After months of fan speculation, we finally saw who received the bludgeoning end of Negan’s bat, Lucille, on The Walking Dead last night, and fans are reeling for many reasons, but there’s one reason that I think has yet to be considered.
Spoilers abound ahead, last warning.
Glenn Rhee, one of the most important characters in the entire show, was brutally murdered by the villain Negan, leaving only Rick, Carl and Daryl remaining from the original cast. Fans are reeling from the pain of seeing such a beloved character, a character that embodied selflessness and love, go; but, beyond that initial pain, there is something that is even worse about Glenn’s horrific death.
Glenn Rhee has been played by Steven Yeun since Season 1 Episode 1 (while only his voice appeared in this episode, he fully debuted in Episode 2). Throughout the series, he has been Rick’s right-hand man. While Daryl can also be seen as Rick’s right-hand, he often is a dissenter, but Glenn almost always appears loyal to Rick’s call.
Glenn also married Maggie Greene, the daughter of Hershel Greene, portrayed by Lauren Cohan. Glenn’s love for Maggie in the wretched world they lived in was an example of something pure, and was important after Carl started to become increasingly less innocent.
So, when Negan took Glenn’s life, he took a best friend, a husband and the worst part, a soon-to-be father. However, it is important to recognize something else incredibly important that was lost in the realm of American TV: a strong, non-stereotypical Asian male lead.
Asian men are often portrayed as offensive stereotypes in American media, most often they are emasculated, weak servants to someone, or they are “comedic” stereotypes (see any of Matthew Moy’s characters).
As a male, Asian teenager during the brunt of Glenn’s time on the Walking Dead, it really meant something to me that he was strong, stood up for his family and would do anything to keep them safe. His selflessness was incredible, yet not subservient, a fine line for an Asian character.
Very rarely did Glenn’s ethnicity play a part in any of the story, save for Season 1 when Merle is being racist against everyone who isn’t white. Even then, it was very obvious that Merle was supposed to be hated for his racism, so the use of Glenn’s race at that point was to show the idiocy of racism.
Let the record show, in no way am I accusing The Walking Dead’s creators or writers as racist. Glenn’s death had nothing to do with his race, and it is the creators and writers, along with the masterful portrayal by Steven Yeun that saw Glenn be who he was.
The loss of the only non-stereotypical Asian male on major American television is a major loss for the Asian community, truly. Hopefully, in the future, we will see more of us appearing on our screens.
Lastly, I just want to say thank you to Steven Yeun. Your work on TWD was incredible, you are incredible and I hope you go on to do many more great things for the entire, and also for the Asian community.