’t need anyone to save her because she is fully capable of saving herself. Tatiana Maslany plays the parts of all the clones in the show and because they are all vastly different characters, we constantly see the breadth of Maslany’s talent.

Orphan Black is a show that seeks to portray empowered women and is a genuine celebration of diversity. Although the clones are unalike and come from different backgrounds, they support each other, love each other, and want the best for each other. This can not always be said for other televisions shows that pit woman against woman in meaningless antagonisms, which only reinforce the stereotype that women are overly dramatic. No…in Orphan Black we find a family that works together for their collective happiness.

felix_jordan-garavisThe men in this show are less fully realised: Paul is a secretive man easily distracted by sex; Art is a typical cop; Vic is an abusive drug dealer. They are mostly antagonists, created to get in Sarah and the clones’ way. The only man in the series who is consistently smart, strong, and worth anything is Felix Dawkins (played by Jordan Gavaris), Sarah’s adopted brother. Felix could have easily been written as “the gay comic relief”, but instead was able to transcend the labels and become something more. He’s an integral part of the show, and his sexuality (like Cosima’s) is just seen as another piece of who he is and not a defining characteristic to focus on for either comedic or dramatic purposes.

There’s been some discussion that perhaps Orphan Black goes too far in its poor treatment of male characters. Many believe they are one dimensional in order to make the female characters stronger and more important. And while it does seem like they do spend the majority of their time as set dressing and background filler, that may be less because they are being marginalised and more because they simply aren’t the main focus of the show.

Sarah, her sister-clones, and their stories are what makes this series worth watching. They move the story forward without any man or tragic event to help them develop. Though the fourth season will not be here until next year, you can catch previous episodes on Netflix, DirecTV, and Comcast Xfinity. That way, you won’t have to miss your favourite clones breaking down walls and destroying stereotypes. Although Orphan Black isn’t as well known and watched as Game of Thrones or Orange is the New Black, it is just as worthwhile.


davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 





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