The Walking Dead: Why Carol Peletier Is a Feminist Icon

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 12 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

I didn’t get into The Walking Dead until about the third season, but I’ve watched enough episodes from season one and two to know that Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) has come a long way, baby.  My blood boiled when her husband abused her.  I railed and yelled at the TV.  I remember thinking that the loss of her daughter would be the end of her.  I certainly didn’t think that she would ever have made it this far, but she did.  And each season of The Walking Dead has brought us a deadlier, shrewder, more remarkable version of Carol, and TWD season six was no exception.

Carol has gone from being a victim and survivor to an aggressor aggressively doing whatever it takes, by any means necessary, to survive.  In “Same Boat” (episode 13) and “East” (episode 15), Carol completes the metamorphosis that started way back in The Walking Dead‘s fourth season when Carol killed Tyreese’s love interest Karen and another resident after a virus spread through the prison they were all shacked up in.  Carol has been a nomad and a mercenary, but she’s also been down to do whatever it takes for the team, even when Rick and the others couldn’t see it.

This doesn’t mean that Carol hasn’t had to pay the price for being a bad ass merc with a conscience.  She has.  And that toll on her was quite evident by the time the season 6 finale aired last night.  Still, nothing can negate how incredibly vital Carol has been to Rick and the crew.

Don’t get me wrong.  Sasha, Michonne, Maggie, Rosita and many of the women who’ve graced the show are feminist icons, but Carol is an older woman who is deadlier because she is so unexpectedly so.  It is because of outdated (for the zombie apocalypse especially) notions about mature women that a whole crew of antagonists let their guard down just enough for her to exploit their failure to never underestimate a woman.  I believe that this was by design of The Walking Dead‘s writers and I’m here for it.  Don’t shoot the messenger.  Just watch the tape.

Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier – The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 15 – Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

And for the slow people in the back, Carol is not one of The Walking Dead‘s feminist icons because of who she killed.  She’s one of the show’s feminist icons because of how far she’s come, from abused wife to an effective killing machine, that makes her an icon.  In a world where women would most likely be some of the first casualties of the war to reestablish humanity in a sea of the undead, Carol (like Michonne, Sasha, Maggie, and many others both living and dead) not only made it, but she adapted to it and allowed herself to be molded by it so she could get the job done.

I truly believe that Carol will come to terms with her position (in the TV series) and she’ll find the balance between kickass mother figure and assassin, and I cannot wait.