Is Tyreese "Made to Suffer"? In The Walking Dead TV Show There Can Be Only One Black Male Character
What follows both deviates from the character in the comic book, as well as what has been established by the TV series. She pleads to be included in a group of people who clearly do not want her around. Michonne is supposed to be self-reliant and the stereotypical "strong black woman." But, Michonne is willing to betray all of these traits in order to find acceptance (and approval) among the white characters with their simultaneous distrust and suspicion of her.
Symbolically, Michonne exists in the odd, liminal, and paradoxical space that blackness often occupies in the West. Black folks are loved and hated, envied and cursed, exist as citizens and anti-citizens, and are simultaneously visible and invisible. Will Michonne be all of those things in The Walking Dead?
In addition, I get a sense that the writers of the show do not really have any affinity or love for Michonne's personhood. There is something mean and cruel about how she is being treated by Rick and his party. Am I alone in picking up on this energy? Are they contemptuous of her? Do they hate Michonne for some reason?
5. Tyreese, is ostensibly a corrective for the previous black male characters on The Walking Dead TV show who have been marginalized, muted, and peripheral. "T-Dog" was a black gollum chauffeur manservant who had very few lines, and was a clear example of how the show's writers have no interest in developing African-American characters. The other black male characters introduced in this season were quickly killed.
In Made to Suffer, Oscar, one of the now free inmates working with Rick's group, was predictably dispatched during the rescue mission at Woodbury. In keeping with the centrality of white male authority, it would seem that The Walking Dead TV show has a formal rule where no more than one black man is allowed to be a central (or even peripheral) character on the show at a given time.
In the comic book, Tyreese is a central character who rivals Rick's authority and charisma. Tyreese even takes over leadership of the group when Rick has a breakdown. It remains to be seen if Tyreese will fall into the stereotype of best black friend and loyal aid to the white main character, Rick, or if he will evolve into something else. Made to Suffer offers some troubling signals in this regard.
Because the show is centered upon white masculinity and its imperiled status, it is important to note how said concept has functioned in the United States over time
Race was formed in the crucible of slavery and colonization. This system created a social hierarchy with white men on the top, followed by white women, and then black men and black women on the very bottom. The latter two categories of people were uniquely marked as human property. While white women were under the legal control of their fathers (and then husbands) they still had more authority than black women (and especially black men) who were considered the "public" property of all white men, to be used and abused as the latter saw fit. Unlike white women, black women could not make any appeal to their black "husbands" for protection against white violence and exploitation in the public or private spheres.
Historically, White authority also extended to children. Ultimately, White children had more power and authority than even black adults (and in many cases even "owned" adult slaves).
The Walking Dead TV show mirrors this relationship. In Rick's absence, his son, a thirteen year old, has authority over the group. Carl is a stand-in for his father. Tyreese and his party seek shelter in the prison. Carl is naturally suspicious of these new arrivals. After helping them fight off a group of zombies, Carl imprisons Tyreese and his group of new arrivals in a prison cell.