October 24, 2017
'The Walking Dead' Fat-Shaming In The Midst Of Falling Ratings [Opinion]

After The Walking Dead ratings-challenged midseason finale on Sunday night (spoilers follow), viewers can draw their own conclusions whether the zombie apocalypse drama was engaging in fat-shaming with the beating death of "Fat Joey" and the fatal shooting of Olivia, a character who villain Negan repeatedly mocked for being overweight.

Separately, the actress who portrays Tara found herself on the receiving end of social media fat-shaming after her star turn in the "Swear" episode on November 27. New mom Alanna Masterson took to Instagram to respond.

"Dear Instagram trolls, body shamers, and the men and woman who think it's ok to comment on my weight: I hope that you don't have children. And if you do, I hope you teach them about kindness and acceptance. I hope they learn that it isn't ok to make fun of people or call people names..."

The more fundamental issue is the ratings decline in the AMC flagship "monster" hit after grabbing a massive 17 million viewers in the Season 7 premiere in the overnights. The show has averaged about 11 million viewers since then which, while still huge in the fragmented TV universe, reveals a significant decline.

It's a tall order to operate as a showrunner of a TV series under any circumstances, and while it's easy (too easy perhaps) to criticize from the couch, it would hardly be unusual for a once-riding-high series to fall out of favor and face cancellation.

That is, consumers can be fickle with their preferences about products as well as entertainment, and there is a history of once-popular television shows "jumping the shark," i.e., overstaying their welcome or shelf life and just going through the motions until they eventually disappear from the schedule.

The Walking Dead returns on February 12, 2017.

The Walking Dead ratings are dropping
[Image by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Images)

Deadline Hollywood has specifics on the Season 7 midseason finale.

"The winter finale of The Walking Dead saw the highest-rated show on television get a real bite taken out of it on a very competitive Sunday night -- at least compared to the last four years. With 10.58 million total viewers, the Season 7 90-minute 'Hearts Still Beating' episode was basically even with TWD's December 4 one-hour show. However, it was the lowest any TWD winter finale has done since 2012 and down 24% from the one-hour Season 6 winter finale of November 29 last year -- which was the second most watched midseason ender in the history of the AMC blockbuster based on Robert Kirkman's comics."

Although TWD is still appointment watching to be sure, various factors appear to be contributing to the ratings dip over the course of the half season and before.

  • Fan dissatisfaction with the Series 6 cliffhanger that left Negan's victims unrevealed.
  • "Torture porn" in the Season 7 premiere with Abraham and fan-favorite Glenn getting Lucilled.
  • One-off or singe-focus, stand-alone episodes particularly with minor characters who do little to advance the storyline (but may be a function of AMC-imposed budgetary restrictions).
  • Popular main characters missing from the show for weeks on end (are they paid by the episode or on a "flat rate"?).
  • After a big buildup, the possibility that Negan is a one-trick pony (and what's up with his swaying or weaving back and forth when he talks?)
  • Incessant discussions of zombie-apocalypse morality (after seven seasons, enough already?).
  • Characters doings stupid stuff. Recent case in point: A pregnant Maggie is supposed be on bed rest but is running around Hilltop as well as recklessly standing watch at the top of the fort when Negan thinks she's dead.
  • A midseason hiatus that undermines plot momentum and artificially slows down the narrative.
The Waking Dead's Maggie portrayed by Lauren Cohan
[Image by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP Images]

In general, The Walking Dead seems to be much stronger when the regulars are united rather than separated.

Although character development is a key component of any drama, the aforementioned slow pacing on The Walking Dead has continued to be an issue. This season, so far, has presented two or three compelling episodes, and what seems to be a lot of filler.

Moreover, as the Inquisitr explained last year upon the-then ratings decline, The Walking Dead seems to have lapsed into a predictable pattern.

  • Rick's group searches for sanctuary/safe haven -- finds sanctuary -- loses sanctuary.
  • The group travels together — group is separated — group reunites.
  • One or more of the them is kidnapped by bad humans — one or more of them escapes or is rescued.
  • Bad humans have the upper hand over the good guys — the good guys have the upper hand over the bad humans.
  • Rick (Andrew Lincoln) is the leader — the Ricktatorship is deposed — the Ricktatorship is restored.
  • Rick has PTSD — Rick recovers from PTSD — Rick suffers PTSD again?
A TV Guide writer contends that The Walking Dead needs to be make stuff happen on a weekly basis.

"Focus on the show's strengths, which involve action, horror and the genius of gore master Greg Nicotero. This will give us all what we want and keep us coming back for more..."

The Walking Dead has also suffered because some of the most compelling characters have been killed off, including but not limited to Shane (Jon Bernthal), as TV Guide also noted.

"Shane's death in Season 2 was a huge loss for the show… taking him out of the equation so early weakened the group dynamic… Shane was unstable, but he was also a get-s***-done guy."

Series star Andrew Lincoln acknowledged to the Wrap that he is aware that TWD fans are getting restless, but that content upgrades are on the horizon.

"Obviously I've heard that people are not happy and that makes me unhappy because of the amount of work we all put into the show. There is a sense of a bigger story that's being told and I have absolute faith in Scott, the writing team, and the producers of the show. But I will say that I think the back eight are the exact opposite of the front eight."

According to Forbes, TWD will catch up with the comic book source material from which it mixes and matches in two-and-a-half seasons (assuming the show lasts that long).

Parenthetically, based on the comic, the next group of bad guys to emerge are the Whisperers, which is kind of ironic in that many of TWD cast members stage-whisper or mumble their lines as part of some kind of method acting.

The Season 7 midseason finale was called "Hearts Still Beating." While it's still entertaining, do you think that The Walking Dead is or could be flat-lining instead? If you were the showrunner, how would you improve The Walking Dead if you believe there is room for improvement?

[Featured Image by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP Images]