Fear the Walking Dead is my beat over on Uproxx, and I raised concerns about the main storyline this season over there this morning, but as Pajiba has a more political bent, I’m going to be more overt about it here: There’s something fishy going on with the show’s racial politics right now. I understand that Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t get as much attention as its parent show online, but this is something worth discussing, because Fear is the highest rated show on cable at the moment, despite a massive drop-off in viewers since season one.
I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but the optics do not look great.
Here are the bullet points:
— Fear the Walking Dead began with a very diverse cast. The show began with a Hispanic family, a white family, and a blended Maouri/Hispanic family.
— The second season was set in Mexico and, again, the composition of the cast reflected that. The white family, the Clarks, were in the minority last season.
— In between the second and third season, Donald Trump not only came along, but Jared Kushner specifically targeted advertising campaigns on The Walking Dead. In the weeks before the election, Kushner aired anti-immigration ads in swing states designed to exploit viewers’ fears of outside elements, aka, the zombies were seen as a metaphor for illegal immigrants. Kushner specifically cited this as a major reason for Trump winning the election.
— Entering its third season, based on the structure of the first three episodes, Fear the Walking Dead might have scrapped whatever plans they originally had for the main storyline (a refugee camp on the border set at a military base) and pivoted toward a survivalist colony made up of only white people. The blended Maouri/Hispanic family has been entirely killed off, while the Hispanic family — the Salazars — have either been killed or sidelined. Griselda Salazar is dead; Ofelia Salazar has yet to make an appearance after being abducted by the leader of a militia group last season; and Daniel Salazar has been paired with the cast’s only Black character, Victor Strand, and sidelined in a pointless and minor B-plot.
— This survivalist colony is run by Jeremiah Otto (Dayton Callie), who — in the ’90s — established the Broken Jaw Ranch as a safe haven against an America he feared was being overrun by “foreign nationals.” He advertised the Broken Jaw Ranch — a compound with a massive arsenal designed to keep bad people out — in television infomercials, the kind you might expect to see on a show hosted by Rush Limbaugh or Alex Jones.
— Jeremiah Otto’s son, Troy, spent the first episode of the season killing off mostly Hispanic people who crossed the border into the United States. He killed for “science”; he wanted to see how long it took them to zombify based on their height, weight, and race. It was very Goebbels-esque, and all the men doing the killing were wearing United States military uniforms. While killing off the Hispanic red shirts, Troy did take a fancy to the two white women, Madison and Alicia.
— Only the white family, the Clarks, are involved with the main storyline on the survivalist colony. The exception? Nick’s girlfriend, Luciano, who is recovering from a gunshot wound. However, she has been handcuffed to her bed in the compound’s medical facility. Is it because they are afraid she might die and turn? Or is it because she’s Hispanic?
We don’t know.
Honestly, I don’t know where this season is headed. I don’t even know if Fear the Walking Dead is capable of making a political statement. But whatever is going on, it is making me uneasy. Why? Because the Trump campaign equated zombies with illegal immigrants in their campaign advertisements, and six months later, Fear the Walking Dead seems to be erasing the metaphor. Zombies are not yet a threat to the Broken Jaw Ranch. “Foreign nationals” are. Is Fear the Walking Dead, which has struggled in the ratings, trying to take advantage of fears stoked by Trumpmerica?
Is this not cause for alarm? Am I the only one seeing this?
Granted, it could very well turn out that these Broken Jaw Ranchers are the true enemy on Fear the Walking Dead. We could find out in the next episode or two that Jeremiah Otto abducted Ofelia Salazar and put her in some sort of internment camp along with other “foreign nationals.” Maybe that prompts the Clarks to turn on the Ottos? But then again, Daniel Sharman, Sam Underwood, and Dayton Callie — who play the Ottos — have been elevated to series regulars, so they’re probably not going anywhere anytime soon.
In either event, I find this new storyline puzzling. This is a series that began with a incredibly diverse cast, and after two seasons of deteriorating ratings, six white characters have become the main focus and there is an undercurrent of xenophobia this season that aligns with the view of Mexico from Trumpmerica.
Am I crazy? Am I reading something into this that’s not there? Is AMC trying to goose the ratings by appealing to xenophobes? Or is Fear the Walking Dead planning to vilify the xenophobes, and if so, does that make the Clarks the white saviors? Or do I just spend way too much time reading about politics and allowing it to infect my view of what has been historically a politically benign universe?
I’m not necessarily ascribing evil or exploitative intent to AMC and Fear the Walking Dead. I just find the timing of this particular storyline curious. Help me out here, folks. Legit concern? Or am I seeing things?