Episode 694: Choices

Zombie Cliche Lookout: Controlling Men

Zombie survival stories have a tendency to favor more traditionally “masculine” skills. If the writer isn’t careful, characters can quickly fall into traditional gender roles as well, with male characters handling most of the important tasks while women fill a supplemental role. Sometimes writers take this a step further and only allow female characters to play damsels in distress or villains. This is, obviously, not a great way to write realistic, well rounded characters. It is, however, a great way to alienate 50% of your potential fans right out of the gate.

People take this the other way as well, usually by writing ridiculous “strong female characters” that are anything but. Rather than giving these characters a sense of agency and the same general level of competence and skills as the male characters, they over-compensate by making them bulletproof killing machines with nary a flaw in sight.

So how do your write women characters in a zombie story without making them insulting? Well, how about just focusing on making them rounded, nuanced characters first? Sort of like people in real life.

About this Episode:

Another quick moment with Sam. Granted, Tara is primarily addressing her dad here. He is the one who is essentially making this decision on her behalf. That said, Sam isn’t the kind of guy who can stand the idea of Tara thinking he’s trying to run her life.

Discussion Question: Worst “Strong Female Character”

Building, once again, on today’s zombie cliche lookout, who do you think is the worst attempt made at writing a strong female character? This doesn’t necessarily have to be from a zombie story, although it would be nice if it was.

I’m going to steal the most obvious example right away so you guys have to work a little harder: Alice from the Resident Evil movies. The character was okay in the first movie, and got steadily worse the more sequels that were made. It didn’t take long before she was essentially a one woman army.



In one of the first episodes of the Walking Dead they had all the women doing the laundry and then complaining about how the division of labor had gone back in time. Next scene a zed shows up and five guys stomp it dead again while the women just back off. That pretty much set the tone for female characters on that show. The women who have survived have embraced zed destruction to a new level with Andrea, Carol and Michonne being the best examples.

As for the worst attempt at writing a strong female character, that is easy. Look up the schedule for the Lifetime channel tonight and pick one. Any one on Lifetime.


That such a perfect example. I really liked that scene when it happened (on the show and the comic), but it didn’t really seem to go anywhere interesting like I thought it would.


Typo alerts: “step further any only” any–>and

“a sense of agency and the same” agency seems a little out of place here, perhaps you meant urgency, or some other word? 😀 Possibly not a typo, flagging anyway as it seemed a bit odd.


Fixed the first one.

Agency is correct; it’s a term used in writing when a character has control over their own life and the ability to make choices that actually matter.


I’ll bet when some zombie breaks the door down that Tara will be ready and armed with two suitcases she’s already got packed and stuffed to the handles with women’s clothing, make-up, and apparel! 😀

And she’ll somehow find a way to wield her weapon as well! 😀 She seems resourceful enough, anyway! 😉


She’ll probably have the suitcases with wheels, so she can just let them go and grab her golf club.


Not a zombie example here but I fell like as the Alien series goes on, Ellen Ripley is leaning towards “a stronger and stronger and stronger” female character, like there is no ceiling. Granted, it was nice to counter male heroes like Stallone, Bruce Willis, Schwarzenegger and Cie, but every time a new movie came out this was getting more and more ridiculous… This was way beyond being bad-ass…


I love Ripley, which is why I don’t watch any movies after Aliens, which completely destroy the character.


Also I think you meant Alice from the Resident Evil series not Alive.


Come to think of it, that’s probably a variety of typo I won’t pick up, good work! 😉

Mostly it’s because I don’t watch shows like Resident Evil or go check up on their online wikis or sites. 😀


Like many things today Resident Evil is multi-platform. There have been games, live action movies, anime movies, books, comics an app or three and lots of stuff to buy online. Have you got your Alice vinyl figure yet?

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Ray from Starwars. I like the character, but from a writing stand point she is a mary sue in terms of skill.

She’s up there with batman and superman in terms of making up new powers and abilities to over come the next obstical.

When making a character I try to imagine they have a cgaracter sheet, just like a rpg or video game. They are only allowed so many qualities and feats and skills before they become unballenced. Rule of cool only goes so far in letting a character become unballenced xD

Ray is:

Naturally gifted with the force.
Experienced mechanic.
A pilot.
A crack shot with weapons she has no training with.
And can go toe to toe with in a fight with an experienced dark jedi warrior.

Social awkwardness is not a big enough character flaw to conpensate with such epicness xD

If she learned these abilities over the course of the movies it would be great, starting out with the ability to just master everything you touch can cause serious problems to your story.


Rae from The Force Awakens does have a major character flaw. Abandonment Issues. She won’t leave Jaku cause they are coming back. She latches on to Han Solo like a leech when he offers her a Job after knowing the guy less than two hours and him almost getting her killed. She thinks Finn is her bestest buddy even though he proves to be a disgruntled worker who shot up his former employer. She goes for huge hugs from Leia at Hans death but she met her like once for 10 minutes tops. She is that girl who can’t get a date and jumps on the first one to ask her planning the wedding on the first date.


That’s a really interesting take on Rae.

I liked the character quite a bit myself. She really echos Luke from the first trilogy, who has very similar skill sets. The obvious difference is that he doesn’t do so well against Vader, but I think that’s more telling about Kylo Ren’s lack of training that Rae’s status as a Mary Sue. I guess we’ll see in future films.

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